Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Sign language colors murder trial

BRADENTON - It was one of the most heinous crimes in recent years - three generations killed on Thanksgiving Day 2005 in eastern Manatee county. Deputies say the killer was the victims' own relative Richard Henderson Junior.

On Tuesday, prosecutors showed the jury the steel pipe they say Henderson used to kill his parents, his grandmother and his little brother. And for the first time, the jury heard a letter detectives say Henderson wrote after the murders.

Richard Talbot of the Sheriff's Office read the following:

"I know I did it but I don't know why. I love my family but I did not kill them out of hate, but out of selfishness because I did not want to die alone. They didn't deserve, they're the last people this should happen to in this world. I'm so sorry mom dad grandma bro, I deserve to die one billion times for each one of you."

Henderson showed little emotion - except for a bizarre sign language monologue directed to no one in particular.

FOX 13 showed the tape to two area sign language experts who said Henderson signed, "(Expletive) everybody else out there who wants to judge me."

Area defense lawyer Matt Whyte says if Henderson wants to be portrayed as insane, the display of skill and dexterity won't help his case.

"Most people don't understand sign language, so it would show some degree of intelligence to know that language and be able to use it," said Whyte.

We brought prosecutors to our mobile newsroom to view the videotape. They refused comment, but immediately informed the judge after the recess about it, and said the incident may be used in the guilt phase of the trial.

The trial is expected to last another week and a half. If convicted, Henderson could get the death penalty.

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