Shortly after Reasonable Doubt was first published as a hardcover book, I invited David Hendricks to identify factual errors. I received this letter from him in December of 1989:
I haven’t reread the book yet and I am too busy to do so now, so I’ll just correct the errors I noticed on my first reading. I’ll try to stick to the “cold black and white facts” you asked for. The number after the page number denotes the estimated number of tenths from the top.
p. 8 5 “passing parade of drunks, druggies, prostitutes, pimps and police.” Nice alliteration, but hardly accurate. Drunks and derelects (sic_) was about all I ever saw there.
p. 8 6 “One of his favorites was to drop a fake dollar bill…” I did that once, with a fake $20.
p. 8 10 “David delighted in putting his friend’s books…” I did this once also, not to Ralph, but to another kid while Ralph was watching. These are small corrections, but the idea that this was routine behavior isn’t fact.
p. 9 8 Susan played second clarinet, I think.
p. 10 7 The poems were at BTP, but the cassette of piano playing was later, after we were going steady.
p. 12 8,9 Two things: 1) I’m not aware Liz had a crush on me. 2) Jerry and Liz were married a year before we were.
p. 14 4 “he learned of an opportunity connected with a hospital” There was no opportunity to be learned of. I just chose to start a practice there.
p. 14 4-8 The whole section on my leaving Brinkmann isn’t accurate. First, I didn’t feel indebted to him. He payed (sic) only for a few books, no more. Couldn’t have been more than $200. He had underpaid me and I was a superior worker. When I decided to launch out on my own, I wrote some orthotic and prosthetic suppliers for catalogs and information. One of them, a shoe company, phoned Brinkmann and alerted him that one of his employees was planning to start a competing business. They had it wrong, but that didn’t matter. It caused Heinz to go into a crazied (sic) frenzy, during which he fired me on the spot. He then thought about it, retracted the firing, and said the work level was low and put me on a two-day-per-week schedule. The purpose was to hurt me as badly as possible, to give me enough so I couldn’t collect unemployment, but less than the unemployment would have been. I quit with a letter outlining just how much work there was, how farm behind we were, and stating the cutback was purely retributive because he found out I was thinking of launching out on my own.
I went on welfare, since he threatened to block any attempt on my part to collect unemployment. It turned out he unwittingly did me a favor, since Grace was born during that short period and Medicaid picked up the whole tab, which we were planning to pay ourselves, so we came out financially slightly better than we would have on unemployment for that short period. This is far to long to include all these details, I know, but you can see your section is incorrect.
p. 15 2-5 The two paragraphs on my Cottage Hospital employment are also wrong. The first is fine, except for the last phrase, “his home-renovation projects.” I didn’t start that until I lost my job there. The second paragraph is wrong, though. First, the hospital approached me. They offered me a low price for my business and a high salary. I liked the package, especially since I was able to negotiate four weeks off (besides normal vacation time) without pay for missionary work each year. When I attempted to take my four weeks off, they said if I did I was fired. I said I had a contract giving me the right to those four weeks and that I was taking them. They could do what they wanted. They mailed me a letter, formally accepting my resignation–a resignation I never offered!
p. 16 3 “David finally had the son he wanted.” There is nothing in my memory to indicate I was particularly anxious to have a son. But I was sure thrilled.
p. 16 6 “Cessna 172…He paid cash.” I borrowed from a Bloomington bank, one that specialized in aircraft lending in town. I remember the monthly payments were seven hundred something.
p. 17 6 “Hendricks had quizzed Roman…wondering if he was Jewish.” Ed has that wrong. I remember the incident, which is rather amusing. I told my family I was selling my business to a man named Ed Roman. Grace confused the name with that of another New-Testament book, Hebrews. She asked if Mr. Hebrews was going to live in our house too. Susie and I laughed and later I told Ed about it. While we were chuckling about it, I looked at him and made a joke: “You’d better tell me now if you are a Hebrew. I thought you were a Roman. But if you are a Hebrew, I’ve heard about them. I’ll have to watch you more closely.” It was purely a joke and was taken that way at the time. The idea, in your book, that I was anti-semitically prejudiced is unfair and untrue.
p. 18 2 “paid cash for the $92,000 house.” That’s what I paid Armstrong, but the actual cost of the finished house, with back porch, landscaping and decorating was $105,000, almost on the nose. I didn’t really pay cash “within two months.” It appears that way, but the fact is I borrowed the money, but not as a mortgage. I then paid off the loan quickly, but out of another loan. It was just shifting funds for best usage, not paying it off in two months.
p. 18 3 In this whole section about the way we brought up our children, you allege some incorrect facts, but more, you leave a wrong impression. “between meal snacks were discouraged, although there was often a bedtime snack of popcorn of (sic) hot chocolate. When there were visitors, a special treat like ice cream or cheese was served.” This is way wrong. Our eating habits were quite normal. The kids munched and snacked, like any kid does. We had ice cream often, even without guests. We almost never popped popcorn. It wasn’t a staple. Hot chocolate was rare and only on cold days. I don’t know where you got this.
p. 18 5 “The home contained no radios.” Wrong. There were several. We didn’t have a TV, but we had radios. We also got the Pantagraph. I brought it home almost every day. We just didn’t subscribe. Who told you this nonsense?
p. 18 7 “Grace once told her teacher her mom was mean…” This is really unfair. I beg you to delete it. Susie was fair and well loved. What child hasn’t said, at one time or another, that their parents were mean because of some reason? But to put it in this way is to characterize Susie as one who withheld pleasure from her children. She had the biggest, most loving heart of anyone I’ve ever known. Our children loved her. This needs to be deleted. Even if literally correct, it leaves a wrong impression.
p. 19 9 Jim would be “shunned…theoretically by his family.” This is wrong. The term “shunning” is associated with groups who actually will not communicate or eat with a person who is excommunicated. To apply that to the Brethren is too strong. They don’t even use the term. They say, “put out.” The only thing the person is kept from doing is eating the bread and drinking the wine at communion. They can attend services, they can socialize or do business with others in the “meeting.” I’m not talking about what is in early Brethren books, what you call “theoretical,” but about actual practice. You say “theoretically even by his family.” Theory is not valid in religion if it is not practiced. Theoretically a Catholic goes to Mass every week, attends confession whenever he or she sins, won’t eat meat on Friday, won’t use contraceptives, etc. You wouldn’t be honest describing any Catholic, or even more Catholics, like that.
You have to describe their real lives and practices. Our religion was strange enough. Don’t exaggerate it.
p. 22 9 “David sent a check to his father-in-law, along with a letter that was surprisingly formal…” No, I didn’t send that letter. It was just written for my own files.
p. 24 3 “a new airplane–the third…” Nope. It was a used airplane.
p. 24 3 “David may have been feeling a little guilty.” As a statement of fact, this is unassailable. Anyone may be feeling anything at any time. But the word “guilty” is explosive, especially relating to my family. I honestly don’t know what you mean I may have been feeling guilty about, but I think this is unfair. Think about changing it, please.
p. 24 8 Martha and Jon did not help Mom babysit during that trip.
p. 25 8 “He had ballooned to 255 pounds, 75 pounds more…” I was 210 when married. I haven’t been below 200 since my early teens. I had gotten up to more like 275 pounds at the heaviest.
p. 28 5 “These included a visit to the Bloomington Public Library…” I went there the week before.
p. 30 3 “Becky ran inside.” No, that was Grace (as page 303 7 shows).
p. 40 10 “Hendricks’s blue Buick…abruptly halted a couple of houses away.” No, I double-parked right in front of the streetlight which was in front of my house. That’s where I got out of the car. Nate (or Jerry) later moved the car.
p. 46 10 You have the police politely asking me if I want to go to the police station. No doubt that’s how they tell it, but let me assure you, they did no such thing. They told me we were going to the police station. From their words and actions, I was not left with the idea I had a choice. (While I’m at it, a great deal of what happened at the police station they left out or misrepresented. I won’t go into any of that, though. It would take too long.)
p. 49 3 “Rebekah Caleb.” Should be Karen.
p. 54 2 The clothes were gotten from my house the next morning. That’s how they held me there all night, taking my clothes and not giving me replacements.”
p. 54 6 “Susan had a nodule…Dr. Zehr.” This is another case where they just made things up, instead of recording them at the time. I neither knew the term”nodule” nor the name of Dr. Zehr. I expect I said something like, “except that Susie (I never called her “Susan” either) was going to the doctor about a lump in her neck.”
p. 55 10 and p. 56 1-3 I called Mom from the police station, shortly before I left in the morning.
p. 105 6 “Ron Dozier…learned that Hendricks wanted to talk with him.” This might be how he describes it, but the truth is that Hal came to me saying Dozier wanted to talk.
p. 154 7 “The strategy was simple. Present the young women in rough chronological order.” I’ve explained my objection to this already. He did not present them in chronological order, but in sexual order. Don’t present it as if his original motives were honorable! He planned to do exactly what he did, or he would have done it differently.
p. 161 4 Kathy Harper was working at State Farm when she modeled for me.
p. 329 2 “Nicki” should be “Nadine.” Of course, if this is in the transcripts this way, fine. There are a great number of factual errors by witnesses, but you must record what they said.
p. 410 2 “While the sequence of killings i not critical to the state’s case…” How can you say that? Think about it, Steve. If the children were killed last, which is obviously the case, it could not have been done before 11:00 p.m., with Susie arriving at 10:40 p.m. and being in bed asleep when she was killed. If the jury thought no one was killed before 11:00, you think I would have been convicted? I was convicted by a jury that was sure I was home when my children were killed. The sequence is indeed critical to the state’s case.
That’s it. I did this real quickly, paging through the book and stopping at the marks I made on first reading. Had you given me more time, I’d done it more carefully. But these few should help. You obviously care about getting details right.
You are a good writer. You should write more.
As you can see, I decided to follow your suggestion instead of sending my book and putting you through the trouble of sending me a new copy.
Take care. Merry Christmas and all the best for 1990.
cc: Pat Hendricks
As you can see, most of the corrections deal with the book’s early pages describing Hendricks’s earlier life, information I largely obtained from Hendricks’s mother and mother-in-law, as I recall, supplemented by police reports and notes from psychiatric exams.
None of these corrections were made in subsequent editions of the book. Had I remembered that I had this letter when I updated the book early this year, I certainly would have made many of the changes, mostly for the purpose of historical accuracy, but partly because Hendricks’s version of certain elements is flat-out more interesting than my reported version (e.g., about his quarrel with Brinkmann, why and how he left the Galesburg hospital’s employment, and the humorous confusion about Ed Roman’s ethnicity).
I’m glad this website allows me the opportunity to present Hendricks’s “corrections” as he provided them, albeit years delayed.