Missing body located a decade later, suspect arrested

6 mins read

When Desiree Thompson disappeared in January 2012, Edward Gibson III, her husband, became a person of interest due to her alleged violent encounters with him. He left town. 

Her body was never found until a decade later. 

In March, her body was located, buried in a backyard, and a 61-year-old man, a stranger to Thompson, was charged with first-degree murder. 

According to redacted reports filed in Kern County Superior Court, Thompson got inside Jose William Lara’s pickup and paid with her life. 

“It’s mind-boggling, it’s the hardest thing to accept,” said Sheri Smith, Thompson’s mother, when interviewed after Lara’s arrest. “I never in a million years would’ve thought that I’d be standing here with that person being a suspect.”

Lara is scheduled to stand trial later this month, but the case could get postponed.

What helped with the case was a social media post posted on the 10th anniversary of Thompson’s death. 

An unnamed man came forward to the police, busted into tears, and said he became overwhelmed with guilt when he read the post asking for information on Thompson’s disappearance. 

He said he could no longer remain silent. 

The man and his father spoke with the investigators and mentioned Jose William Lara. 

They met Lara in church and became friends, and one Sunday, a drunk Lara shared a disturbing story. 

Lara narrated how he attended a “Diablo party” in California City years ago. Everyone wore black and had costumes with horns. 

According to the man, Lara told him a couple of men “disrespected” him at the party, pushed him down, and threw him out. 

Angry, Lara went home but returned to the area near the party in his pickup, seeking revenge. 

Lara saw two people he recognized from the party. The two split up, and Lara approached one of them. He confirmed he misidentified the person and that it was a woman he didn’t know. 

But according to the man’s account, Lara didn’t care and said he was so angry he would take out his anger on anyone. 

He invited the woman for a drink and brought her to his home. 

When they arrived, Lara told her to grab a beer from the refrigerator, when he slammed her head into the corner of the fridge and repeatedly stabbed her. 

Lara said he buried the woman in his backyard and covered the area with a tarp and piece of plywood. According to the man, Lara showed no remorse and appeared to be boasting. 

“When Lara drinks he talks a lot,” the man said, adding that he and his father stopped hanging out with Lara.

Desiree Thompson, left, with mother Sheri Smith. Courtesy Sheri Smith

On March 25, police served a search warrant at Lara’s former home on 86th Street. Lara had moved out, and the current residents cooperated. 

Documents say human remains were buried in the backyard, including bones, teeth, hair, clothing, and a shoe. 

The coroner’s office identified the remains as Thompson’s. 

Reports stated that a portion of laminated flooring in the master bedroom was removed, and areas on the concrete floor and drywall tested positive for blood. 

At the same time, FBI agents were surveilling Lara at his current residence in the 8000 block of California City Boulevard. Agents watched him leave with a small dog. 

They detained him at a gas station because he might be attempting to flee.

In Lara’s apartment, a 24-inch machete was found.  

In an interview with the authorities, Lara said he moved out of the house on 86th Street within a year of losing his wife in January 2011. He told police that friends from church often came over and even mentioned one of the informants. 

Police then asked Lara about the injuries in his hands around that time. Lara said he attended the Diablo party, and a man attacked him with a knife. He said he spent the night at a friend’s house. 

The detectives told Lara they believed he killed someone, and he denied it. 

“Investigators told Lara they knew he cut his hand when he stabbed the woman and that we found her remains in the backyard,” the reports say. “Lara continued to deny everything and said he knows nothing.”

In May, a judge ruled enough evidence against Lara to proceed. 

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