WICHITA — The suspect sought by police in the apparent murder of a 52-year-old woman early Friday morning is in custody in Topeka, police said today.
James F. Williams, 42, was the roommate of Rhonda Thomas, 52, who was found inside her burning apartment at Riverwalk Apartments in south Wichita.
The fire was reported just before 5 a.m. at 2703 S. Topeka, and firefighters pulled her body out of the burning apartment. Authorities have said she had suffered trauma to her head that was not consistent with the circumstances of the fire.
Neighbors told police Thomas had lived in the apartment for a little more than a month. Her brown GMC pickup was missing, and Lt. Ken Landwehr said today that the pickup was found on I-135 north of K-96.
"It had broken down," Landwehr said.
Williams told authorities he hitched a ride back to Wichita early Friday, where he caught the bus to Emporia. He said he then walked from Emporia to the Topeka area.
A train engineer notified authorities that a man had jumped onto a train Saturday afternoon in southwest Jackson County, where it had stopped to let an express train pass, Sheriff Charles Cornell said.
The man jumped as Cornell neared the back of the mile-long train. He then hid in Cross Creek about a mile from the tracks before finally surrendering at about 5:20 p.m., Cornell said.
Williams was taken to Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center in Topeka for treatment of frostbite.
He was recognized by a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper from an alert sent out by Wichita police, Cornell said. He will be transported back to Wichita upon his release from the hospital.
Thomas is the first homicide victim of 2010 in Wichita.
Check Kansas.com for updates.