The 48-year-old was minding his own business outside his Largo, FL home when a vehicle approached him and the guys inside asked him if he wanted to buy drugs.
When he refused, an argument erupted and someone in the car blasted him.
The case went cold until Detective John Spoor began reviewing the case again this summer and was able to make a connection between the weapon used in Thomas' murder and one used in a drive-by shooting that occurred several weeks later.
And that weapon was in the hands of Lloyd Neal, 22, who is already serving a life sentence at the Taylor Correctional Institution in Perry for a 2007 Clearwater murder case.
When the diligent lawman interviewed several people who confirmed Neal shot Thomas and bragged about it, the sheriff's office said.
Thomas' family told The Tampa Tribune they are pleased to hear the news.
Thomas' son, Hoeschele Thomas Jr said: "It has been hard, and I don't have a father figure in my life. I had to be a man on my own."