Over the course of 22 years, I had two letters and one email from David Hendricks after he read the book I wrote about his family’s murders, his arrest, his conviction and subsequent retrial and release. And then last spring, I received two short emails about the updated version shortly after it was published. You’ll see an evolution in his thinking about Reasonable Doubt.
Here’s the first letter, written from prison the same month the book was first published in hardcover. It’s a long one:
Oct. 31, 1989
My mother told me you wanted to know my reaction to your book.
You write well. You wrote a good book. But I think you missed your chance of a lifetime to write a great book.
Your book is mostly straight reporting. It lacks the feel of in-depth research into the science of stomach contents and the discrepancies between what various people told you. It lacks the proper moral outrage at the behavior of the non-investigating police and prosecutor. You show the facts, but you don’t synthesize them into a conclusion. Most readers won’t either. That’s why I say it is good reporting, not great writing. It is excellent editing with little insightful opinion.
I am disturbed by two things in your epilog. First, you start by saying there are two issues, whether I am guilty and whether I was proven guilty. You say I may not be guilty, but you fail to say I was not proven guilty, which you certainly must believe.
I was outraged by your statement in an interview with Bob Holliday that, were you given the keys to Menard, you aren’t sure whether you would let me out! I can’t believe you said that, Steve. It makes me very angry. On what basis are you not sure? Do you think I am a danger to anyone? Do you not care about Pat and Ryan and Rachel whose life will be so much more rich with me? Do you not think I deserve to be free?
Come on, Steve! What about our principle of law that a man is innocent until proven guilty? Don’t you believe in that? You obviously believe I wasn’t proven guilty, whatever your uncertainty about my actual guilt may be. Do you think I need to be in prison because there is a 40% chance I am guilty? See why I’m angry?
I also feel you have invaded my privacy by publishing details about my life that have nothing to do with the case and are not part of the public record. You greatly exaggerated my religiousness by many untrue details about our family life. Things like writing we had no radio or newspapers. I warned you a long time ago I might sue you if you invade my privacy. I haven’t decided what to do now, but I just want you to know that if I do sue you, it isn’t personal. I like you. But right is right, and there are private details in that book that don’t belong.
With all these negative things said, I should finish by saying that your book has a positive effect on people’s perceptions about me. That’s probably because most of them thought I was a horned demon.
I still have my diary entry about the book in my typewriter’s memory. I think it explains my specific thoughts and I don’t see anything there I don’t want you to read, so here it is, mistakes and all. I even leave in my little joke about indulgences.
I started reading Reasonable Doubt by Vogel right after last night’s football game (in which the Bears dropped their third straight!). I began reading at midnight and, with breaks only to eat breakfast and lunch, I finished just after 12:00 noon. Here are my comments on the book:
I caught quite a few factual errors, most inconsequential, but which could have been avoided with more careful research. The book is written well. Simple language. It flows well and reads easily. The greatest part of it is little more than edited transcript, but it is well done. He does a studied job of remaining impartial. Too much so, I think. He accepts self-promoting versions of the truth, by the cops, Dozier and even Long, too gullibly. Physically the print is nice, the binding horrible. It warped badly on one reading. And I don’t mistreat books. The cloth is the cheapest too.
Page five has a graphic description of Benjie. I got physically ill reading it. My heart beat fast, my stomach turned over.
He endears himself to me on page 10 by treating Susie well. I liked his mentioning she would have given the valedictorian address had she remained at Delavan High School. Also that the horrible rumors about her reason for leaving were unfounded.
Pages 32-37 clearly show Nadine was more concerned and made more pushy calls than I by far. So to go with the theory that my phone calling displayed guilt, you have to tie her in to the crime.
As to my statement, “they said it looked like…,” page 42 tells how, at the scene, an official told me I might have to go inside later to determine if anything was missing. On page 50 Crow asked me if I had “anything of particular value in (my) home that might have been taken.” On page 53, in the police station, Irwin asks the same thing. Page 58 tell how, Wednesday morning, WJBC (and others) broadcast Police Chief Devault’s message that “robbery is not necessarily ruled out.” On page 81 he says, of that same day, “word of a burglary was on the street, even speculated on in the media. Hendricks’s relatives surely had picked up on it.” On page 341 Nate testifies he heard cops tell me at the scene they would want me to go in and inventory what was missing.
The police interrogation on pages 47-52 leaves more out than it includes. What is there is mostly true, but so much of their cruelty is missing. They must have conveniently forgotten to tell him about t.
On page 53 Dozier says he “felt no instant revulsion,” when he first viewed the gory scene of hacked-up victims. He is the only one who didn’t feel such revulsion that I’ve heard of. He evidently has no heart.
Something I never knew before. On page 60, I told reporters Wednesday that I left my house at 11:00 p.m. All along the state has been saying I sprung that on them at the end of the trial. But there it was long before I had heard evidence, knew theories, could calculate.
Another thing I never knew. The two morticians, with years of experience, immediately doubted the state’s time of death. The bodies’ circulation was too good, they said on page 63.
I found myself crying at what I was reading almost every time I came across the words, “Hendricks cried.” Just reading about the same stimuli created the same reaction.
On pages 74,5 Spikes is conspicuously absent from the account. He’s the charlatan who gave the first time-of-death guesses. I’d like to know why they didn’t tell Vogel about that. What are they hiding?
On pages 156-161, in the account of Payne and Baird, no mention is made of my catalogs. The way it is presented is that I applied body casts and leg molds to fit a CASH Orthosis!
On page 384 he says Hal and John tried to keep Rappaport off the stand. No way! Hal handed him a line on that one. I remember well the way he manipulated me, threatened to quit the day before my capital sentencing, pulled the okeedoke on me.
Rereading the models’ testimony in its entirety, I get two feelings, the same two that presented themselves at trial when I listened to their testimony. 1) How insignificant my moral transgression, 2) how great my insensitivity and lack of respect for the models as human beings. Feeling a few tits; who cares? But trampling on their personal privacy by deceit; that’s the crime. I feel bad thinking about it. I never really thought of it at the time.
In his epilog, on page 410, he says “the sequence of the killings is not critical to the state’s case.” It sure is! If the sequence is as he says it is, then the state experts’ 9:00 p.m. time-of-death theory is impossible and no proof of guilt remains.
Steve wimped out in his epilog. He begins it with the “two central issues presented in this book: whether Hendricks is, in fact, guilty and whether he was proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” He addresses only one of them, by ending the epilog with the sentence: “Yes I have come to the pleasureless conclusion that they may have convicted an innocent man.” His “may” is fair. He isn’t positive. But he should also explicitly state, if he wants to be fair, what is implicitly stated both by the book’s title and entire text, that Hendricks not only may not have been, but unequivocally was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, whatever his actual guilt or innocence may be. He fails to say what he obviously believes after his extensive research on my case.
On page 154 Dozier plans to put the models on “in rough chronological order. A pattern of accelerating sexual aggressiveness, Dozier hoped, would be obvious.” But Dozier did not try to put them on in chronological order. He fooled Vogel. He even fooled me, for a time. The models went on the stand in this order: 4 3 2 1 5 8 7 11 9 10 12 6. That is Atwell (4) Sum. 81, Payne (3) Apr. 81, Baird (Segobiano 2) Sept. 81, Harper (1) Mar. 81, Rueger (5) Mar 82, Jarrett (8) Sum. 83, Wilmoth (7) Aug. 83, Ryburn (11) Oct. 83, Ledbetter (9) Oct. 83, Tomlinson (10) Oct. 83, Webb (12) current, Johnston (6) March 83. The only ones close to being in order are 7-12, which all occurred within three months of each other. Notable is the fact that the first three chronologically included nudity, marks on the body and touching, something which is absent from the next three chronologically, behavior that occurred 2 ½ years before the murders.
One final thought. It is clear I could not have been convicted, and would never have been tried, were it not for my misbehavior with the models. Wrong as its use may be to prove murder, Dozier found it irresistibly useful. So in a sense, I am paying for my indiscretions with six-plus years in prison, millions of dollars, my reputation and dignity, and all that goes along with that. Now I can figure what my naughtiness with the models should be worth and I figure I have some pleasure coming. Boy, can I enjoy myself now! Look at all the indulgences I’ve built up. And I never even met John Tetzel.
Oops! More thoughts. These after thinking about the book all day. The predominant thought is, How did I ever get convicted? Also, there are a number of misrepresentations or misrecollections, like Long’s trip to London. And Dozier sold Steve a bill of good with that explanation about having the models in the police station in order to induce me to confess. That’s pure bullshit. We correctly figured out at trial that his purpose in setting up the scene that way was to prejudice the models and make their testimony more damaging. His story about trying to shock me into confession is so stupid—I was led through, sat in a room along where I asked to call my attorney, and then I was immediately dragged back through the models to be printed and photographed. Steve bought these lies, but that does not make them true. As I think more about the book, so many more come to mind. False misstatements of either fact or intention. I’ll have to reread the book and make a note of them all.
Well, that’s what I thought of your book upon first reading it. Rereading may change my mind entirely. But those are my thoughts, in my own words, to myself. You can’t get more truthful than that.
Before you publish a revised edition, if you ever do, I’ll be glad to point out factual errors. The easiest way to do this, for both of us, will be for you to send me a book, which I will highlight and write in the margins of, then return to you.
Take care. I wish you health and success.
Here’s a copy of the actual second letter I received a few months later. By then, he had been behind bars 74 months.
And then 21 years later (and 20 years after he won his freedom), this email:
Email dated May 16, 2011
To: Steve Vogel
Subject: Just to say hi – and thanks!
Just a quick email to thank you for your book, Reasonable Doubt. Years ago, I had too much anger at what had been done to me to appreciate your fairness and objectivity. Healing years have passed.
In December of 2009 I sold my business and by August of 2010, after I was contractually able to leave it, I restarted by book project, Tom Henry. In an effort to refamiliarize myself with some of the facts of my own story, I reread Reasonable Doubt.
I’m impressed, both with your writing and with your integrity. I’m sure you took considerable flack in Bloomington for your neutral stance toward me.
So, with my wife out for the evening, after walking the dogs, and while watching basketball, I’m writing on my new iPad—not so easy!—to say thanks. I never appreciated you as I should have. If I had it to do over, I’d agree to work with you on that magazine project. I just didn’t want the publicity. But with what I’ve come to understand, I’d do it just to show my appreciation. Unfortunately, I don’t have it to do over.
Since it’s too late for that, I’m just writing to say thanks instead.
And finally, because he had been cooperative in my update of the book earlier this year, I sent him a copy and asked for his observations. I received this very short email on April 30, 2018: