Prayers before US woman killed family

2013-06-03 22:21
A woman prays during a service at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland. Pope Benedict XVI has rebuked Irish bishops for \grave errors of judgment\ in handling clerical sex abuse and ordered a Vatican investigation into the Irish church

A woman prays during a service at St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, Northern Ireland. Pope Benedict XVI has rebuked Irish bishops for \grave errors of judgment\ in handling clerical sex abuse and ordered a Vatican investigation into the Irish church

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Columbia - Hours before she killed her two sons, her ex-husband and her stepmother, Susan Hendricks gathered her family to pray. She said she was worried about her older son, Matthew, because he seemed so sad after several people forgot his birthday the day before.

They all got on their knees and held hands, Hendricks told investigators. Less than 12 hours later, she said, she found Matthew, 23, dead from a gunshot wound to the head. When paramedics found the bodies of her other family members, Hendricks claimed Matthew had killed them before turning the gun on himself.

In April, Hendricks pleaded guilty, but mentally ill to all four of the Oct. 14, 2011, slayings in South Carolina and will spend the rest of her life in prison with no possibility of parole.

The audio of her three-hour interview with investigators, as well as 324 pages of documents and more than 600 crime scene photos, were released for the first time in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from The Associated Press.

Hendricks' acquaintances, whose statements are contained in the documents, said she kept large insurance policies on all the victims, fired gunshots at her sons' feet when she was angry and would often remind people that she shot and killed a man who broke into her home in 2006. She claimed self-defense and was never charged.

Blood stains and three cartridge cases show Hendricks' cornered son Marshall in a hallway between his bedroom and a bathroom. He eventually got around her but she fired one more shot that took him down. He died on the front porch. Ex-husband and father of her sons Mark Hendricks was killed lying on the couch.

A report from the crime scene said stepmother Linda Burns' body was covered up in her bed as if she were sleeping. Son Matthew Hendricks was found in his bed with one gunshot wound to his head. His body had also been covered up.

Hendricks' sister Evelyn Burns told police it was she who called for help after Hendricks called her and casually remarked that her son had shot himself.

"I didn't want to call anybody because I didn't want them to come take him," Hendricks later told investigators. "I know it sounds crazy. I just thought, 'Well, if I can sit here with him, it will all be OK.'"

In the interview, Hendricks doesn't cry much and her voice sounds flat, emotionless and tired much of the time. Most of the sobs come at the end of the questioning when she says she can't give a written statement and wants to go home.

"I'll have to help you another time, OK. I need to go. I need to see my family," Hendricks said. "I need to see somebody that I know. I haven't seen anybody I know. I don't know what's going on. I don't know where my kids' bodies are at. I need to get out of here, OK? Please?"

Nine months after her arrest, Hendricks tried to commit suicide by overdose, according to a police report. Hendricks left a note to her family telling them not to fight.

"I'll be okay with Mark and the boys," she wrote. "See ya another day."

During her plea hearing, a psychiatrist identified as David Price testified that she was abused by both of her parents, and that her parents also let others abuse her. Hendricks declined to speak at the hearing.

Price said Hendricks developed several personalities as a coping mechanism. While the dominant one knew right from wrong, the one in charge the night of the killings didn't, he said.

Included in the crime scene photos are images of Hendricks' home. One shows a smiling Hendricks in a dress standing next to her ex-husband in coat and tie, their sons on either side.

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