Confession, victim’s body presented at Hankins trial
Jury sees photos of Cynthia on Day 4
Craig — On the fourth day of Terry Hankins’ murder trial, the prosecution played an audio recording of Hankins’ first confession to killing his wife, Cynthia, and showed the jury the first pictures of her dismembered body.
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.
She was 34.
Detective Jen Kenney, with the Craig Police Department, spent almost the entire day on the witness stand, first testifying about her role as co-lead investigator in the Hankins case and then defending her investigation to the defense.
Hankins’ confession – made Aug. 24, 2007, to Kenney and Joe DeAngelo, an investigator for the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the other lead investigator in the case – included statements that he killed Cynthia, then cut her body into pieces and buried it on his gold claim north of Craig.
The recording also included Kenney and DeAngelo speaking to Terry before his confession.
The two law enforcement officers told Terry several times they knew he killed Cynthia in self-defense.
“We want to give Cynthia a good Christian burial,” DeAngelo said. “It’s important to (her) kids. We genuinely believe you’re a good man. You got caught in a situation with a bad woman. : We know it was a self-defense issue, Terry. We know that.”
Terry initially reacted skeptically to DeAngelo and Kenney’s requests to tell them where he buried the body.
“I don’t know how that works,” he said on the recording. “You guys are supposed to prosecute me, and my lawyer I guess defends me.”
But, after a few minutes, Terry said he would show them where he buried Cynthia’s body, even if his lawyer would probably be against it.
At that point the recording ended, and Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney for the District Attorney’s Office, asked Kenney why she and DeAngelo told Terry they believed at the time he killed Cynthia in self-defense.
“We said it because all we had to go on at that point was Mr. Hankins’ statements to us,” Kenney testified, adding that her and DeAngelo’s follow-up investigation turned up other evidence that led the case in a different direction.
She said Terry’s account of what happened the night of Cynthia’s death – he said he hit her in the head with a crow bar after choking her unconscious – was one such piece of new information.
During his cross-examination, Scott Troxell, one of Hankins’ public defenders, questioned whether new evidence changed Kenney’s mind or whether she wanted to believe Hankins was guilty from the start.
Troxell based much of his opening statements to the jury Wednesday on the defense’s position that Terry killed Cynthia in self-defense, as she had a history of abusing him, and allegedly beat him with a fan the night of her death.
After Kenney confirmed there were several Craig Police reports concerning Cynthia’s abuse of Terry – and none the other way around – Troxell asked whether Kenney considered Cynthia’s “hundreds of pages of criminal history” before deciding it might not be a case of self-defense.
Kenney testified those records were part of DeAngelo’s portion of the case but that she had some knowledge of some incidents.
She also said there were more than 6,000 pages in the case file, and she had not read every one.
When Troxell asked whether Kenney could give an accurate opinion on whether Cynthia’s death was an act of self-defense, given she had not read all the information in the case file, Kenney responded she trusted DeAngelo to share anything important.
“I trust Mr. DeAngelo with my life and an investigation,” she said. “If there was something important I needed to know, he would tell me.”
When Snow had a chance to question Kenney after Troxell’s cross-examination, he asked her whether it was her job to decide what happened in a case, to which Kenney said that it wasn’t.
Her role, she said, was to gather evidence, give it to the District Attorney’s Office and let a jury decide the outcome at trial.
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