Cold Case Mystery: What Happened to Ricky Thomas?

13-year-old Ricky Lane Thomas Jr. seemingly vanished on November 6, 1997 from Bristow, Indiana. At first, police believed he was a runaway, but soon came the realization he more than likely met with foul play. A story of family lies, violence and secrets are at the core of police suspicions.

For unclear reasons, Ricky was home from school that day. His stepfather, John Martin, saw him around 11:30 a.m. before leaving for work. Around 1:30 p.m. Ricky and his cousin, Daisy Applegate, spoke on the phone to confirm their plans for the day.

Ricky was to walk the mile and a half to Daisy’s home so they could make a trip into the city for shopping and a bite to eat. Afterward, Ricky planned to stay the night with her. Ricky told Applegate that he had $20 to eat at McDonald’s. Around 2:30 p.m., Daisy called Ricky’s home again because he never showed up. She spoke with John who told her that Ricky was not home and his stepson’s two 14-week-old Beagle pups, Tiny and Red, were gone too. John also said that Ricky’s wallet containing the $20 was still on top of his dresser. Daisy was insistent that Ricky would not leave his wallet; nor would he bring the puppies along with him to her house.

Later that night after still having no contact with Ricky, Daisy called the Martin household once more and spoke with Ricky’s mother, Tina Martin. Yet, Tina put off calling the police until the next day to report him as missing. That same day, John Martin called into work. Normally considered appropriate during a time that a child has gone missing; John’s reasoning to his employer for time off was to go and visit his sister, which was a trip he never made. Numerous people gathered to search for any sign of the boy and his dogs; however, John Martin did not aid in the search.

The day before John Martin was scheduled for a polygraph, Tina received an anonymous phone call. The voice on the other line requested that she leave cash at a remote location where she would find proof of Ricky being alive. Police responded to the site instead and found a snow globe that belonged to Ricky. Under questioning, John Martin admitted to being the caller; claiming he only wanted to give his wife hope that her son was still living.

John has been offered to take more than one lie detector test. Indiana State Police Detective Sergeant Steve Chambers, who’s heading up the investigation, said during an interview with WFIE-14’s Stefanie Silvey that Mr. Martin has participated in some of those tests. Martin has walked out during polygraphs and Chamber”¹…”s believes likely due to thinking he was not doing well in the tests.

John and Ricky had a troublesome and violent history. One instance reportedly led to Daisy Applegate taking Ricky to the hospital due to head injuries sustained from abuse. It was also uncovered that in the weeks preceding Ricky”¹…”s disappearance, John took a trip to Ferdinand, Indiana to inquire about his family members’ insurance policies.

Ricky’s case has been discussed on the Nancy Grace show and an episode of Paranormal State; neither of which have led to any solid leads. Meanwhile, several inconsistencies in this story have led to confusion about actual facts. It seems that each news source has a different account of events. Complicating things further, John and Tina Martin eventually divorced and John has since died . Without the public’s help, the discovery of a body or physical evidence, the answers to Ricky’s whereabouts may have also died with him.

If you have any information regarding this case, please contact Indiana State Police at (812) 482-1441.