CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Police are investigating "a person of interest" other than Dr. Ed Friedland in the murder 20 years ago of his wife Kim Thomas.
Though Charlotte-Mecklenburg police declined Tuesday to say whether Friedland is no longer a suspect, it is the first time since the mid-1990s that the department has acknowledged investigating anyone other than Friedland.
This latest development in the high-profile murder case comes two weeks after police revealed that new evidence had surfaced. They won't say what that evidence is.
In a Feb. 24 letter to the chief of police and the district attorney, Friedland's lawyer asked they indicate that the new evidence does not relate to Friedland, "preferably stating that Dr. Friedland is no longer a suspect."
Attorney David Rudolf's letter noted that a newspaper in Pensacola, Fla., where Friedland now lives, planned to publish a story about the case. Without a statement exonerating Friedland, Rudolf wrote, the newspaper story would "do enormous damage to the medical practice he has worked so hard to build in that community."
A response from CMPD police attorney Mark Newbold stopped short of clearing Friedland. "I have been advised," Newbold wrote, "that a person of interest other than Dr. Friedland is currently being investigated by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department in connection with the murder of Kim Thomas." Newbold declined to elaborate, either about Friedland's status in the case or about the other person.
Friedland, a kidney specialist, has claimed for 15 years that Marion Gales killed Thomas. Gales lived nearby and did yard work for the couple, and was seen in their neighborhood the morning of her murder, July 27, 1990.
Police said in court that Gales and at least five people other than Friedland were suspects early in the investigation, but they had been cleared through fingerprint analysis or interviews. Police contended Friedland killed Thomas as a way out of their marriage.
The killer handcuffed Thomas, chased her through her home off Wendover Road and slashed her more than 20 times. The murder gripped the city not only because of its brutality, but also because of suspicion that Friedland was the killer.
Police charged him four years later, and since then the case has been in and out of the news. A prosecutor dropped the criminal charge in 1995 due to insufficient evidence. Then Friedland sued Gales in civil court for wrongful death and a jury in 1997 awarded Friedland $8.6 million.
Friedland also filed a malicious prosecution suit against police, but a judge dismissed that lawsuit in 2001, ruling that authorities had reasonable grounds to prosecute him.
To families involved in the case, it looked as if the murder might never be solved. But in 2008, two things happened that brought the case back into the news:
Gales was charged with killing a female acquaintance, and is now in prison in Tabor City.
Investigators turned to a new "touch DNA" technology that allows forensic scientists to scrape evidence for skin cells left by someone who may have briefly touched the items. The extracted genetic material can help identify a suspect.
Police won't say whether such DNA is the new evidence in the case, or to whom the evidence points.