Cambria murder suspect tried to tell mother how to testify

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comSeptember 17, 2013 

Brandon Henslee, left, looks at his attorney, Fred Foss, during his trial for murder Thursday, Sept. 12.


As he sat in San Luis Obispo County Jail, charged with the murder of his half brother, Brandon Henslee wrote several letters to his mother, coaching her on how to testify at his trial, a detective told a jury Tuesday.

“Tell some of the jury members I’m innocent when you walk by,” he wrote, according to J.T. Camp, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office, who read the letters in court. “Help me get home.”

Henslee, 23, is charged with murder in the death of his half-brother, Tyler Hanks, 20, at the Cambria home the siblings shared with their mother, Sheri Grayson, her husband, Mike Coffin, and family friend Steven Smith. The prosecution says Henslee killed Hanks in August 2012, stuffed him into a green yard waste bin and dumped his body under a tree a half-mile away.

Hanks, whom witnesses have described as a meth dealer, had been bludgeoned with a baseball bat and stabbed in the head 20 times with a screwdriver, which was found stuck under the base of Hanks’ skull. Tuesday, forensic specialist Kenneth Jones testified that the blows that killed Hanks were so forceful, blood was found on the living room ceiling.

Henslee attorney Fred Foss has suggested that Coffin might have had a role in the murder. Hanks’ former girlfriend, Chelsea McIntyre, said Coffin was jealous of Hanks.

“I didn’t think Mike was really fond of either of the boys,” she said.

But multiple witnesses have placed Henslee with the yard waste can.

On the night Hanks was last seen, Smith saw Henslee pushing the can, which was later found to have blood in it. On Tuesday, several neighbors testified that they heard someone push a can around the neighborhood.

In letters to his mother, Henslee suggested why he might have been pushing the waste can.

“Remember, on the stand say Ty threw up in the trash can,” he wrote, saying Hanks had an ulcer. After that, he told his mother, Hanks left for a party and was murdered either on the way or at the party.

“No admission, no witness, no evidence, no motive,” he wrote.

In a series of letters, Henslee penned several fragmented sentences that appeared to coach his mother, including: “You can’t link the body to the house,” “We got along. I was with you,” and “Go on stand and say you were there, I didn’t kill no one.”

Several letters implored her to help. “Do what it takes to get me home,” he wrote.

After police arrived, McIntyre said she drove to the house, where she saw Henslee sitting in the back of a squad car, shouting, “Mom! I can’t take this anymore. I thought we were a team!”

McIntyre said Hanks often stood up for Henslee even when his friends made fun of him.

“They were brothers,” she said. “They were dysfunctional, yes, but they loved each other.”

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