It’s curious, sometimes, how things come together, a sort of wistful serendipity, if one can become wistful about murder.
Sitting one table over was Charlie Crowe. I hadn’t seen him in years, this long-retired Bloomington police detective who famously pronounced David Hendricks “dirty” (as in “guilty”) just a couple hours after police discovered the bodies of Hendricks’ brutally-slain wife and three children in their Carl Drive home.
We were both guests at this week’s meeting of the Young Men’s Club, invited to the Ozark House by friends who knew we’d have a special interest in the luncheon program.
After ham, yams and corn, the speaker was Ron Dozier, elected McLean County state’s attorney when he was 29. He was 36 when the Hendricks killings occurred.
Also there was Hal Jennings, who led the defense in Hendricks’ first trial. He had spoken to the same group about the Hendricks case just weeks earlier. Now he, Crowe and I fit right in with the several dozen mostly not-so-young members of the Young Men’s Club there to hear Dozier discuss it, too.
Such is the fascination about a local murder case nearly 34 years old.
Dozier pronounced the crime perhaps the most impactful in McLean County history as he summarized the investigation, briefly diverted to some of the oddities surrounding the case, and discussed Hendricks’ conviction at his first trial. (After six-plus years behind bars, Hendricks won a new trial, was acquitted and set free. By then, Dozier was an associate judge and not part of the proceedings.)
Dozier lived a short walk from the Hendricks home. The city manager lived across the street. Dan Brady, the current state representative, was the part-time deputy coroner at the scene that night. This was not something that happened in Bloomington-Normal, let alone on a quiet residential street on the east side. Local locksmiths were never busier.
Interest in the case has never ebbed. The Bloomington Public Library still keeps multiple copies of the now out-of-print book I wrote about the case on its shelves. A lot of new readers were too young to read it when it was published six years after the murders. Others are new to the community, curious about a matter they’ve heard discussed, even debated.
So here’s where the serendipity accelerates.
When I got home from Young Men’s Club, I had a message awaiting me. A producer for an ABC News production arm in New York City wanted to talk to me about the Hendricks case. An hour-long re-telling appears in the works.
House of Cards
I’ve been a fan of “House of Cards,” the political thriller whose fifth season just rolled out from Netflix. It’s “West Wing” brewed several shades darker and I find I’m not enjoying it as much as I did.
Maybe it’s because, perhaps by design, it’s edged close to reality TV. A handful of striking parallels between the series and what’s happened in Washington since season four was delivered 16 months ago dim its entertainment value.
Somehow “House of Cards” doesn’t play as well after I’ve watched the evening news.
Meanwhile, I can’t help but creep into Bill Flick’s domain with a couple “House of Cards” look-alike nominations.
Watch the opening chapter of the new season and see if the congressman calling attention to news stories alleging serious crimes by the sitting president doesn’t bear more than a vague resemblance — in appearance and voice — to Rodney Davis, who represents much of this area in Congress. (Both are Republicans, too.)
And how about the continuing character, Tom Hammerschmidt, who heads up the newspaper investigative team? Actor Boris McGiver portrays him. But I’ve been convinced more than once that former Normal Town Council member and retired ISU administrator Parker Lawlis has taken up acting.