A 63-year-old man who lived in the same mobile home park as Mary Jean Eskridge was arrested Wednesday afternoon in her slaying, authorities said.
Gary Allen Thomas, who was booked at 10:30 p.m. in County Jail, faces one count of murder, said sheriff’s homicide Lt. Larry Nesbit at a brief 8:30 p.m. news conference outside the Kearny Mesa headquarters of the Sheriff’s Department.
Eskridge founded Jean's Dance Studio in Spring Valley in 1948. The studio is now owned by her daughter, Suzanne Mollenhauer.
Thomas is set to be arraigned on a charge of first-degree murder at 1:30 p.m. Friday in El Cajon Superior Court. No bail was set—he is not eligible for release.
“We just started the investigation yesterday,” Nesbit said of the case in which Eskridge, 94, was found dead on a bed Tuesday in her mobile home at Ramona Terrace Estates.
He said her family has been notified of the arrest.
“They were grateful and relieved,” Nesbit said.
He couldn’t say whether Thomas knew Eskridge.
“At this point, we’re still investigating what relationship they may have had,” he said.
He also said it was too early to rule out any other suspects in the slaying.
Thomas was contacted at the mobile home park and came to the Ramona sheriff’s station, where he was interviewed and then arrested, Nesbit said.
The Medical Examiner’s Office has yet to release details of Eskridge’s wounds or whether she was sexually assaulted, Nesbit said.
Sheriff’s investigators have canvassed her 250-home park and talked to people about the case, but “I can’t tell you what they’ve told us,” he said.
Nesbit also wouldn’t divulge whether Thomas has a criminal record, but Superior Court records show a 2008 civil case filed by Violet Hurtado against Thomas that was dismissed after a year.
His booking record indicates he is 5 foot 9, 140 pounds and white. He has black hair, blue eyes and was born March 8, 1949.
Paramedics responding to a medical alert call found Eskridge’s body in a bedroom in her home at Ramona Terrace Estates at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Her body showed "," a sheriff's spokesman said.