November 12, 1984
Roots of Hendricks' religion traced
DATELINE: ROCKFORD, Ill.
The religion practiced by David and Susan Hendricks and their three children has been a key component of the prosecution's case against Hendricks, who is on trial for the axe-slaying’s of his family.
Prosecutors allege Hendricks' conflict between his fundamentalist religious beliefs and his sexual attraction to other women drove him to kill his family in their Bloomington home.
Hendricks' trial in Winnebago County Circuit Court was not in session Monday because of Veteran's Day but was scheduled to resume Tuesday. Hendricks is expected to testify in his own defence this week.
A professor of church history at the McCormick Theology Seminary in Chicago provided some background on the religion called the Plymouth Brethren, a forerunner of the "Exclusive Brethren," the sect to which Hendricks belongs.
In an interview with the Peoria Journal Star, professor Thomas Shafer said Hendricks' religion is small in membership but traces its roots to the birth of Christian fundamentalism.
The faith "has remained very small in this country," Shafer said. "Their views, however, have spread through leaders of fundamentalism."
U.S. Census figures show about 33,000 members in the United States. But Shafer warned those figures may be deceiving because of the faith's rejection of formal organization that makes counting them difficult.
He said the faith began in the early 1800s as a rejection of established religions and the ties between government and churches of the time. Founders believed churches of the day had "sold out" the Scriptures by becoming involved in politics and social issues, Shafer said.
"They felt the job of the church is to convert sinners" in preparation for judgment day, he said.
Doctrine and meetings are kept simple and members concentrate on the Bible for guidance. However, individual congregations act with great autonomy and members attempt to live austere lives of fellowship and worship, he said.
Members who have testified at Hendricks' trial have preferred to call themselves "believers" and have identified other members as "being in fellowship" with them.
Shafer described the group as "highly individualistic" and fiercely Bible-based.
There are no ministers and services are called "meetings," when members read from the Bible and discuss matters as the spirit moves them. Women are not allowed to speak or make major decisions for the group, testimony at the trial has revealed.
An early leader of the Plymouth Brethren was fundamentalist theologian John Nelson Darby, an Anglican cleric who brought the faith to the United States from England and Ireland, Shafer said.
The faith was originally formed to break down barriers of Christian denominations but it suffered a split in the mid-1800s. Darby led one group to the more structured "Exclusive Brethern."
Lawrence Macy, a member of Hendricks' faith, testified his sect takes a hard line against extramarital sex and that moral misconduct could result in religious sanctions against members.
Prosecutors are trying to show that Hendricks was keenly aware of his church's moral opposition to extramarital sex. They claim Hendricks was attracted to models he hired to pose for ads for his patented back brace.
Although this remains unconfirmed with no specific date, we have a statement from the New York State Attorney General office that the EB made representations to ensure the case file was sealed following the trial.
That fact in itself indicates the EB recognize the importance of the material. This means we have to find other ways of reproducing the information.
Although the Hendrick murders might not initially appear on the upcoming page, we anticipate the story will come out along with many others in due course.
Thank you to those members whose efforts uncovered the above information.
She noted that circuit clerk's offices already are responsible for all evidence admitted at trials.
In the David Hendricks murder re-trial, for instance, that meant taking custody of more than 300 documents and exhibits.
Hendricks was convicted of the 1983 killings of his wife and three children. He was later acquitted in a 1991 retrial.
A judge may order evidence returned to each side in trials that result in an acquittal. Hendricks didn't want his property returned so it was destroyed. State exhibits were turned over to police.
April 1, 2001, Sunday
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A4
LENGTH: 863 words
HEADLINE: Police stuggle to find space; New law requires stricter storage of case evidence
BYLINE: STEVE SILVERMAN
A book was written, and re-published in 1992 regarding this case:
by Steve Vogel
# Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
# Publisher: St. Martin's True Crime Classics; Reissue edition (March 15, 1992)
# Language: English
# ISBN-10: 0312929080
# ISBN-13: 978-0312929084
Details of the book including some stomach-churning excerpts describing of the murder scene can be viewed on the Amazon site - http://tinyurl.com/3ykmd7
WARNING - the descriptions are horrific.
Based on the acquittal, this case would seem not to belong in this forum.
From the Amazon site - a Reader Review:
Steve Vogel's accounting of the horrid Hendricks family murder was laced with controversy when it first came out. At the time, those following the crime believed David Hendricks was guilty, but Vogel's book challenged the thoroughness of the police, questioned their biases and their understanding of religious matters.
The story details the events surrounding the murder of three children and their mother, and whether or not the father was guilty. The father, out of town when the police discovered the bodies, claimed an alibi. The police determined, through statements from models he used for his catalog for his company, that perhaps David Hendricks was not faithful to his wife. No affairs were discovered, but the model statements still showed a poor light on Hendrick's commitment to his wife.
Hendricks was a lay leader in a relatively small, conservative group of evangelical Christians called the "Plymouth Brethren". The police did not realize that this group, though small, shared its basic theology with many Baptist denominations, as well as other better-known Christian groups. Instead, the police surmised that since divorce was discouraged in the Plymouth Brethren, Hendricks felt he needed to kill his family in order to be free of the marriage. Vogel describes the small-town ignorance of the police detectives and prosecutors by using their own trial testimoy. The prosecutor's logical jump was proposterous, but it played heavily into the trial.
The town, in a near OJ Simpson trial like frenzy, fed off the news, and the story became both local scandal and national news.
Confusing the matter was Hendrick's intense demeanor. He was well-read, and well-thought out, and by no means a man to react over-emotionally. His seemingly calm response, which may have been based on his faith or general personality, caused the police to see Hendricks cynically. Though they weren't country bumpkins, they weren't on the intellectual caliber of Hendricks, a star graduate of Northwestern University and inventor of a top-selling piece of medical equipment.
At issue in the trial was if Hendricks had the opportunity to have been at home at the time of the murders. He claimed no, the police claimed yes. The key evidence was the time of death as determined by the digestion of food the children ate. If that could be verified, then the suspect Hendricks was either cleared or very likely the culprit.
I fully recommend "Reasonable Doubt" for readers looking to think in this older, yet continually popular true crime book.
A family is brutally murdered
David Hendricks, a businessman traveling in Wisconsin, calls police in Bloomington, Illinois, to request that they check on his house and family. According to Hendricks, no one had answered the phone all weekend and he was worried. When the police and neighbors searched the home the next day, they found the mutilated bodies of Hendricks' wife and three children, all of whom had been hacked to death with an ax and butcher knife.
Because there was very little sign of a struggle or forced entry, police thought the crime scene was suspicious. In addition, though the killings were brutal, the murder weapons had been cleaned and left neatly near the bodies. When Hendricks returned later that day, police questioned him and checked his clothes and car for bloodstains. But the search was inconclusive, and Hendricks' alibi--that he had left for Wisconsin just before midnight on November 4--appeared solid.
Nevertheless, with no other leads, police began to examine Hendricks' story more closely. He claimed that he had taken his family out for a pizza at about 7:30 on November 4. According to him, they then played in an amusement area and returned home at 9:30. Hendricks left for his business trip several hours later.
But after studying the children's bodies, medical examiners concluded that Hendrick's story did not quite fit. Ordinarily, food leaves the stomach and moves into the small intestine within two hours. However, in all three children, vegetarian pizza toppings were still in their stomachs, which led investigators to estimate their time of death sometime around 9:30--while Hendricks was still at home.
Police charged Hendricks with murdering his family, but they still lacked a concrete motive. The Hendricks family was devoutly religious, belonging to a puritan-like group called the Plymouth Brethren.
Hendrick's defense attorney hammered away at the only physical evidence against him, pointing out that physical activity or trauma can affect the rate of digestion. Still, the jury found Hendricks guilty of four counts of murder and he was sentenced to life imprisonment on December 21, 1988.
- This relates to the earlier case when Hendricks was found guilty. He was subsequently acquitted in 1991.
Dad Takes Kids To Chuck E. Cheese For Their 'Last Meal'
08-23-2005, 10:56 AM
Bloomington, Illinois - David Hendricks sobbed at funeral services for his family in 1983. His wife, Susan, and kids were all found hacked to death in their beds.
It was dad's night to watch the kids, so on the evening of Nov. 7, 1983, David Hendricks, 29, bundled his brood into the car for a treat - dinner at the Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theater.
After scarfing down a large pie topped with mushrooms and olives, the three Hendricks children - Rebekah, 9, Grace, 7, and Benjamin, 5 - danced off to romp in the elaborate playground that was the eatery's main attraction.
They frolicked in the pool filled with bright colored plastic balls, climbed on ropes and played video games, blissfully unaware that they had just eaten their last supper.
Later that night, after his wife, Susan, 30, had arrived home at around 10:30 from a baby shower, Hendricks left on a business trip to Wisconsin. As the owner of a prosperous medical brace company, he was often on the road.
Hendricks started phoning his wife in mid-afternoon the next day, after several sales calls. There was no answer. He tried to catch her at her brother's house, where she had made plans to have dinner, but she never arrived. He called neighbors and other relatives. No one had seen or heard from his wife or children.
That's when Hendricks called the local sheriff. He explained he was on a sales trip and was unable to reach his family. He feared they had been in a car accident. When he learned that there had not been a single road mishap that night, Hendricks headed back to Bloomington.
Meanwhile, at the request of worried relatives, police had gone to the Hendricks' home, where they found Susan and the children - dead.
The victims were in their beds, hacked to death. A red-handled logging ax and butcher knife found in one of the rooms were thought to be the murder weapons.
There was no sign of forced entry and the crime scene was remarkably clean, considering the nature of the attacks, which had nearly decapitated one child. Aside from the bedrooms where the bodies were found on blood-soaked mattresses, there were few blood traces anywhere.
Police were still sniffing around the house for clues when David Hendricks arrived home from his aborted business trip.
He told them that his wife and children had been fine when he left near midnight on Nov. 7. That was the last time he spoke to any of them, he said.
Hendricks met with reporters the next day, sitting in the office of CASH Manufacturing Co., the back brace firm he had built from nothing.
"I'm very religious," he said. "We read the Bible every day together. I'm sure that the four members of my family that are gone are with the Lord Jesus in His glory."
When asked what he'd like to see happen to the killer, Hendricks replied, "I would like to see him get saved."
In the eyes of detectives, this all seemed too calm, too accepting for a man whose entire family had just been wiped out by an ax murderer, wrote Steve Vogel in his book on the case, "Reasonable Doubt."
Hendricks noted that police said the killer was probably a burglar, giving details he could not possibly have known unless he had been inside the house. But the crime scene had been sealed off, even to Hendricks.
Investigators started digging and found troubling contradictions in Hendricks' character. Friends and relatives described the Hendricks as the perfect family. High-school sweethearts, Susan and David had married at 18 and shared strong religious values. Both their families had been members of the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian sect that holds the bonds of marriage and family sacred.
To all appearances, David and Susan were pillars of their church and community. By his mid-20s, David had patented a back brace and was doing quite well financially in his orthopedics device company. He seemed a devoted father, a good provider, a fair boss and an upstanding member of the Brethren.
But in their digging, police learned that some people - specifically a string of young lovelies he had hired to model his medical devices - saw a darker side.
Some of the models told of fitting sessions in which Hendricks had asked them to strip naked. Two girls said he had made awkward advances, attempts at a hug or a kiss that were easily rebuffed.
Once investigators discovered that in the last few years Hendricks had made efforts to improve his image, shedding pounds and an unsightly mustache, they were certain they had their man. According to their theory, the trimmed down, spiffed up, well-to-do businessman had outgrown his mousy wife. But the Brethren viewed divorce as a sin punishable by excommunication, putting Hendricks between a rock -- his religious faith - and a hard place - his lust for sexy women.
But it wasn't until the completion of an analysis of the stomach contents of the three children that police had evidence enough for an arrest.
The tests showed that the pizza was only partially digested, with chunks of the mushroom and olive toppings still recognizable. This suggested that the children had died no later than 9:30 p.m., about the time their father had said he was tucking them into bed. Analysis of the stomach contents of their mother, who had snacked at the baby shower, also suggested she had died while her husband was still in the house.
The trial, which started on Oct. 9, 1984, hinged on scientific testimony. Prosecution experts insisted that no more than two hours could have elapsed between dinner and death. Defense experts said that theory was nonsense, since all kinds of factors can delay digestion. Hendricks' lawyers made much of the notion that exercise is one of those factors, pointing out that the children had engaged in a lively play session at Chuck E. Cheese's.
To show a motive, the prosecution marched out the bevy of models, who told of Hendricks' clumsy advances, and members of the Plymouth Brethren, who talked about the sect's harsh treatment of men who stray.
On the stand, Hendricks admitted that his behavior in the months leading up to the killing was not fitting with the ideals of his faith. "Essentially I am a normal man with the hormones flowing through my body. I am attracted to most women but I don't go around making advances," he told the court.
After eight weeks, the jury took just 5-1/2 hours to find him guilty.
Under Illinois law, Hendricks had the option to choose between the judge and the jury to impose his sentence.
Hendricks chose the judge, who made a surprising decision. Instead of death, Judge Richard Baner gave Hendricks four consecutive life sentences, without hope of parole.
"I cannot in good conscience apply the sanction of death unless I have been convinced of his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," Baner said. The judge said that he believed that Hendricks probably had murdered his family, but noted "mere belief is not enough."
Hendricks was carted off to the maximum security Menard Correctional Center in Chester, Ill.
While in prison he somehow managed to win the heart of another woman. Pat Miller, a twice divorced born again Christian who had started writing to Hendricks to offer spiritual support.
On Dec. 20, 1988, a day before the state Supreme Court upheld his conviction, she became the second Mrs. Hendricks and started praying and lobbying for his release.
Two years later, her prayers were answered. In a rare rehearing, the Illinois Supreme Court reversed its 1988 decision, ruling that testimony by the models was "irrelevant and highly prejudicial."
Hendricks was granted a new trial.
This time, after 22 days mostly devoted to forensic experts haggling about the digestibility of pizza, the jury deliberated 12 hours before finding Hendricks innocent.
Hendricks walked out of prison in March 1991. A month later, Bloomington police said that unless new leads popped up, the case was going into the inactive file, which is where it remains.
I could probably go through many more of these cases where there are "mixed motives" present, but I think the only other one that should be mentioned at this point is the David Hendricks case from November of 1983 in central Illinois. Mr. Hendricks was fortunate not to be at his house but on a sales call in Wisconsin when somebody entered the house, and brutally murdered his wife and three children (ages 5, 7, and 9) with an ax and a knife, apparently as they slept. I believe a responding police officer said it was the most brutal crime scene he had seen in his 24 years on the job. The wounds indicate a personal motive, but there were dressers drawers pulled out, which is a classic staging technique to indicate a burglar had come in the house, an economic motive. Hendricks was initially convicted, but his conviction was overturned and he was acquitted at a retrial. The important thing about the Hendricks case is that the real motive, a personal one, and the staged economic motive, the drawers being pulled out, are pretty far apart, which indicates more than likely that one of the motives is real and the other is not.
Extract: (Note final paragraph!)
4. The David Hendricks Murders
On the evening of November 8, 1983, and at the prompting of concerned
family members and friends of Susan Hendricks, police officers enter
313 Carl Drive in Bloomington, Illinois, to find Susan and her three
children (Rebekah, Grace and Benjamin; ages 9, 7 and 5 respectively)
savagely hacked to death with an axe. Minutes later, husband and
father, David Hendricks, arrives home from a business trip to
Wisconsin. Suspicious of Hendrick's only moderate showing of grief and
believing that the murders occurred prior to his departure on November
7th, police arrest him.
From analysis of undigested particles of pizza in the stomachs of the
children, and knowing what time David Hendricks had taken the children
to Chuck E. Cheese on the evening of the murders, a state forensic
pathologist concluded that the children had died at least earlier than
Hendricks said he had left to go on his business trip.
Defense pathologists claimed that the science of determining time of
death via stomach contents is not that accurate. They also pointed out
that no food particles were found in the stomach of the mother
although she had eaten raw vegetables even later in the evening than
the children had eaten. They also noted that one of the children, in
whose stomach was found partly digested mushrooms, was known to have
hated that vegetable and to have never eaten it. From this the defense
concluded that shoddy work had been done by the state pathologist and
that their conclusions couldn't be trusted.
A jury later found Hendricks guilty of all three murders. The judge,
however, took the unusual measure of stating that, although he was
personally convinced that Hendricks had committed the murders, he did
not believe that he was guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT. He stated
that there were several scenarios that would explain the physical
evidence, yet leave Hendricks innocent.
Later, Hendricks was granted a new trial because the prosecution had
introduced his religious beliefs and his secret affairs as evidence
as part of their theory that he had committed the crimes in order to
save them from the "fall from grace" that he had recently experienced.
The second jury found him innocent.
Hendricks has since remarried and accuses his brother-in-law of the
I was at the motel covering a breaking story and I see no ethical problem with that. But I do think my colleagues have a little ethical soul-searching to do themselves when it comes to checking facts before spouting off.
The story that took me to the motel and, later, to the hot seat was the retrial of Bloomington businessman David Hendricks. Convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the axe murders of his wife and three children, the defendant handled his own appeal and won a new trial.
It was such a sensational story that we planned to break into regular programming when the verdict came in.
Jury deliberations were upstairs in the courthouse, with the media confined to the lobby. The sheriff had promised to keep us apprised of all developments, but we found out he wasn't doing so.
I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, 2 states away from Bloomington Il.. I have never heard of one of our meetings being there, nor do the names ring a bell. Here in America, the Open Brethren are also classified as Plymouth Brethren. As I recall ,what is now known as the exclusive brethren were classified by the government as Plymouth Brethren #4 back in the days prior to 1970. One of peebs.net links writes that Hendricks had a moustach up until just before the murders, moustaches would have been long forbidden by then. It is my opion that Hendricks was a member of one of the Open Brethren groups.
I agree with Robert that I've never heard of an EB assembly in Bloomington Illinois.
It also strikes me odd that this Hendricks fellow could take off on an out of town business trip without the EB being all over him. If we could get some exEB's from Detroit (closer to the State of Illinois) to vet this story it would be very helpful.
He was part of the group I was in. Tunbridge Wells brethren. He lived in southern Illinois, and is the son of one of the leading "laboring" brothers when I left that group (Chuck Hendricks).
I believe that the end of the story is that several years ago he was unconditionally pardoned or something along those lines, as they found that it wasn't him after all. I don't know what exact source I found on the internet for that, but I remember finding it.
I remember his littlest brother (about my age) defending him so vigorously when we were at a conference in Toledo, Ohio. Another of his brothers married one of my cousins.
I too was in the TW meeting and had David's father in my home. I read the book also. It is my understanding that it appears to have been a jealous relative (by marriage) that comitted the crime. The sad part is that David had such a poor testimony. I think he married again while in jail and that marriage ended in divorce. I do not think David is with any brethren group since the murders.