Grand jury will consider indictment against man accused of attacking former Mobile meteorologist

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 11:19 AM CDT
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MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - A judge on Thursday found prosecutors have sufficient evidence for a grand jury to consider an indictment against a man accused of attacking former FOX10 News chief meteorologist John Edd Thompson at a gas station.

Nilson Ridley Cain, 33, of Mobile, faces a charge of second-degree elderly abuse and neglect. He stands accused of assaulting Thompson at the Murphy USA gas station on University Boulevard at about 3 p.m. on July 25. Thompson and his wife had pulled in for gas after a lunch to celebrate his 81st birthday.

Thompson was a longtime fixture on TV screens in the Mobile area until his retirement in 2009. Mobile County Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Susman said that while that statute typically is used to prosecute defendants who abuse elderly people in their care, the District Attorney’s Office concluded that “the plain language of the law” fit the facts of this case.

“Every attack is shocking and unusual,” she told FOX10 News. “I understand the personal interest that everyone at FOX10 may have in this case. We care about this case, like we do with all our cases, and we will continue to prosecutor it as appropriate.”

Detective David McMeans, of the Mobile Police Department’s Major Crimes Division, testified at a preliminary hearing that surveillance video shows the driver of a green Ford Taurus pulling up next to Thompson’s car. He testified that the man asked Thompson for $2. Thompson told the man he does not carry cash, McMeans said.

“At that time, he started cursing them and calling him a liar,” he said.

McMeans testified that officers got a license tag on the 1995 Taurus and determined it was registered to a woman and her husband in Mobile. He said the woman, who is Cain’s hairdresser, told police she had sold the car to him about two years earlier and identified him from still images from the surveillance video.

Police arrested Cain during a traffic stop on Springhill Avenue several days later. McMeans testified that Cain declined to speak to investigators.

McMeans described the encounter between Cain and Thompson as violent, with the defendant throwing the retired meteorologist face first to the pavement. He said the video confirms Thompson’s account of the encounter, although he testified under cross-examination that the angle of the video did not allow him to see the punch to the face that Thompson said he received.

McMeans said Thompson suffered a sprained ankle, a bruised knee, a sore knee and bruises to his elbow and foot. He said Thompson also experienced a muscle strain to the side of his chest.

Mobile County District Judge Zackery Moore left Cain’s $30,000 bail in place and added a condition of house arrest with electronic monitoring if he is able to bond out of jail.

“I think it’s appropriate give what we’ve heard here today,” he said.

Typically, it can take up to a year for a case to be presented to a grand jury once a judge has found probable cause at a preliminary hearing. But Susman said prosecutors hope to move faster.

“Under the administration of this new district attorney, grand jury backlogs have been slowly eroding, and we’re getting to these cases faster and faster,” she said. “So stay tuned.”

Updated at 12:20 p.m. with comments from Chief Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Susman.