Charges filed in arson death of former Greene County sixth grader

The man arrested Wednesday for the murder of Melanie Paige Exline, 12, who up until a month before her death was a sixth grader at Greene County Intermediate School, is well known to Greene County law enforcement.

Patrick Ryan Thompson, 26, currently of Ames but a former Grand Junction resident, has been charged with two counts of murder- first degree, two counts of attempted murder, and one count of arson- first degree in connection with a fatal house fire in Guthrie Center May 15. He is being held in the Guthrie County jail.

Also killed in the fire was Paige Exline’s cousin Shakiah Cockerham, 16. The girls lived with their grandmother Shirley Exline and her son William Long. Long was seriously injured in the fire and Shirley Exline received minor injuries.

The fire was immediately ruled to be arson and the girls’ deaths were ruled as homicides.

An affidavit filed in the case notes that Thompson is the stepbrother of Noah Exline, 19, of rural Jefferson. Noah Exline was charged in April with sex abuse- second degree and lascivious acts with a child. His sister Paige was the victim in the case.

James Exline, 46, also of rural Jefferson, father of Noah and Paige and stepfather of Thompson, learned in the days prior to the fire that he was also under investigation for sex abuse against Paige. He was to be arrested the following week, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit states that on April 16, Thompson sent his mother a text message stating, “kill all the bitches with their head games,” and “Yeah, it’s the killing that entices me sounds so good sometimes.”

Thompson was an initial suspect in the investigation.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Guthrie County sheriff’s office were assisted in the investigation by the Greene County sheriff’s office, the state fire marshal, the Iowa State Patrol, and the police departments in Jefferson, Ames and Nevada.

James Exline, 46, was charged Tuesday on Greene County charges of sex abuse- second degree second or subsequent offense and sex abuse third degree. He had been convicted of sex abuse- third degree in Guthrie County in 2008.

Thompson has served prison time on Greene County charges of child endangerment and possession of a firearm as a felon.

He was charged with child endangerment in May 2010 after his 8-week old infant son suffered a traumatic brain injury “not accidental in nature” while in his care. He was sentenced in July 2013 to two years in prison. The prison term was suspended and he was placed on probation for two years.

In June of 2013 he was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon. He was again placed on probation.

Thompson was charged with possession of a firearm as a felon- second offense on Jan. 8, 2015, after he accidently shot himself in the leg.

At that time Judge Adria Kester revoked his probation on the first firearm offense and on the child endangerment offense. On Jan. 23, 2015, he was sent to prison for a term not to exceed five years.

He was released from prison Oct. 14, 2016.

The first charge against Thompson in Greene County district court was in February 2009, shortly after his 18th birthday. He was charged with burglary- third degree in connection with a burglary to the Webb House in Jefferson. Judge William Ostlund granted him a deferred judgment and placed him on probation. He violated probation in January 2012, but was discharged from probation in July 2013.

In the case against Noah Exline, his court appointed attorney on June 19 requested a change in venue, saying that the media coverage of the house fire had created an impression that he was involved in the arson. The attorney wrote that Noah Exline could not get a fair trial in Greene or Guthrie Counties. A trial date is set for Sept. 26. The hearing for a change in venue was been postponed indefinitely or until either his attorney or the state requests it be held.

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