Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"No indication that he was going to regress..."

 
Child Predator Cheats the Chair 
by Robert A. Waters 

For twelve years, Dr. Robert Terry and his wife, Gail Louise, waited for their daughter's killer to be executed.  Enraged by the kidnapping, rape, torture, and dismemberment of 11-year-old Avril, the Terry family seethed while anti-capital punishment politicians gamed the system.  Then, on January 10, 1974, Avril's killer, an unrepentant Emmett O. Hashfield, was rushed from Indiana State Prison in Michigan City to St. Anthony HospitalThere, surgeons did what the criminal justice system refused to do—they killed him.  During a routine tonsillectomy, Hashfield bled to death on the operating table.  His much-welcomed demise was listed as accidental. 

Hashfield's penchant for raping children had resulted in two long prison stints.  In 1928, he received a 5 to 21-year sentence for sexually assaulting a pre-teen girl.  He served 17 years before being freed.  Just two years later, in 1947, Hashfield sodomized a seven-year-old boy.  For that crime, he got 2 to 14-years.  He was paroled in 1960, with still more than a year to go on his sentence.  Almost immediately, Hashfield violated his probation by moving from Anderson, Indiana to Boonville. 

With less than 5,000 residents, Boonville was a quintessential Mayberryesque townShops lined Main Street, life flowed in steady rhythms, and violent crime was rare. 

At about 9:00 on the morning of August 15, 1960, Betty Metz, owner of a Boonville hobby shop, sold birthday supplies to Avril.  The excited girl told Betty that her mother had sent her to the store to purchase candles for her sister's birthday party later that day. 

Once she left the store, the child vanished. 

When Avril didn't return home, an alarm was raised.  The Warrick County Sheriff's Department wasted little time beginning a search, but nothing was found the first day.  The Freeport Journal-Standard reported that "hundreds of police, civil defense workers, and volunteers searched late Tuesday.  This southwestern Indiana area is honeycombed with active and abandoned strip coal mines, many filled with water." 

On the next day, police received a tip that a man had been seen with blood on his shirt.  Cops knocked on the door of Emmett Hashfield's tiny shack, and determined that there was indeed blood on his clothing and shoes.  He also had fresh scratches on his chest.  Detectives immediately detained Hashfield and searched his home.  At first, the ex-con denied killing Avril.   

More blood was found in the living room, and on Hashfield's bed.  Two chameleons, one dead, one alive, were located in a dresser drawer.  By now, detectives knew that Avril had taken her two pet chameleons with her when she walked to the store.  (Dr. Terry later identified the animals as the ones Avril owned.)  "Slim Jim" slacks, a blouse, and panties worn by the child were also found in Hashfield's home. 

While checking the suspect's car, investigators found a blood-soaked hammer and a blood-stained child's brasierre. 

Hashfield was taken to the Warrick County Jail for questioning.  Sheriff Robert Shelton later testified that, when asked if he wanted a lawyer, Hashfield replied, "No.  My last lawyer got me five years." 

On August 17, the Andersonville Herald reported that "the butchered body of an 11-year-old girl was found Wednesday in the waters of the Ohio River where a tattooed sex deviate confessed he tried to hide her.  The body of Avril (Honey) Terry, daughter of a prominent Boonville doctor, had been dismembered into seven parts." 

In a story the following day, the Herald stated that "skin divers and search boats first found the torso and arms in the [Ohio] River two miles east of Owensboro, Kentucky.  Then they came upon the head, legs, pelvis, and chest." 

Investigators informed reporters that Hashfield had admitted to the murder and led them to Avril's remains.  He confessed that he met her on the sidewalk outside a store.  Avril had dropped several coins on the ground, and Hashfield helped her pick them up.  After befriending the child, he invited her to go for a ride and she accepted.  The predator took her to an abandoned mine where he raped her.  Then he took her home, killed her, and dismembered her remains. 

The evidence was overwhelming.  Hashfield was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.  Because of his numerous arrests for child sex crimes, the public questioned Indiana's parole board for turning him loose before he had served his full sentence.  A psychiatrist's report stated that Hashfield had "sadistic trends" and he would likely "conflict with social standards in regard to sex behavior."  Dr. Terry and his wife attempted to change Indiana's laws so that sex criminals would serve longer terms in prison, but legal in-fighting kept meaningful legislation from passing. 

Governor Roger Branigin was an outspoken critic of the death penalty.  He refused to sign Hashfield's death warrant, saying he wanted a state referendum on the death penaltyBranigin commented that "until the [death penalty] issue is settled, no man's life should be taken." 

The referendum, of course, never happened.  While the Terry family waited to see justice, their daughter's killer lived and breathed and fantasized about the children whose lives he had destroyedHashfield never expressed remorse for his crimes, and never seemed to have any insight into the agony he'd caused Avril and her family. 

Finally, twelve years after being sentenced to death, a surgeon's errant scalpel did the job. 

No one claimed the killer's body.