DALLAS – A car salesman was pushed or fell to his death along a highway as he went on a test-drive with a customer, authorities said. A 42-year-old man with a history of mental illness was charged with murder.
Witnesses told police that salesman John Phinney was pushed or fell from the passenger side of the pickup truck during the test drive Tuesday evening, and the vehicle slowed down but did not stop.
James Thorpe, 42, was arrested later Tuesday and was being held on $3 million bond at a Dallas County jail.
In jailhouse interviews with reporters, Thorpe denied pushing Phinney out of the vehicle. The Dallas Morning News said Thorpe referred to himself as the "anti-Christ" and claimed Phinney got angry and jumped out after Thorpe told him "to repent if he wanted to save his soul."
The Manuel Dodge dealership in suburban Richardson had contacted police after Phinney, 53, didn't return from the test drive.
"He never had any ill will towards anybody. He was the nicest guy in the world," sales manager Aaron Miller said.
Meanwhile, a woman who knows Thorpe also contacted police Tuesday evening. She said she had dropped him off at the dealership for the test drive, and he later contacted her and told her he had "got the truck" and was "running from the law."
Thorpe was arrested without any resistance later in the evening at a business where he had recently worked, police said.
Thorpe, a divorced father of six, has an arrest record for trespass and other charges, and KTVT reported he had spent time in two state mental hospitals.
During an interview Wednesday with WFAA-TV, Thorpe slammed down a phone and shouted obscenities, then shoved and scuffled with two guards as he left the room, the station reported.
Dallas County Sheriff's Office spokeswoman Kimberlee Leach said Thursday that according to departmental policy, members of the media are allowed to briefly interview inmates who agree to talk. She had no information on whether he had an attorney.