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Call Me Crazy

When the accused reject a not-guilty plea, Colorado's insanity law breaks down.

But Gwen didn't like Guam, and after less than a year on the island, she moved back to Colorado. She bought a home in Littleton and resumed working for the IRS. Once she had gotten settled, Jim brought the children back to live with her, then returned to Guam.

In the fall of 1990, Gwen hired Terry Knaack, an acquaintance from the Jaycees, to help remodel her home. Several months later, when Knaack was looking for a place to stay, Gwen allowed him to move into her basement.

It was during this time that Gwen's health began to falter. She suffered severe dizzy spells and nausea, and she was exhausted and began losing weight. Her personality also underwent a marked change. Even-tempered before, she was becoming evasive and cranky. To her family, she seemed easily distracted and hyper. And she apparently was going deeper into debt so that she could give expensive gifts to friends.

Gwen Hendricks heard voices that foretold her husband's death.Attorney Jane Hazen was assigned to appeal Gwen Hendricks's case.Authorities believed Tom Leask (above) was insane when he went on a rampage in the town of Alma and shot sculptor and former mayor Willie Morrison (right) in cold blood.
David Hollenbach
Gwen Hendricks heard voices that foretold her husband's death.Attorney Jane Hazen was assigned to appeal Gwen Hendricks's case.Authorities believed Tom Leask (above) was insane when he went on a rampage in the town of Alma and shot sculptor and former mayor Willie Morrison (right) in cold blood.
Gwen Hendricks heard voices that foretold her husband's death.
Gwen Hendricks heard voices that foretold her husband's death.

She changed jobs -- from revenue collector to tax examiner -- in an effort to reduce stress, but she was finding it increasingly difficult to work through her illness.

In January 1991, Gwen told friends that she'd begun experiencing graphic premonitions of her husband dying in a plane crash. She saw herself marrying her boarder, Terry Knaack, and starting a foundation for abused children. She would use the proceeds from Jim Hendricks's life insurance to open a ranch for victims of Mafia-produced child pornography.

Gwen made preparations for Jim's funeral. She bought clothes for herself and the children to wear for the occasion. She bought silk flowers for the services and packets of Kleenex for the mourners. She increased the amount of Jim's life insurance.

She also bought a wedding dress for herself and put a wedding ring on layaway for Knaack. And she began keeping a journal.

For months, test after medical test failed to determine the cause of Gwen's illness. She underwent tests to detect multiple sclerosis. She thought she might have Legionnaires' disease. Finally, she was diagnosed as having Ménière's disease, an affliction of the inner ear that can cause deafness, extreme giddiness, vomiting and loss of balance. In April 1991, she had a microshunt implanted in her inner ear, which helped relieve some of the pain she had been experiencing.

Her mental problems continued, however, and Gwen forged a doctor's letter requesting that her husband receive a hardship transfer to the States to be with his family.

Jim Hendricks returned in May 1991 to what Hazen terms a "rocky reunion."

Jim and Gwen fought over finances, the children and Knaack. Jim made Knaack move out, and he clamped down on the family budget. In retaliation, Gwen ran up the balance on their credit cards. They began to talk divorce.

On Friday, August 17, 1991, Gwen drove to Colorado Springs to meet her husband at Peterson Air Force Base and take him a change of clothes. She later told police that Jim had planned to work all night to prepare for an inspection but that he changed his mind after she arrived at the base. She said they headed out in separate cars and that she became tired on the way home and slept through the night at a rest stop along Interstate 25.

When Gwen arrived home Saturday morning, her husband was not there. Gwen made numerous calls to police agencies that weekend, reporting her husband missing and asking for their help in finding him.

On Monday morning she called Jim's supervisor at the base. He sent out two officers to search for Hendricks. They found his pickup truck parked on the side of Highway 83 in Douglas County. Jim's body was in the camper shell in the back of the truck. He had been shot in the neck and chest.

Although the body had decomposed significantly in the August heat, a fingerprint comparison verified that it was Jim.

Gwen soon became a primary suspect in her husband's murder. Investigators would later testify that she scarcely showed any emotion when they broke the news of Jim's death to her.

Knaack would prove pivotal to the case against Gwen. After Jim's death, he discovered Gwen's journal in a box of belongings that he'd moved from his room in the Hendrickses' house. He turned it over to the Douglas County Sheriff's Department.

The journal, which Gwen had titled "The Courage to Will and Persevere," contained passages about her religious beliefs and her delusional thinking.

One entry read:

Even though I know things and I have faith that God is using people and circumstances to create good, I still get nervous, scared, angry, confused and, often, become tempted to quit. When I get so jittery I cannot stand it anymore, I ask God to speak to me directly. I ask him to guide my hand as I flip through the Bible. It works. Statistically it shouldn't, but it does. For the first reading, only the last sentence made sense. I had asked if what I felt about Jim's death was real. He said yes.

God can even speak through the dictionary!

After reading the first page of stanzas, I knew I would be protected from car bombs, the knifings, the guns, the contracts and all the other evil I had seen connected with busting pornographers and pimps. Those Mafia guys play rough, but somehow they just won't be able to get me.

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