Skip to main content

‘Very evil’ California killer sent to prison for murdering woman he just met, burying body in backyard for a decade

Jose William Lara and Desiree Thompson (KGET screenshots)

Jose William Lara and Desiree Thompson (KGET screenshots)

A 61-year-old man in California is on track to spend the rest of his life behind bars for murdering a 30-year-old woman more than a decade ago and burying her remains in his backyard.

Superior Court Judge Michael G. Bush on Friday sentenced Jose William Lara to serve a sentence of 25 years to life in prison for the 2012 disappearance and slaying of Desiree Thompson, court records reviewed by Law&Crime show.

A Kern County jury last month found Lara guilty on one count of first-degree murder in Thompson’s death.

According to a press release from the Kern County District Attorney’s Office, Thompson was last seen on the evening of Jan. 7, 2012 before she suddenly went missing.

“Ms. Thompson had left her home at 6:00 p.m. that night to visit a friend and last spoke to her mother around 8:30 p.m.,” authorities said. “Desiree’s mother asked Desiree to call again when she got home safely, but that phone call never came, and Desiree Thompson was never heard from again.”

Despite the efforts of law enforcement authorities, a lack of leads in the investigation into Thompson’s whereabouts meant the case went cold for nearly 10 years.

There was no new information on the disappearance until two informants came forward with information about who murdered Thompson. The informants reported that Lara had confessed to them what he had done in 2012, and they were able to assist law enforcement by providing invaluable leads that helped to solve the case.

The evidence at trial established that Lara met Desiree as she walked home. He he killed her back at his house, prosecutors said. Lara then disposed of Desiree’s body in his backyard, where her remains were ultimately located by law enforcement.

According to a report from Bakersfield NBC affiliate KGET-TV, the informants were a friend of Lara’s and the friend’s father.

Lara was reportedly at a soccer game with a friend and the friend’s father when he suddenly divulged that he had previously killed a woman and gotten away with the crime. Lara reportedly told them that he had been out a party that night where he was physically assaulted. Angered about getting beaten up, he said he left the party and went looking for someone to take out his anger on.

While driving his pickup truck, he came across Thompson — whom he described to the other men and being “Black or half-Black” — and convinced her to come back to his home, KGET reported. Upon arriving at his house, Lara told Thompson to retrieve a beer from a small refrigerator. But when she reached inside, he reportedly attacked, smashing the victim’s head into the corner of the fridge and using a knife to stab her to death.

The two men were reportedly able to show law enforcement where Thompson’s body was located using a diagram of the home Lara lived in 10 years ago.

Prosecutors said that the California City Police Department was able to establish that Lara killed Desiree with DNA and other forensic science evidence.

Prior to Judge Bush handing down the sentence, several of Thompson’s family members read victim impact statements.

Her mother, Sheri Smith, said Thompson was her “only daughter” and “best friend,” according to Bakersfield ABC affiliate KERO-TV.

“This is a blessing. This man will go away, he’ll rot the rest of his life and not be able to hurt anybody else, and that’s the whole point of getting this justice for her, as well as justice for other people, that this man can’t go out there and hurt anybody else,” she reportedly told the court. “This is a very evil man, and it’s bittersweet because I don’t have my daughter here. I can’t hug my daughter anymore. I can’t tell her I love her. She can’t be with her children, which is very important to them.”

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.