Man who sued Ford won't face murder charge The Cape May County dentist said an air bag had killed his wife. The automaker then alleged she had been strangled.

Posted: February 22, 2002

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, N.J. — A Cape May County dentist who was investigated on murder allegations after he sued the Ford Motor Co., claiming a faulty air bag killed his wife, will not be prosecuted at this time because experts disagree over the cause of her death, the county's acting prosecutor said yesterday.

"You have some highly qualified experts on both sides of the fence on this one," J. David Meyer said last night. "We can't dispute the conclusion of the Cape May County medical examiner that the death was accidental and that its cause was blunt-force trauma."

Meyer said the case had not been closed.

Tracy Rose Thomas, 37, the pregnant wife of Eric V. Thomas, was found dead at the wheel of her Ford Explorer off a Cape May County road on a snowy night in February 1997. Eric Thomas was found unconscious in the passenger seat, while the couple's 16-month-old daughter, Alix, sat unharmed in the rear seat.

Thomas sued Ford, contending that the faulty air bag killed his wife after the Explorer crashed into a utility pole.

Ford attorneys turned the product-liability case into a murder investigation, hiring experts who reported that Tracy Thomas could have been manually strangled. Experts hired by Eric Thomas and his attorneys challenged that position.

In 1997, the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office investigated and found no evidence of foul play.

The office reopened the case after learning that Eric Thomas had made more than 140 calls to a former high school sweetheart, Stephanie Arrington, before his wife's death, including eight in the days surrounding the death. He and Arrington married in July 1998. Eric Thomas had never been charged by police.

Neither Eric Thomas nor Tracy Thomas' relatives - who at the time accused him of being responsible for her death - could be reached for comment yesterday. Eric Thomas' attorneys did not return calls.

Thomas dropped his suit in July. His lawyer, Carl Poplar, said at the time that it had become too expensive.

Brendan January's e-mail address is bjanuary@phillynews.com.

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