1st week of Hankins murder trial concluded | CraigDailyPress.com

1st week of Hankins murder trial concluded

Arguments focus on minutes before Cynthia's death

Collin Smith
Cynthia Hankins and Terry Hankins

— After the first week of Terry Hankins’ murder trial, the case seems to have boiled down to discerning what happened in the brief amount of time before Cynthia Hankins’ death.

Terry Hankins is charged with first-degree murder, a Class 1 felony, and abuse of a corpse, a Class 2 misdemeanor, in connection with Cynthia’s death, which occurred June 3, 2007, when she was 34.

In opening statements, public defender Scott Troxell said his client did kill Cynthia and did dismember her body afterward.

However, he killed her in self-defense after Cynthia attacked him with a fan, Troxell said.

Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District, said Terry did not act in self-defense but instead killed her in a fit of rage after Cynthia refused to have sex with him.

Both lead investigators in the case – Detective Jen Kenney, with the Craig Police Department, and Joseph DeAngelo, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office – have testified.

During their time on the witness stand, the prosecution played three recorded confessions Terry made to law enforcement about killing Cynthia.

In one confession, made roughly three months after Cynthia’s disappearance to Kenney and DeAngelo, Terry described how he killed his wife, then dismembered her body and buried it on his gold claim north of Craig.

There was a struggle, Terry said, which ended when he choked her unconscious.

“And I thought, ‘God, when she wakes up, she’s going to beat : me,'” Terry said on the recording. “So, I went and got a crow bar and hit her in the head with it. Killed her.

“After I killed her, I thought, ‘Now what the hell am I going to do? Nobody’s going to believe me. I’m just in trouble.'”

He then told the two law enforcement officers that he spent the next 12 hours cutting up her body in the bathtub with a butcher knife.

“No, I just butchered her like a deer,” Terry said on the recording. “And I guess the only reason I did it is because I didn’t think anybody would believe the self-defense deal.”

The recording also included statements from Kenney and DeAngelo before Terry’s confession, which mostly centered on them consoling Terry and telling him they knew he killed Cynthia in self-defense.

“I think you gave a lot to that relationship,” Kenney said. “I think you gave a lot financially, emotionally.”

“We genuinely believe you’re a good man,” DeAngelo said. “You got caught up with a bad woman. : We know it was a self-defense issue, Terry. We know that.”

When Snow asked Kenney why she and DeAngelo said those things, the detective answered that was their best theory in the case before they collected all the evidence.

Kenney directly mentioned Terry’s own account of what happened that night – he said he hit Cynthia in the head with a crow bar after she was unconscious on the bed – as one of the things that took the investigation in another direction.

The defense questioned Kenney about whether the evidence suggested murder or she assumed that.

During cross-examination by Sheryl Uhlmann, another public defender, Kenney said she did not read every page of Cynthia’s criminal history, but that DeAngelo did and she trusted him to tell her anything important.

When Uhlmann cross-examined DeAngelo, he said he did not contact five different previous boyfriends who alleged Cynthia assaulted them when she lived in Texas.

DeAngelo did say he tried to contact one of them, but he couldn’t find a location. He was not asked and did not specify about the others.

Kenney and DeAngelo also confirmed for the defense that Terry made several calls to local law enforcement alleging different kinds of abuse by Cynthia. He also obtained two separate restraining orders against her, once filed for divorce, and either tried to or left her about six times.

One aspect of the case not under contention is that Terry dismembered Cynthia’s body.

The evidence about that portion of the case has not been easy for some. Cynthia’s mother, Willie Fay Runnels, began to sob and was escorted out of the courtroom when attorneys discussed which photos to show the jury.

In the end, the prosecution published two pictures of Cynthia’s remains as they lay on an autopsy table. Her legs, hands and head had been cut off.

The prosecution expects to call its final witness sometime next week. The defense will start its case after that.

The trial, which began Monday, is scheduled to last three weeks, though it remains to be seen whether it will finish in that time.

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