Thursday, September 2, 2010

"Reasonable Doubt" by Steve Vogel

“Reasonable Doubt” by Steve Vogel is a book of my fave True Crime Genre. It’s hardly a recent publication but the story is compelling in that manner of crimes the more ordinary amongst us commit. Dave Handricks was a religious man, yet he brutally murdered his wife and three children.

Here’s the story of the crime and the trial. You’ll be transfixed.

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”Reasonable Doubt” by Steve Vogel

David Hendricks was a very religious man. He was, in fact, a leader of his church, a little known sect that met in parishioner houses instead of any church.

Hendricks had a great marriage to his wife Susan, and they had three children, Becky, Grace and Benjy.

This book is the True Crime story of David Hendricks’ arrest, trial and defense for the horrific murder of his wife and small children, all bludgeoned to death with an axe, said weapon left on the bed of the bloodied and very dead children.

At times the narrative overwhelmed with the attention to crime minutiae. There were many chapters dedicated to the defense arguments as to how long it takes consumed food to be digested unrecognizable and why prosecutors got it all wrong with their claim that very identifiable mushrooms and pepperoni do not mean the eater was killed within hours of the meal.

Which is how it happened, so the prosecution alleged.

Susan Hendricks went out the night of the murders to attend a wedding shower. David minded the children, taking them to Chuck E. Cheese around 7:00 pm or so and just making the bookmobile to return some books at around 8:00 pm. The children ate, as would be expected, pizza at this famed pizza place.

David Hendricks left, he alleged, at around 10:30 pm for a business sales trip many miles away, a trip for which there had been no appointments made in advance for David to pitch his orthopedic device. David does not recall locking the sliding glass door leading into his house from his deck.

After David kissed and bade his family goodbye, the defense asserted that evidently some thieves entered through the unlocked sliding door, robbed the place as there were drawers obviously rifled through in their search for goods, then killed Susan Hendricks and all the Hendricks’ children. This with an axe from their own home.

At least as David Hendricks alleges because he was by the time of the murders many miles away without a clue that anything was amiss in his house until the next day when he repeatedly tried to phone his wife and could not get a response.

I don’t know or have I ever heard of Steve Vogel. This book was not recent by any stretch but it was right there on the shelf of my library and I hadn’t yet read it. Vogel did an okay job with the book but hey, he’s no Ann Rule.

Vogel provided some background of the defendant, for, make no mistake, David murdered his family because…what? He suddenly decides to make an out-of-town trip with no prior appointments made that any busy medicos would be prepared to see his pitch? He leaves his wife, already in bed so soon after returning from her wedding shower at 10:30 and all children sleeping soundly after a hectic night at Chuck E. Cheese and chasing the bookmobile all over town, and doesn’t insure the doors are locked, in fact he leaves the sliding door unlocked? Most astounding, the thieves who supposedly broke into this most ordinary of neighborhood homes to viciously murder an entire family, didn’t even bring their own weapons! They had to use the axe coincidentally found in the home. Not to mention valuable jewelry still left even after the staged rifling of various dressers and such.

The stomach contents of those children were a large part of the story. Because pepperoni and mushrooms were still identifiable as to what they were. Various scientists and medicos argued differently, but in order for a mushroom to still look like a mushroom when removed from the human stomach, death would likely have had to occur within two to three hours of consumption. Longer than that and the mushroom would look like the first part of its name…”mush”.

Those children were wantonly axed to death around ten pm that night, less than three hours since they’d eaten that pizza and before David Hendricks, by his own admission, left for his trip hundreds of miles away for his “sales” presentations.

Either somebody murdered those children before David left on his trip or somebody broke into his house and did the deed while David was still inside.

The story of why David killed his family is intriguing. Perhaps because Vogel is a male author, it comes off as a bit dried and boring in the book. Ann Rule would have done a much more intriguing and compelling job with the tale.

It was about sex, religion, lies and a need to be free while keeping some sense of respect with family, friends and other church members.

Aa the concluding chapter of the book, Vogel does his best job of the entire narrative. At the beginning of the book Vogel vows he will present just the facts with no preconceived notions.

Thus the reader is presented, fairly, with the arguments of the defense. Cold sales calls are quite common in the medical profession we learn. I think of my busy doctors and to-the-second appointments and think how unlikely this is.

As to such as stomach contents, the arguments raged. The author’s beginning vow to present all facts might have been a bad idea as after a bit I had to move on by all the experts testifying to how long a mushroom remains a mushroom after being digested.

Whatever the experts say, we’ve all been there and done that. Food does not always stay in the stomach like it should. Perhaps we’ve had too much to drink, perhaps a touch of food poisoning. My gut told me that if the mushroom as consumed by one of the Hendricks children still looked like a mushroom at the autopsy it probably wasn’t that long ago since it was eaten. But then I’m no highly-paid defense expert, just a woman whose thrown up a time or two in the past 60 years.

The testimony of the orthopedic models took a lot of space in the book but this wasn’t quite as boring as reading endlessly about stomach contents.

At the conclusion Vogel gives a very believable scenario as to how David Hendricks likely killed his wife and children. For there were some unexplained oddities about the crime, the most glaring being how on earth David could have engaged in such bloody carnage without leaving any blood in the drains in the house on any clothes found in the house or on his person.

The author gives a very believable reason for this as well.

It’s a book worth the read for True Crime Afficiandos. It lacks the soft feminine insight of an Ann Rule but hey, there is only ONE Ann Rule.


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