Police weren't sure of a cause of death for a man believed to be a local business owner.
Lawrence police on Sunday night were investigating the unattended death of a man believed to be the owner of a Lawrence bail bonding business.
The man was found dead about 8:45 p.m. Sunday at AJ's Bonding, 1045 N.J. Although police refused to release the man's name pending notification of relatives, he is believed to be Ward Thompson, 61, the owner of AJ's Bonding.
Police received a call about 8:40 p.m. from a woman concerned about Thompson's welfare. He apparently was known to be at the office, but he was not answering the telephone or the door.
There was no obvious sign of foul play, but police were investigating that possibility as part of standard procedures for unattended deaths and because of the nature of Thompson's business.
Police discovered the man's body and called paramedics, who declared him dead at the scene.
Members of the legal and law enforcement community were taken aback by reports of Thompson's death.
"I consider this kind of a shock," said retired attorney Wes Norwood, who knew Thompson for years.
"In my experience, It seemed like at least half of the bonds that were written in this town were written by AJ's Bonding," said Tim Riling, a local attorney who has handled criminal cases for 10 years.
Thompson reportedly suffered from diabetes and other health problems.
He was in the bonding business for years.
"I think he and his father were well-known people here in town," Norwood said.
Thompson in 1991 made news when he was charged with felony criminal solicitation for allegedly telling a man he could pay off a bail loan with a stolen lawnmower.
But then-Dist. Atty. Jerry Wells later dropped the charge because an informant in the case was charged with a felony property crime.
Thompson in 1993 filed a $1 million civil rights lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the Lawrence Police Department and the city, alleging the officers falsely arrested, battered and conspired against him during the 1991 sting operation.
A judge, however, dismissed the lawsuit, saying police obeyed applicable laws when they arrested him.
Thompson is married and has two sons.
-- Mike Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is email@example.com.