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Guilty verdict no surprise to US missionary’s widow

The widow of one of the American missionaries brutally murdered in 2016, Teri Nichols Hines, says she was not surprised by yesterday’s guilty verdict against one of her former husband’s killers as his evidence was not believable.

“I am very relieved that I can finally move on with my life. I did expect this, I thought the testimony that I heard, Andre’s testimony, didn’t ring true. It just didn’t make any sense to me,” Nichols Hines told The Gleaner in a telephone interview.

Andre Thomas, a labourer from the parish, was found guilty of two counts of murder following a unanimous verdict in the Home Circuit Court.

The seven-member jury, which included five women, deliberated for only one hour and 44 minutes before arriving at the verdict.

Thomas, who claimed he never played a part in the men’s murder is to be sentenced on October 13.

Missionaries Randy Hentzel, 47, and 53-year-old Harold Nichols were found dead in St Mary between April 30 and May 1, 2016.

They were reportedly last seen alive when they left Tower Isle, St Mary, on motorcycles about 8 a.m. on April 30, to check on a house in Wentworth district, where they had planned on carrying out repairs as part of their outreach ministry in the parish.

Hentzel was first found with his hands bound and a gunshot wound to his head while Nichols was discovered some distance away with a gunshot wound to the chest and six chop wounds to the head.

Thomas’ cousin, Dwight Henry, had pleaded guilty to the murder in January under a plea deal and was sentenced to life with a stipulation that he serve 28 years in prison before being eligible for parole.

Henry, who was the prosecution’s main witness, told the court that he had tied Hentzel’s hands and shot him in the head while Thomas shot and chopped Nichols, killing him.

Nichols Hinds said there were some things that she found incredible.

“One person couldn’t have done what they did. My husband wasn’t a big man, but he was strong, and that is evident by how far away he got from them. But there is no way they took down Randy, who is six feet two inches, twice the size of both the defendants, even with a gun,” she said.


Nichols Hinds said she also found Thomas’ claim that he was beaten for several days far-fetched as there were no marks seen on him by the police.

“I didn’t believe that either. Just seems like it was unbelievable, filled with lies and inconsistencies, so I wasn’t surprised by the verdict,” she added, noting that her only surprise was how quickly the jury arrived at the verdict.

Thomas, during his unsworn statement, admitted that he was present during the commission of the crime, which had shocked the nation, and claimed that he tried relentlessly to persuade Henry to leave the men, but his cousin insisted that he “affi make some duppy dis year”.

The court, however, heard that before providing information to the police, he claimed that he did not know anything about the crime and was at home when it happened. He later changed his story, claiming that Henry was responsible for killing both men and that he only helped to tie Hentzel’s hands.

However, during the trial, he denied telling the police that he had bound Hentzel’s hands or had shown the police where the men were killed.

He contended that he went to the community to help Henry on the farm, and while there, Henry went to check on the bikes that he heard passing by.

Thomas claimed that he was later summoned by Henry and saw one of the men being held at gunpoint by his cousin, who then ordered the victim to lay on the ground before tying his hands and shooting him in the head.

Thomas claimed that the other man ran off, and Henry, after firing at him and missing, chased him with a machete and a gun. He said he did not know what else happened as he did not follow them. According to him, he waited for about half an hour until Henry returned, claiming that his foot was tired and the man “sweat him” before they both went their separate ways.

But Henry told the court a different version in which he claimed that it was Thomas who fired at the man and that they both chased him.

Henry, whose murder accounts were also riddled with inconsistencies, claimed that he decided to come clean because of his guilt over the murder.

According to him, they had no reason for murdering the men, and it was a mistake.

He apologised to the family during his time on the witness stand.

Asked whether she accepted his apology, Nichols Hinds, said “Absolutely.”

“He took responsibility in court, which surprised me very much, and yes, I do absolutely and I hope he finds God and finds peace in prison, and he did show remorse when he gave his testimony, and that is something I didn’t expect to hear.”

However, reacting to Henry’s admission that they had no reason for committing the murder, she said, “Somebody in their right [mind] can’t imagine that, so I don’t think either one of them were in their right mind, are in their right mind, because I can’t understand that kind of evil.”

Attorney-at-law Leroy Equiano and Althea Freeman represented Thomas.