Wednesday, June 6, 2007

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Media advisory: Cathy Lynn Henderson scheduled for execution

On June 11, 2007, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Cathy Lynn Henderson's execution and remanded her case back to trial court.

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information about Cathy Lynn Henderson, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 13, 2007. A Travis County jury sentenced Henderson to death the for the 1994 murder of three-and-a-half-month-old Brandon Baugh.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On the morning on January 21, 1994, Eryn and Melissa Baugh left their infant son Brandon and his sister Megan with Pflugerville babysitter Cathy Henderson, who was using forged documents to pose as a fully-licensed day-care provider. While in Henderson’s care at her home, Brandon suffered massive head trauma, causing his death.

Three forensic pathologists testified at Henderson’s trial that Brandon’s injuries resulted from being slammed with extreme force against a blunt surface such as a counter top or floor. The injuries were comparable to those that might result from a fall of greater than two stories

Further evidence showed that EMS was not called to the Henderson residence on the day in question. Instead, evidence established that around 2 p.m. that day, a neighbor noticed Henderson’s car was gone.

Henderson drove to Missouri and assumed the name Patricia Keith.

On January 23 and 25th, state and federal warrants were issued for Henderson on kidnaping charges. Henderson was profiled on the television show “America’s Most Wanted.”

On February 1, 1994, Henderson was arrested by the FBI in Kansas City, Missouri. In an FBI interrogation, Henderson admitted to killing Brandon but claimed that his death was an accident. She indicated she had buried the child’s body in a wooded area near Waco and stated she could take an officer to the scene. Nevertheless, when Henderson was asked if she would draw a map to the burial site, she refused. After FBI agents reduced Henderson’s comments to writing, she refused to sign the statement and requested a lawyer.

Later that same day, Henderson met with a federal public defender and drew a detailed map of the location of the baby, which the lawyer later sent to an attorney in Austin who had previously represented Henderson in a family law matter. Law enforcement authorities obtained the map via a grand jury subpoena.

Using the map, law enforcement authorities formulated a search plan in Bell County. On the evening of February 8th, searchers located a baby’s grave site and recovered Brandon’s body.

PUNISHMENT TESTIMONY

During the hearing on punishment, the State presented witnesses who testified that Henderson had regularly engaged in illegal drug use and had verbally and physically assaulted one of her daughters whom she would often leave for days and sometimes weeks at an Austin day care center. As a result of this neglect, Henderson’s daughter was often absent from school and was in poor physical condition; she was eventually adopted by her daycare provider and Henderson’s parental rights were terminated. The State’s evidence also described how Henderson assaulted her five-year-old niece and a co-worker.

Additionally, in April 1986, Henderson was arrested and convicted of public intoxication. After being confronted by a peace officer, Henderson stated that she was planning to obtain a machine gun because “people were trying to kill her.” Henderson also was arrested in Fort Worth in May 1986 for giving false information to a peace officer and for possession of a controlled substance. The controlled substance charge was eventually dropped; however, Henderson received a citation for providing a false identification. Testimony also established that Henderson, in the presence of one of her daughters, shoplifted a sterling silver ring from a crafter’s mall in Austin in November 1993; shoplifting charges filed against her were eventually dismissed. In October 1993, Henderson was arrested for assaulting her husband, after which her husband applied for an order to protect their daughter. And in March 1991, Henderson was arrested for driving while intoxicated.

The State also presented the testimony of a psychiatrist who explained that someone with Henderson’s behavioral history, and who had committed the kind of crime for which Henderson was convicted, would pose a continuing danger to society.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

05/17/95 -- Henderson was convicted of capital murder for killing an individual under six years of age.
05/30/95 -- The trial court officially sentenced Henderson to death.
12/03/97 -- Henderson’s conviction and sentence were affirmed on appeal.
03/04/98 --The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied a rehearing.
11/02/98 -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari review.
03/06/02 -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Henderson’s writ based on the findings, conclusions, and recommendation of the convicting court.
02/14/03 -- Henderson filed a skeletal federal habeas petition, and then amended her writ the following month to raise a total of 13 claims.
03/31/04 -- An Austin U.S. federal district court granted final judgment and denied habeas relief
07/15/04 -- The federal district court granted a certificate of appealability (COA) on seven claims.
01/27/06 -- The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Henderson’s request to expand COA to include four additional claims.
08/11/06 -- The 5th Circuit Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief.
09/13/06 -- The 5th Circuit Court denied a rehearing.
12/19/06 -- The 299th state District Court set Henderson’s execution for April 18, 2007.
02/26/07 -- The U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari review.
04/02/07 -- The trial court granted Henderson’s motion to postpone her execution until June 13.
04/04/07 -- The trial court set Henderson’s execution for Wednesday, June 13, 2007.
05/24/07 -- Henderson filed a successive state habeas application raising three claims, including that newly discovered scientific evidence can establish that Brandon Baugh’s death was the result of an accidental fall, rather than an intentionally inflicted force.
05/31/07 -- Henderson supplemented her successive state habeas application.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.