Sacramento, CA

Investigating officer refuses to speak about old murder conviction

Robert J Hansen
Lionel Tholmer giving a Ted Talk in 2017.TEDTalks

Lionell Tholmer was convicted for the murder of Cynthia Sparpana and her daughter Danyel, on Nov. 14, 1992, convicted by an all-white jury, and sentenced to death.

Sparpana was found dead on November 5, 1985, in Yolo County two days before the body of John Meadows was found near Foresthill Road in Placer. 

Danyel has not been found to this day.

Tholmer was convicted of murdering John Meadows by Placer County courts in 1986 and was serving a life sentence for that conviction when he was tried and convicted of the death of Sparpana.

The Vanguard reported on both cases in July.

In the Sparpana case, Judge James L. Stevens’ expressed “lingering doubt” about the evidence presented at trial and overturned the death sentence to Life Without Parole. 

He told the court that there was no testimony placing Tholmer at the scene of the crime and that there was no motive.

There was also no physical evidence linking Tholmer to the crime screen according to court documents.

Tholmer was convicted despite a lack of any physical evidence, racial bias in the system, and prosecutors in Yolo and Placer counties, eager to charge a Black suspect for the murder of a white woman and her daughter.

Documents obtained earlier this year revealed prosecutors deliberately withheld evidence from the Sparpana trial that should not have been according to Robert Blasier, Thomler’s attorney in the Sparpana case.

“The fact that there may have been other possible motives which point away from Mr. Tholmer is relevant evidence which may point to his innocence and should not be excluded,” Blasier said.

Attorney Blasier, now 95 years old, could not be reached for comment.

“Everyone involved in this case from the Yolo DA to the Placer DA and the detectives knew what they did,” Tholmer said.

Ltd. John Kane, a Sacramento Police Department detective at the time, seems to have fabricated a narrative to involve himself in the case, ensuring Tholmer’s conviction.

Kane declined to comment, not wanting to compromise the case which may find its way to an appeals court shortly.

“That man has caused a lot of harm to my family and a lot of other people,” Tholmer said. “If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t still be in prison.”

In a report, Kane stated that he relied on the help of Sacramento County Sheriff detective and former California Assemblymember, Larry Bowler.

Kane’s report states that Bowler engineered Tholmer’s arrest in Oklahoma City.

Tholmer told Oklahoma City police he would speak to anyone but Kane which is why Bowler was needed according to the report.

“I was called today by Lt. Bowler of Sac S.O.,” Kane said in the report. “Bowler said that he needed me as a way of drawing Tholmer’s attention off of Theresa (Tholmer’s estranged wife) as the person who assisted in the arrest.” 

Bowler, now in his early 80’s, could not recall the case but did reinforce that document that states they never worked together.
Documents courtesy of Lionell Tholmer. Image by Robert J Hansen

“John and I may have spoken on the phone a couple of times, but we never would have worked together because I was with the Sheriff’s department and he was Sacramento police,” Bowler said.

In Kane’s report, Bowler says he knew Ltd. Kane, but did not normally work field investigations and as a Fraud Doc’s detective, did not work homicides unless there were related financial crimes to a case.

“Ltd Kane made entirely false claims to other law enforcement in California that I had contacted him while on the run and would only speak to him and he further told these investigating agencies that I had also made threats against him to the officers in Oklahoma City who took me into custody,” Tholmer said.

According to documents, Oklahoma City officers went on record confirming that Tholmer made no such statements to them about Lt. Kane.

Also, Tholmer wouldn’t have had any knowledge of Ltd. Kane being involved at this point in time.

“How would I know that Kane had anything to do with my case at that time?” Tholmer said.

John Enloe, a former Sacramento Police detective, told an investigator that Ltd. Kane is an egomaniac and was the supervisor at Internal Affairs when Kane made a flagrant mistake.

“He allowed someone to burglarize a home,” Enloe said. “The people were home and Kane knew it.”

Enloe said that he believes Tholmer and that Kane had been the only officer to show up when it wasn’t his business to be there.

All of the evidence regarding Ltd. Kane and the exculpatory evidence in the Sparpana case was excluded from every legal proceeding.

It is a crime for a person to offer false documents into evidence in a legal proceeding according to California penal code 132. A conviction is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in jail or prison.

Preparing any false or ante-dated book, paper, record, instrument in writing, or other matter or thing, with intent to produce it, or allow it to be produced for any fraudulent or deceitful purpose, as genuine or true, upon any trial, proceeding, or inquiry is a felony under California penal code 134.

“He took my life from me,” Tholmer said. “He can come to visit me today if he wants.”

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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