SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) — A jury has found a Wilson man guilty for murdering a missing Kenly woman in 2018, the Johnston County District Attorney said Wednesday.

On Monday, after a trial lasting more than three weeks, a jury found defendant Kenneth Wayne Lamm guilty of the second-degree murder of 71-year-old Kathy Thomas.

On Tuesday, the jury also found that Lamm was a violent habitual felon.

According to the district attorney’s office, Lamm is a serial rapist and has spent much of his adult life in prison.

In 1994, Lamm was convicted of second-degree rape and two counts second-degree sex offense in Wake County, according to the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. He served 18 years and was released April 1, 2012. 

Lamm is now sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the judge said.

According to court documents, the case began as a missing person’s report when Thomas’ family became concerned when she stopped answering their calls.

Her friend and neighbor said they had last seen her at her home after Thanksgiving of 2018.

During the investigation, Lt. Detective Blaine Hicks with the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office identified Lamm as a suspect in her disappearance.



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They later found Thomas’ body buried in the backyard of Lamm’s girlfriend’s house in Wilson, according to the sheriff’s office.

After the trial wrapped up, Assistant District Attorney Caitlin Slavin released the following statement:

The District Attorney’s office is pleased with the verdicts and the sentence imposed. We are very grateful to the jurors in this case who were able to see the truth in a very difficult case. We are also grateful to the brave survivors who were victims of the defendant’s previous violent crimes. At great personal cost, they all agreed to testify in the case so that no one else would ever have to suffer at the hands of the defendant. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for coming forward and for their courageous testimony. We also appreciate the hard work of Lt. Hicks and the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office. The Johnston County District Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively pursue justice for the victims of violence crimes. Our community is much safer now that Kenneth Wayne Lamm will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Assistant District Attorney Caitlin Slavin