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State v. Henderson

Court of Appeals of Iowa

January 11, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
THOMAS GUY HENDERSON, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Carroll County, Timothy J. Finn, Judge.

         The defendant appeals his two convictions for first-degree murder claiming counsel provided ineffective assistance, the trial court improperly admitted a hearsay statement, and the court abused its discretion in denying his motion for mistrial. AFFIRMED.

          Mark C. Smith, State Appellate Defender, and Bradley M. Bender, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Tyler J. Buller, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Bower, JJ.

          POTTERFIELD, Judge.

         Thomas Guy Henderson appeals his conviction for two counts of first-degree murder, in violation of Iowa Code sections 707.1 and 707.2 (2013). On appeal, Henderson claims he received ineffective assistance from counsel, the trial court improperly admitted a hearsay statement, and the court abused its discretion in denying his motion for mistrial. After careful review, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         The female decedent lived in a small community in Glidden. Her neighbors testified they knew her daily routine of checking her mail and taking her pets outside, and how she had a habit of keeping her front gate closed. On May 18, 2014, the neighbors noticed the female decedent's front gate remained open all day, which was unusual. They walked from their home across the way to the female decedent's home and knocked on her front door.

         While knocking, the neighbors testified they yelled the female decedent's name. The female decedent did not respond, but they heard a dog barking, so one of the neighbors entered the home and shouted for her again. When the neighbor entered, she saw a body on the floor of the living room. The neighbor testified she then backed out of the home. The other neighbor then entered the home and, upon seeing a deceased body on the floor, also left the home. The neighbors called 911, and responding officers found two deceased persons in the home-the male decedent in the living room and the female decedent in a bedroom.

         Local law enforcement and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations investigated the scene and found neither signs of forced entry into the home nor that a struggle had ensued inside. They concluded that at least one of the victims must have known the killer.

         At the scene, officers recovered two weapons. First, they recovered a "Yoshiblade" from a corner of the couch in the living room where they found the male decedent. They also recovered an additional knife's blade near the male decedent's body. The knives both had blood on them.

         They also noticed the female decedent had a half-finished tattoo on her leg. They consulted with a local tattoo artist who opined the tattoo appeared to be recently done. Items related to tattooing were located throughout the home.

         During the investigation and after speaking with neighbors, investigators determined the last time it could be confirmed both decedents were alive was on Friday, May 16. The male decedent visited a local convenient store and appeared on the store's surveillance camera at 7:25 p.m., and the female decedent spoke with a relative on the phone at 9:48 p.m. Both neighbors who discovered the bodies testified they saw a dark-colored Pontiac car going and coming from the female decedent's home on May 16 and 17. One neighbor testified she saw two men, possibly teenagers, with dark hair and clothing in the Pontiac. Neither neighbor testified they saw Henderson at the female decedent's home. The neighbors also testified they did not know the male decedent well because he was not a frequent visitor to the female decedent's home.

         Days after the murders, a runner and a horseback-rider separately found two pieces of a wallet, later determined to belong to the male decedent. The items were found in Lake City, on the side of the road. This led investigators to look more closely at Henderson, as his name had been mentioned during various interviews and the wallet was located near his apartment complex.

         On June 3, 2014, Special Agent Chad Fielder interviewed Henderson, who admitted to knowing the female decedent. He told Fielder he had been to the female decedent's home between nine and thirteen times in the past to purchase marijuana from another individual, but that he had stopped because he had been "shorted" a few times. Fielder testified at trial that during this interview with Henderson, he quickly looked over Henderson's hands and exposed portions of his body for any visible injuries but did not see any. Fielder also testified Henderson did not express any anger or animosity towards the female decedent or the individual who "shorted" his marijuana purchases. Fielder also noted there was no evidence Henderson knew the male decedent.

         Officers then searched Henderson's apartment twice. Officers located an amateur tattoo kit containing similar needles as those observed in the female decedent's home.

         The medical examiner performed autopsies on both decedents. The autopsy determined the male decedent had defensive wounds and died as a result of blunt-force trauma and sharp-force trauma to his body. A portion of the Yoshiblade blade tip was also found broken off in his skull. The female decedent also had defensive wounds and died as a result of blunt-force trauma to her head and neck region. It also showed she suffered skull, wrist, and rib fractures.

         The two knives seized from the home were tested for DNA. The handles of both knives contained DNA that matched the known profile of Henderson.

         On June 24, 2014, Henderson was charged by trial information with two counts of first-degree murder, to which Henderson pled not guilty. Although he initially demanded a speedy trial, he waived that right on July 11. The jury trial began on May 12, 2015, and the jury found Henderson guilty on both counts. The court then sentenced Henderson to serve an indeterminate term of imprisonment for the rest of his life for each charge and ordered those sentences to run consecutively. Henderson was also ordered to make restitution payments to the decedents' estates, payments to the crime victim compensation program and county, and reimbursement payments for court costs and attorney fees.

         Henderson filed his notice of appeal on July 6, 2015.

         II. ...


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