In a few days, Tuesday to be exact, our family will look once more into the eyes of evil and hope that our long journey for justice will be ended.
Events happen throughout our lives that we remember with a clarity undimmed by the passage of time. The day was Oct. 26, 1981. I was home for my dinner break when my mother-in-law called to deliver the awful news that my wife’s sister, Martha Payne, was dead, murdered in her Greencastle home.
When I saw President Bush’s face as Andy Card told him about the 9/11 attacks, I realized I had a similar look as I listened to the details from my mother-in-law while trying to present a calm persona to my wife, who was four-months pregnant with our first child. There is a sound, a terrible cry, one might hear from a mortally injured animal somewhere in the darkness. In the case of my wife, it was a mournful sound that welled up from her soul, where the wound will never heal.
Martha, a former Terre Haute resident and graduate of South Vigo High School, had breakfast with a friend that morning. After lunch she signed up to be a substitute teacher in the public schools. She then worked out with another friend before heading home for the last time.
Her husband, Jim, came home after work and discovered the gruesome scene. As described by the Indiana Supreme Court, and quoted by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Martha “had been raped, anally sodomized, stabbed in the right rear shoulder, and struck on the head with a table lamp … ligature marks on her neck indicated she had been strangled, and burn marks on her ankles showed the perpetrator had attempted to electrocute her as well. The cause of death was determined to be the knife wound in her upper back, which penetrated her lung and severed her pulmonary artery.”
Police early the next morning arrested William Minnick, an 18-year-old with a criminal record for minor offenses, whom Martha and Jim hired to do handyman work at their house. He used his taped confession as the basis to appeal his death sentence for the murder, rape and robbery.
In September 1985, the second jury also found him guilty of those crimes, but recommended life without parole, largely because jurors did not know about his confession. The judge knew about it and other details of the crime. She said Martha’s mutilation and defilement, “even after death,” were the kinds of circumstances the Indiana Legislature envisioned when passing the state’s capital punishment laws.
Following that second conviction and second death sentence, Minnick unleashed a flood of appeals, letters, threats, and international pleas for help in fighting what he perceives to be a corrupt judiciary system, a belief supported by many well-meaning individuals and groups who seem to think all convicted murders are innocent, even those who confessed to their crimes.
Since then, federal courts said a judge cannot impose death when a jury recommends life. Minnick’s habeas corpus appeal to the federal courts resulted in a ruling that Indiana resentence him to life without parole. That ruling came exactly 11 years and a day before this week’s hearing. But, once again, Minnick managed to delay justice when the courts deemed him incompetent. That changed a few months ago.
In recent years, Minnick has become somewhat of a media darling, even turning up as a featured inmate in an MSNBC documentary about a program that provides cats to prisoners so they can feel good about themselves. You cannot begin to imagine our shock when we came across the video and saw him laughing about the day of his arrest. What kind of mind justifies profiling a confessed killer, using his laughter and glee to promote a feel-good program without the first thought of how his victims feel?
And that’s what we are: victims. Assuming Minnick ever gets to court, he could, unbelievably, get sentenced only on the murder conviction, thereby making him eligible for immediate parole for time served. His victims, however, receive no court-ordered reduction of their life sentence.
I will not go fully into the financial, psychological, and emotional costs to the people of Indiana and to our family. Taxpayers pay for Minnick’s incarceration, his attorneys, and his court-appointed guardian. We pay for our travel and lodging to attend his trials and his sentencing hearings so judges and juries can see Martha through our eyes. In doing so, we relive those terrible memories with the same intense horror we experienced nearly three decades ago, in what can only be considered cruel and unusual punishment.
I believe Martha struggled with Minnick. I believe she fought and kicked, screamed and pleaded. I know from Minnick’s own words that she prayed to God for help. She did all she could in a few short, but agonizing and terrifying minutes to save her life.
For nearly 30 years, Minnick has abused the legal system in a similar, albeit ironic, way by screaming, pleading, and praying to the courts and to anyone not willing to know the truth of his heinous crime against Martha and, by extension, each of us: her family, her friends, her community, and everyone who values the lives of innocent victims of crime.
Our nightmares will not end if he spends the rest of his life in prison, but at least we will not have to look into the eyes of this evil ever again.
John David Powell is a native of Paris, Ill., and attended Indiana State University. He writes columns from the ShadeyHill Ranch in Texas. He also hosts “Gone to Texas” on Blog Talk Radio. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a few days, Tuesday to be exact, our family will look once more into the eyes of evil and hope that our long journey for justice will be ended.
FLASHPOINT: Dealing with hunger requires less rhetoric, more action
In November, millions of families in Indiana and across the nation saw their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits cut through a planned phase-out of a temporary increase in funding that originally took place during the 2009 recession.
FLASHPOINT: Getting right with history
I am ornery enough to never much worry about whether I am on the “right” side of history.
FLASHPOINT: Dogged journalism is a blessing, not a curse
Let’s start with the obvious: A democracy needs intelligence agencies. It needs to know what’s happening in the world — and understand the plans of allies and enemies — to keep the nation prepared and secure.
FLASHPOINT: Same-sex marriage battle not good for state’s future
For those who can still bear to look, Indiana’s unemployment rate remains stuck above 8 percent.
FLASHPOINT: A pledge to work together with respect, civility
Indiana’s students and schools have made great progress in recent years. According to the latest scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), Indiana is improving at the second-fastest rate of any state in the country. We owe this progress to the hard work of our students, teachers and the parents and school reformers everywhere who have insisted that we hold ourselves to high standards.
FLASHPOINT: Putting children before politics
I very rarely write a response to an opinion article. However, when the title of the Indianapolis Star column says, “While Ritz, Board spar, children get hurt,” I feel compelled to clear the air.
FLASHPOINT: Prescription for Obamacare: delay employer mandates
An email I received from Daniel in Elkhart, Ind., summarizes the experience many Hoosiers are having with the recently launched Obamacare online health insurance marketplace:
FLASHPOINT: A common-sense Congress could strengthen our economy
My top priorities have always been to strengthen Indiana’s economy and to help create Hoosier jobs. We can all agree — Democrats and Republicans — that the recent government shutdown and the threat of failing to pay our nation’s bills were significant setbacks to this seemingly simple goal.
FLASHPOINT: How to improve the road ahead for our government
One of the more amazing spectacles in the days after the government shutdown ended was the obsession in Washington with who won and who lost in the showdown. Yes, the capital is focused on next year’s elections, but honestly! There was only one real loser, and that was the American people.
FLASHPOINT: Celebrating role of newspapers in protecting free speech
Where would we be as a nation without the freedom of speech?
FLASHPOINT: Hard-hitting ads are effective in preventing tobacco use, saving lives By
Reducing tobacco use is one of the most important things we can do to improve the health of Hoosiers. Education campaigns to alert of the dangers of tobacco use are critical, as are pointing them to resources to help them quit.
FLASHPOINT: A difficult decision to allow oil testing, drilling
Our current culture seems to tell us life’s struggle is all about good vs. evil and black-and-white decisions. The reality is that the hardest choices are those that aren’t clear cut. They’re the ones you can argue from either side but eventually must make based on only a slight edge. That is the kind of choice the Sisters of Providence had to make about whether to test for and drill for oil on our Mother House land.
FLASHPOINT: It’s time for an intervention
The American public has lost patience with Washington.
Flashpoint: Access to home health care hangs in the balance
Growing older is a fact of life that the baby boom generation is facing head on.
FLASHPOINT: What Congress needs to do about the NSA
Washington is beginning to debate the proper extent of government eavesdropping powers in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA.
FLASHPOINT: Vigo County: Cutting-edge of school safety
The recent shooting at the D.C. Navy Yard has been all over the news lately.
FLASHPOINT: Congress and Syria
As Washington swirls with proposals, counter-proposals, and political brinksmanship in response to diplomatic efforts on Syria, the situation has a lot of people scratching their heads. Couldn’t President Obama and Congress have handled this differently?
FLASHPOINT: The north side suffers from School Board’s decisions
As the parent of four children on the north side of the Vigo County School Corp., I am becoming increasingly alarmed by the growing disparity in opportunities and facilities provided to students depending upon where they reside.
FLASHPOINT: How Congress, the media and the public got played
Aaron Sorkin couldn’t have written it any better. The president of the United States makes threats, flexes his muscles, and bides his time as Congress takes its time mulling over various military options. Knowing the prolonged nature of the congressional decision-making process, Obama used this time to get what he really wants: a peaceful, international solution to the Syrian situation.
FLASHPOINT: Why the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza is so popular
About 15,000 people attended the Scheid Diesel Extravaganza this year — numbers that mirror the attendance count from 2012 and 2011. But why does Terre Haute experience a 25-percent increase in population for this particular event’s three-day duration?
Flashpoint: Perhaps Tony Bennett was right?
What if Tony Bennett was right and the Associated Press got it wrong? You may start preparing yourself for the possibility.
FLASHPOINT: A new vision for Indiana’s education system
A recently published political cartoon stated that, “school reform will continue with Glenda Ritz as the new driver.”
FLASHPOINT: Unwise fracking policy could hinder economic development
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the amount of technically recoverable oil from shale formations has jumped 10 times in the past two years and the amount of technically recoverable shale gas is up 10 percent. In and around Terre Haute, the Illinois Basin shale formation could play an important part in stimulating the economy and helping to meet U.S. consumers’ energy needs for many years to come.
FLASHPOINT: Indiana hospitals embrace notion of price transparency
Following the federal government’s release of data on hospital charges for Medicare patients, much has been written nationally about how health care providers determine prices, the variation in charges for the same procedure and the willingness of hospitals to “come clean” on the issue of price transparency. As president of the Indiana Hospital Association, representing 164 Hoosier hospitals and health systems, we fully embrace price transparency.
FLASHPOINT: The Affordable Care Act’s youth problem
Young Americans may soon experience “sticker shock” when shopping for health insurance. A new survey of insurers estimates that premiums will almost triple for a hypothetical 27-year-old man next year, once all the federal health reform law’s rules take effect.
FLASHPOINT: Despite challenges, Ivy Tech remains vital to state’s future
I recently read economist Morton Marcus’ piece, “Ivy Tech: Our Hope, Our Failure.” I was interested in his perspective enough to provide some comments as a local business owner who understands the important role higher education plays in the success of companies here in Indiana.
FLASHPOINT: Tax punishes Hoosier workers
For years, medical devices have been changing the lives of patients around the world.
Prosthetic legs have enabled wounded soldiers to run again. Cardiac patients have had decades added to their lives because of artificial heart valves and stents.
FLASHPOINT: Wabash River should be appreciated and protected
Boating down the Wabash River near Lafayette on July 16, I witnessed firsthand the broad, winding river’s scenic beauty, but I also got a lesson in the environmental challenges the river faces when two Asian carp hurled themselves out of the water and landed in our boat.
FLASHPOINT: Obamacare’s definition of a full-time job needs revising
In Lafayette, a school district cut the hours of 200 support staff to no more than 29 per week. In Bangor, Maine, the school system is preparing to track and cap the number of hours worked by substitute teachers to ensure that they don’t work more than 29 hours a week. Elsewhere, in Portland, Maine, a small business reduced a part-time employee’s hours from 35 to 29. We are hearing reports like this from across the country. Why is this happening?
FLASHPOINT: In politics, why trust is the coin of the realm
Back in June, Gallup released a survey that got a fair bit of attention for its headline finding: only 10 percent of Americans trust Congress as an institution. Think about it. If you walk into a cafe this morning and there are nine other people in there reading the paper or staring into their laptops, only one of you in the room has faith that the body charged with making our nation’s laws can do its job right.
- More Flashpoint Headlines
- FLASHPOINT: Dealing with hunger requires less rhetoric, more action