Cambria man convicted of killing half brother says he's innocent

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comNovember 14, 2013 

Brandon Henslee, 24, was sentenced Wednesday to 27 years to life in prison for killing his half brother Tyler Hanks, 20, at their Cambria home in August 2012.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

A Cambria man found guilty of brutally killing his half brother before stuffing his sibling’s corpse into a lawn waste container maintained his innocence even after a jury convicted him, according to a county probation report.

“I am innocent,” Brandon Noble Henslee told probation officials. “Justice hasn’t been served. They have the wrong man. I want my life back.”

During the trial, the prosecution played jurors recorded phone calls from the jail, during which Henslee, 24, seemed to think he would one day be free to go home. But both eyewitness and DNA evidence linked Henslee to the murder of Tyler Hanks, 20, whose body was found under a tree a half-mile from their home.

Henslee, who had once been treated at Atascadero State Hospital, was diagnosed as bipolar at age 12, according to the probation department’s pre-sentencing report, which The Tribune obtained Thursday. While he earned a GED in 2008, Henslee never worked and collected disability for having a mental illness. According to the probation report, he was married, although a wife was never mentioned during the trial. At the time the crime was committed, he lived with his mother, stepfather, Hanks and a family friend.

As an adult, Henslee had prior convictions for resisting arrest, vandalism and burglary and was on probation or parole when the murder was committed.

Henslee hadn’t had contact with his father in many years. While he denied any history of physical abuse within the family, during the trial it was revealed that Hanks occasionally beat up his older brother.

In the hours before the murder, witnesses said they heard Henslee say he would kill his half brother, who had teased him earlier.

After proclaiming his innocence during his interview with the probation department at the County Jail, Henslee had no further comment. Just before the trial began, he pleaded no contest to second-degree murder, then quickly withdrew the plea.

"I'm not admitting to killing my brother at all," he told Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy. "I believe the odds are against me, and people are saying things that are not true."

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