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Records: 'Biological matter' on chainsaw lead Phoenix police to murder suspect

Thomas Wallace is accused of being involved in the death of a Phoenix man. Neighbors had not seen the victim for several weeks before police discovered his body.

PHOENIX — >>Editor's note: This story contains graphic details that may not be suitable for all audiences. Viewer discretion is advised.

Long-time neighbors are remembering a man whose body was found dismembered and decomposing in his Phoenix home.

A welfare check led police to the gruesome discovery on November 1st near 30th and Campbell Avenues.

Neighbors identified the victim as 80-year-old Kenneth Peterson.

“It’s a sad thing for it to happen to him because he didn’t deserve that,” said Ruby Lowry. “He was a good neighbor. He would help anybody. He would go over and help at the church.”

Lowry said Peterson and her have been neighbors since the 70s.

But even those, who had met Peterson recently, spoke highly of him.

“When we first moved in, he presented himself to us, to get to know us, and everything,” Monica Moreno said. Her family moved into the neighborhood four years ago.

“He would always bring my kids fruits over that he had left over any type of stuff that he had. Candy sometimes, because he said he was diabetic, so he would take that stuff to our house,” Moreno added.

Gruesome discovery

Phoenix police conducted a welfare check after the family reported they had not heard from the victim in three to four weeks, court documents said.

When officers arrived at the home and went inside, they were met with "a strong foul odor." They later found two black trash bags inside a bedroom. 

Records said when police cut them open, they found Peterson's decomposing body. 

Investigators found blood splatter on the living room's ceiling, walls, and furniture. They also found traces of blood that had been cleaned up from the floor. 

Police said severed body parts were found in a pile of blankets that were in a laundry basket, and in stacked layers of linen.

The victim's family told investigators Peterson had befriended Ramona Gonzalez in 2020 and she moved into his home last year.

"She reportedly relapsed on illicit drugs, would pawn [the victims] possessions, and routinely steal his vehicle," court documents said. 

Records said Gonzalez moved out in February of this year but moved back with Peterson in March. 

Then in April, police said she had a male friend, Thomas Wallace, also move into the victim's home. 

During their investigation into the murder, detectives learned Peterson's truck was missing. They found it on November 3rd at a motel Wallace had booked, where Gonzalez was also staying. Both of them were arrested. 

"She stated she was not staying at the home with the victim because of Thomas [Wallace] behavior," court records said. 

Police said Gonzalez admitted to breaking into the victim's home on September 30th because she was "worried" about him and found Peterson dead, but did not contact police. 

"Ramona stated Thomas inferred that he killed the victim," documents said. 

On October 28, investigators learned Wallace and Gonzalez were seen on surveillance video pawning a box with a chainsaw, hedger, and a camera. 

Court records said those items were later collected and "an odor of decomposition was coming from the box when it was opened."

Police found "torn flesh, ligaments, and biological matter" in the chainsaw.

Thomas Wallace was booked into jail and is facing multiple charges including second-degree murder and concealment of a body. 

His bond was set at $1,000,000 cash. 

Ramona Gonzalez was also booked and is facing theft and fraud charges. 

"It’s scary how close it was to home”

"It's really sad," Moreno said. "They took advantage of a sweet, nice guy. To do something like that, you're not okay."

It's unclear when Kenneth Peterson was murdered. 

Moreno said she will remember him as "a loving caring person."

"To sit there and see my kids, no relationship at all... and want to give whatever he had extra to us and [my] kids, was a lot to me," she said. 

Moreno and her family light up candles to honor their neighbor's memory.

Credit: Monica Moreno
Neighbors create memorial

Detectives are still working to determine what led up to this incident, police said.

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