OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MATT J. WHITWORTH
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
JULY 7, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ARKANSAS MAN SENTENCED TO 12 YEARS FOR ILLEGALLY
POSSESSING A MACHINE GUN
DECLARED ‘DEAD’ AFTER 1980 DISAPPEARANCE, AGENTS
FOUND FIREARMS, EXPLOSIVES AT RESIDENCE
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Fayettville, Ark., man who was declared dead when he disappeared nearly 29 years ago was sentenced in federal court today for illegally possessing a machine gun and for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Robert Thomas, also known as Christian Tadlock, 61, of Fayettville, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr this afternoon to 12 years and seven months in federal prison without parole.
Thomas, who staged his own suicide in 1982, pleaded guilty on Feb. 19, 2009, to illegally purchasing an MG-42 machine gun for $1,200 from an undercover ATF agent on Oct. 16, 2007, in Jasper County, Mo. When Thomas put the machine gun in the bed of his pickup truck he was placed under arrest. Thomas initially identified himself as Christian Tadlock to the officers and had an Arkansas driver’s license in that name.
Thomas was reported missing on April 16, 1980, after his vehicle was discovered on the Kentucky side of the U.S. 51 bridge over the Ohio River with a suicide note inside. Thomas was later declared dead. At the time of his disappearance, Thomas was facing prison time in the state of Illinois following his conviction for unlawful delivery of a controlled substance (LSD). He still has time to serve as a result of that state conviction.
Thomas also pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, admitting that he had been convicted of the Illinois charge at the time he received the machine gun.
ATF agents executed a search warrant at Thomas’ home the day after his arrest, recovering 94 firearms, including 35 machine guns (four of which were Browning belt-fed machine guns), 60 hand grenades, five pipe bombs, two silencers, 45,308 rounds of ammunition, 11 smoke grenades and five blasting caps. Templates for making homemade machine guns and partially completed machine guns as well as machine gun parts were also discovered.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Fayetteville, Ark., Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Marshals Service.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at