Nampa police are still trying to figure out how and why 18-year-old Sage Thompson ended up dead in Mason Creek, but news of this week’s discovery — four months after the teen disappeared — rocked those who knew him at school and at work.
“It was a shock wave through the school,” said Marianne Saunders, co-administrator of Nampa’s Victory Charter School, where Thompson’s sisters still attend. “Our deepest sympathies go to the family.”
It’s been four years since Thompson attended Victory, but Saunders and co-administrator Matt McDaniel had vivid memories when asked about him Friday.
McDaniel, who taught Thompson in seventh-grade language arts, recalled a vocabulary exercise in which students were assigned the roles of key words and acted out their meanings.
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“One of their vocabulary words was actually ‘sage,’ so Sage got to do that role,” he said. “He loved that and really hammed up the part, as I remember.”
The word the boy embodied that day was defined as “prudent and wise,” McDaniel said, and “really, there was a bit of truth to that.”
“I always thought of Sage as an old soul, even as a young middle-school student.”
Saunders described Thompson as “really upbeat ... He was a smiley, love-to-laugh kind of kid.”
For McDaniel, another of Thompson’s traits stands out: “He was a very kind young man. I think that’s undisputed by anybody.
“He had some struggles in his life, but he overcame them with a great personality.”
WORK ETHIC AND ENERGY
Where Thompson really stood out, both administrators said, was in Victory’s school-to-work class, in which eighth-graders work in the kitchen during lunch periods and learn skills they’ll need as future employees. Those include preparing for job interviews, taking direction, and dealing with co-workers and bosses.
“Still, out of all the kids we’ve had in that program, he was the very best,” Saunders said. “We still talk about him (in that context) — even before this happened.
“He showed wonderful leadership. Sage’s attitude and effort were superb. You’d look at that and see he would be a success in life.”
And sure enough, he was an excellent employee, said Anita Leon, manager at the Nampa Burger King where Thompson worked last year.
“He was committed to the job and friendly with everybody,” Leon said. “We were all shocked when he found out he was missing (last fall), and now this... It’s really, really sad.”
Thompson worked at the restaurant on 2nd Street South for six to eight months, she said, quitting a few months before he disappeared.
Thompson attended Victory Charter School from grade school through eighth grade, Saunders said. He then transferred to the Nampa School District, where he attended several district high schools — Nampa, Skyview and Union — between August 2013 and May 2016, though not continuously, a district spokeswoman said. School records also show he attended the Idaho Youth Challenge Academy, and his Facebook page lists iSucceed Virtual Academy among his schools.
The last post on Thompson’s Facebook page came Oct.1. He shared a long quote that began, “Give love a chance.”
He disappeared early the next morning, last seen in the Nampa area of 16th Avenue North and Stampede Drive, police said.
Police tried repeatedly to generate public leads. A December news release featured an array of photos and a $10,000 reward offered by Thompson’s family. None of his bank cards got used after his disappearance, police said.
At 11:16 a.m. Wednesday, a city worker spotted a body caught in the debris trap in Mason Creek in the 1000 block of 3rd Avenue — roughly a little less than a mile from the area Thompson was last spotted. After an autopsy Thursday afternoon, police and the Canyon County coroner tentatively said the remains belong to the teen.
Nampa police have not disclosed the cause or manner of Thompson’s death, and it’s not known how long the body was in the water. Lt. Eric Skoglund said Friday that no new information will be available in the next few days.
“It’ll take us probably several weeks to get our forensic testing back” to formalize the identification and answer investigative questions, he said.
Kristin Rodine: 208-377-6447