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Crime News Snapped

Florida Teen and Her Wiccan Boyfriend Kill Her Stepfather Over His "Bad Aura”

Nicole Thornhill and Chris Tomlinson claimed difficult childhoods and parents with substance abuse issues led to them plotting to murder both Thornhill's stepfather and mother.

By Caitlin Schunn

After Nicole Thornhill was faced with becoming a teen mother, 48-year-old Gerald “Gerry” Jensen and his wife, Kristan Jensen, welcomed Thornhill (Kristan’s daughter) and her boyfriend, Christopher Tomlinson, into their home. But instead of repaying them with gratitude, Thornhill and Tomlinson hatched a plot to try and kill the couple, who had both been struggling with substance abuse for years.

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“According to [Nicole] and Chris’ beliefs, anyone who used drugs was not a good person and couldn’t be around them and they also didn’t want them around the baby,” Dr. Bryanna Fox, professor of criminology, said on Snapped, airing Sundays at 6/5c on Oxygen.

The dangerous plot ended in a gruesome murder when Tomlinson stabbed Gerry with a samurai sword.

“The way that both Chris and Nicole felt that they had been impacted as children with parents leaving, that’s what they did to their own child,” Fox said. “Their baby’s life is now essentially changed forever.”

What led up to Gerald Jensen's brutal murder in his Florida home?

Nicole Thornhill had a difficult childhood. Her mother, Kristan, struggled with substance abuse.

Mugshots of Chris Tomlinson and Nicole Thornhill featured on Snapped Season 34 Episode 1.

“Nicole hadn’t grown up with her mother,” Daphne Duret, a former reporter for The Palm Beach Post, said on Snapped. “As a matter of fact, Kristan’s addiction issues led her to be estranged from Nicole for a large part of her childhood.”

Eventually, Child Protective Services placed Thornhill and her sister, Sara, with their father full-time.

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“Growing up, things were very chaotic,” Sara Thornhill said on Snapped. “I was young enough that I didn’t really understand what was going on. But my sister did. She didn’t get to live with my mom for very long.”

When Thornhill was 18, her father lost their home, and she moved in with Kristan and her stepfather, Gerry Jensen. She met Chris Tomlinson on a social networking website called “Deviant Art.” He was stationed in Germany in the Army. When he returned, the two met for the first time in person, and moved to California together. But Thornhill soon got pregnant, and the couple ran out of money. Kristan and Gerry welcomed them back to their Stuart, Florida home.

Six weeks after their baby was born in March 2008, Kristan relapsed and went to a drug rehab center.

“Kristan and Gerry had been under a lot of stress,” Fox said. “And this stress was mostly caused by Nicole’s boyfriend, Chris Tomlinson, who had just moved in with them. Gerry told [his friend] Kevin that Chris was unemployed. He wasn’t really making an effort to take care of Nicole or the baby as a father … Kevin actually felt that all this stress with Chris is what actually led to Kristan’s relapse.”

Kristan Jensen also blamed Tomlinson for the family’s stress in interviews with police, calling him a “lazy, inconsiderate brat.”

“Chris didn’t do anything,” Sara Thornhill said. “He wouldn’t get a job. He sat and played video games all day. And every time my mom would nag Chris my sister would go to Chris’ defense.”

Kristan told police Tomlinson and Gerry’s disagreements put a wedge in his relationship with his stepdaughter.

“She was calling Gerry ‘Dad,’ and things were just great,” Kristan said to police. “Then all of a sudden, Chris shows up. Yeah, she doesn’t want to call him ‘Dad’ anymore.”

Tomlinson and Thornhill also disagreed with Kristan and Gerry about religion.

“Gerry couldn’t understand their Wiccan lifestyle,” Duret said. “They really couldn’t get through to him.”

On April 21, 2008, just after 8 p.m., Kristan Jensen called police, concerned because her husband was missing. She had just returned home after four days in a detox hospital to find Thornhill, Tomlinson, and their newborn baby home, but Gerry gone. He had failed to pick her up from the hospital, after promising to do so on April 20.

Thornhill and Tomlinson’s explanation was Gerry had gotten into a fight with someone on the phone the previous night, and they took their baby to the library. When they came home, they said he was gone.

But Gerry Jensen’s phone, car keys, and car were all still at home. The bathroom door was missing, and a comforter was missing from a bed. And Kristan noticed a strong smell of bleach in the bathroom.

After police put out missing person posters, Palm Beach County detectives called when they discovered a body matching Gerry’s description in a landfill. Fingerprint analysis confirmed the body belonged to Gerry Jensen. He had been stabbed multiple times, and his throat was slit.

Why did Nicole Thornhill and Chris Tomlinson kill Gerry Jensen?

When Stuart police looked into Gerry Jensen’s phone records, they discovered he wasn’t on the phone the night he disappeared, as Nicole Thornhill and Chris Tomlinson claimed. When officers confronted Thornhill with this information, she confessed everything.

She claimed she and her boyfriend didn’t want to raise their child in a home with drugs, and admitted to plotting to kill her mother and stepfather for two months.

“I mentioned knocking him out with sleeping pills — making it look like a suicide because they both do so much drugs,” Thornhill said to police. “So, we went to Walmart and he bought some of those weird generic sleeping pills.”

When the pills didn’t work, Thornhill said she and her boyfriend developed a new plan.

“The plan was that Chris and Nicole were going to surprise him and Chris was going to attack him with a samurai sword that he kept in the house,” Fox said.

Thornhill claimed she took the baby outside for a walk while her boyfriend killed her stepfather.

“Tomlinson said he came out of the room with a sword, confronted him — stabbed him in the front,” prosecutor Erin Kirkwood said on Snapped. “That had to be a terrifying way to die. Knowing that someone’s coming at you with a sword in a confined space. He didn’t deserve that.”

Thornhill admitted she helped her boyfriend wrap Gerry’s body up in a tarp and bed comforter and throw it in a dumpster.

Police found a sword under a bed at the apartment with traces of blood on it. But they also found tequilla and milk bottles with traces of sleeping pills, and a WalMart receipt showing sleeping pills bought the day after Gerry was murdered. Thornhill then confessed to trying to kill her mother as well.

“I wanted to do the sleeping pills because she had just done it so many times before, trying to kill herself,” Thornhill said in police interviews. “She tried to do it in front of me … I can’t stand her anymore.”

After denying being involved in the murder, Tomlinson then admitted there was a fight between him and Gerry, but claimed it was self-defense.

“I asked him how he felt about Gerald,” Stuart police detective Jaylee Porcelli said on Snapped. “He didn’t like the way Gerald acted, by yelling and fighting and drinking and drugs … He told me that he was a [Wiccan] high priest. He believed that he could see auras around people. And he did not think that people with a bad aura should be allowed to live in the same world as his child.”

In May 2010, a jury found Tomlinson guilty of murder and other charges, and he was sentenced to life in prison plus 60 years.

“Christopher to this day still has not told me in his words why,” Christine Troughton, Tomlinson’s mother, said on Snapped. “And I look at Christopher. You could have had all of this. But you got involved with Nicole. And the Army messed you up. So, all of those combined — he snapped. And he can never come back from it.”

Thornhill later argued she only plotted and helped dispose of the body because Tomlinson forced her to do so, but she eventually took a plea deal, and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. Despite plotting to murder her, her mother asked the judge for leniency at Thornhill’s sentencing.

“Nicole finally got to have the relationship with my mom that she always wanted,” Sara Thornhill said. “And vice versa. My mom struggled with her grief and pain over what happened with my sister, but they had a great relationship eventually.”

Kristan Jensen died in 2020.

Thornhill and Tomlinson lost custody of their baby. It was adopted by a foster family and given a new name.

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