Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

Continuance granted in murder trial

New finding pushes trial date to August

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At a glance

• Terry Hankins' murder trial, scheduled to begin Monday, delayed until August.

• Judge orders continuance Tuesday, during a pre-screening of potential jurors.

• Continuance stems from prosecution's recent uncovering of a prior conviction.

• Hankins was convicted of destroying businesses with dynamite, according to reports.

— A murder trial, which was scheduled to begin next week, has been pushed back nearly two months after a judge's ruling Tuesday in Moffat County District Court.

Terry Hankins, 72, is charged with first-degree murder and abuse of a corpse in connection with the June 2007 death of his wife, 34-year-old Cynthia Hankins.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and his jury trial was slated to begin Monday.

The process of paneling a jury began Tuesday.

About 170 potential jurors were brought to the court in three separate sessions for an introduction to the proceedings and to fill out a 10 to 12 page questionnaire in preparation for narrowing the jury pool.

Between sessions, prosecutors from the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office and Hankins' public defenders met with Michael O'Hara, chief judge of the 14th Judicial District, to address pending motions in the case.

At the center of officials' discussion Tuesday was the prosecution's recent discovery of a prior Hankins felony conviction.

Details of that earlier conviction, according to court records, are listed below:

• In late May, investigator Joe DeAngelo, of the District Attorney's Office, learned that, decades ago, Terry Hankins was convicted of using dynamite to blow up gasoline pumps and tanks at a Texaco station and a gasoline wholesaler in Egnar and Dove Creek.

• Hankins was charged with felony malicious mischief in connection, and he pleaded guilty to the charge.

• In February 1964, Hankins was sentenced to four years probation in Dolores County District Court for the conviction.

• The prosecution discovered the 1964 conviction, which it had not known about, by interviewing Hankins' estranged brother. That interview was conducted to confirm family history that Hankins had given to his expert psychologist.

• The 1964 conviction occurred three years before the implementation of the National Crime Information Center, law enforcement's central database for tracking crime-related information, and was not contained in that database.

Hankins' public defenders filed a motion asking the court to suppress the prior felony conviction at trial or grant a continuance, which would allow them more time to challenge the finding.

On Tuesday, the court denied the motion to suppress but granted the motion to continue.

The trial has been rescheduled for Aug. 10 in district court.

It is expected to last three weeks.

An additional motion hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. July 20.

The court also scheduled another pre-screening of a new jury panel - a process similar to that used Tuesday, and one that O'Hara described as a "novel procedure" that "worked well" - for Aug. 6, four days before trial.

Court documents shed additional insight

Within four folders at the Clerk of the District Court office inside the Moffat County Courthouse is the lengthy legal history of the Hankins murder case, which dates back more than two years.

And within that stack of paperwork are court documents that shed additional insight into Hankins' background, outside the scope of his alleged involvement in the murder.

DeAngelo's report on his interview with Hankins' estranged brother indicates that Hankins was the youngest child in his family.

He eventually became valedictorian of his high school class, according to the report, and received a scholarship to Colorado School of Mines, where he met his first wife.

They married while he was in college and later had two daughters and a son. They stayed together for about 18 years.

While working in uranium mines, Hankins took over the family store. After four years, the business "went broke and Terry went bankrupt." He then had financial troubles.

Hankins had an interest in a local Texaco gas station, his brother told DeAngelo, that was "somehow diminished" in the late 1950s or early 1960s, as well as another business.

His brother then told DeAngelo that Hankins was angry at losing the interest and "blew the businesses up with dynamite," the report reads.

Following the bankruptcy, Hankins got a mining job in New Mexico. He was later transferred to Casper, Wyo., to work at a uranium mine. He was a chief mining engineer and supervised at least 100 people, earning a hefty annual salary.

Hankins later went into gold mining, "which he has done ever since," according to DeAngelo's recap of the interview.

Prosecutors allege Hankins murdered his wife at the couple's Craig apartment following a violent altercation. He then transported her remains to his gold claim, near the Wyoming border, in Moffat County, where authorities found her.

Hankins has been in custody at the Moffat County Jail since he was charged with the crime in August 2007.

Comments

grannyrett 5 years, 6 months ago

What with all the delays and postponements, he may not live long enough to go to trial.

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