A 21-year-old man who watched while two of his friends brutally beat a 35-year-old Crothersville man, Aaron Hall, and helped the men drag his body from the house and dump it in a ditch while Hall struggled for his life has been charged by the Jackson County prosecutor only for assisting a criminal, a Class C felony, which carries a sentence of no less than 2 years and not to exceed 8 years. Jackson Circuit Court Judge Bill Vance set Hendricks' bond at just $25,000 at the accused men's initial hearing earlier this week according to the Seymour Tribune.
The two men who beat Hall because they thought he was gay, Garrett Gray (19) and Coleman King (18), are charged with murder, a Class a felony, and voluntary manslaughter, a Class B felony. Gray and King could serve as little as 6 years and no more than 20 years if they are found guilty of voluntary manslaughter instead of murder. The accused will no doubt use the "gay panic" defense to arouse sympathy from the jury in hopes of getting off on the manslaughter charge. By including the lesser charge, the prosecutor ensured this as a possible outcome in the case.
Under Indiana law, a person such as Hendricks, who "knowingly or intentionally aids, induces or causes another person to commit an offense commits that offense." In other words, the prosecutor could have charged Hendricks with murder or voluntary manslaughter as he charged Gray and King. What is particularly disturbing about Hendricks' charging is that Hall was still alive when he helped Gray and King dump the body. If he had attempted at any point to obtain assistance for Hall, he might still be alive today. Here's how the Seymour Tribune's Aubrey Woods describes the crime:
Gray, who turned himself in to police Sunday, and King admitted to police that they beat Hall after Hall grabbed King's crotch and made comments questioning King's sexuality, according to court records.
Those comments came as Hall, Gray, King and Hendricks drank beer and whiskey at Gray's home on the afternoon of April 12, police said.
King told police he went first to Gray's home about noon that day and found Dylan Nease, Gray and Hendricks there, according to records. King said he and Hendricks drove Gray's truck to Crothersville to buy alcohol and they picked up Hall on their way back to Gray's house. A short time later, Nease left for work, and King said everyone began drinking beer and whiskey, according to records.
After Hall's comments to King, both King and Gray admitted hitting Hall and dragging him out of the house to Gray's truck, police said.
Gray also told police he had hit Hall at least a dozen times and that King had struck Hall about 75 times, with his hands and boots.
Hendricks' role in the crime came as Hall was driven to an area south of Crothersville and dumped, according to court records . . .
Investigators say they first learned of Hall's death last weekend through John Hodge, after he called police Saturday to say he had information about Hall's disappearance and death.
Hodge told police he received a text message and video photo from Gray on his cell phone while at work on the night of April 12, police said. The picture showed Hall standing between King and Gray, who both had their arms around Hall.
Hodge told police Hall also appeared to have a swollen black eye and a "very large" swollen lip.
Hodge said he talked to Gray one more time before he got off work at 6:45 a.m. April 13 and heard screaming and yelling in the background through Gray's telephone.
Hodge said he went to Gray's home that day and talked with Gray and Hendricks, and they told him about what had happened to Hall, according to the court records. Hodge said he also saw what appeared to be blood inside Gray's home and in his pickup.
Hendricks told Hodge they had dumped Hall's body in a ditch on a county road, records state, which police later determined was just south of County Road 800S and east of County Road 1025E.
Hendricks later took Hodge to where Hall's body was dumped, and Hodge told police about seeing Hall dead, according to court documents. But Hall had apparently been able to move. Instead of in the ditch where he was left, Hall was found in a field, Hodge told police.
Hodge also said he was later told that Hall's body had been moved to a garage at Gray's residence.
So according to Wood's account of the crime, we are told Hendricks was present when Hall's beating took place, he helped Gray and King dump Hall's body in a ditch, and he returned to the site where Hall's body had been a day later to confirm Hall was dead. The indication is that Hall was still alive when his body was dumped because Hall's body had moved from the ditch where he was dumped to a nearby field. Although Woods' account doesn't mention it, WHAS reported that Gray and King returned to the scene after the body was first dumped, whereupon Gray fired two shots at Hall "because they said they had to kill Hall or they would go to jail." WTHR reported that Gray and King wrapped Hall's body in a tarp and moved it to Gray's garage two days after Hall's body was first dumped where it was later discovered by police.
Interestingly, the autopsy report as reported by Woods makes no mention of any gun shot wounds. "An autopsy on Hall, whose body was found Sunday wrapped in a blue tarp behind cabinets in Gray's garage, revealed Hall had several injuries to the face, a broken nose and broken ribs," Woods wrote. Neither Woods' or WTHR's report makes mention of any shots being fired by Gray at Hall.
While John Hodge, a recipient of a text message from Gray with a photo of Gray and the badly beaten Hall attached, first reported Hall's death to police. According to Wood's account, he waited at least a week before notifying police after he went with Hendricks to view Hall's dead body in the field. Hodge has not been charged with a crime.
It is worth noting that the Indiana media have been very slow to report on what has to be one of the most brutal hate crimes committed in Indiana in recent memory. The details of Aaron Hall's killing are equally as bad as the gay hate crime killing of Matthew Shepard in 1998 in Laramie, Wyoming. The state's largest newspaper, the Indianapolis Star, has reported nothing about the hate crime. Other than the local newspaper account, media coverage has been limited to local television stations, including WTHR, WHAS and WRTV. By comparison, there has been numerous blog stories on the horrific crime, including Commonplace Book, Bilerico, Pam's House Blend, and Shakesville.
It is even more disappointing that not a single Indiana GLBT group has spoken out publicly about the crime. This after the Indiana legislature once again stopped efforts this year to enact a hate crimes law in Indiana. Our state is one of only 5 states in the country without such a law, including Arkansas, Georgia, South Carolina and Wyoming.