Christina Henry's Ex-Husband Didn't Kill Her the First Time; Her Fear Is He'll Never Stop Trying
updated 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/18/1986 AT 01:00 AM EDT
Christina is convinced that her former husband, dermatologist Patrick Henry, plans to hunt her down and kill her, no matter how long it takes. Henry calls her claim "ridiculous," and many who know him agree. Yet others, including a former Pima County, Ariz. prosecutor, believe that Christina may well be right—that Henry is a creature of multiple personalities and that one of them is sadistic and homicidal. Their disagreement involves one of America's strangest criminal cases—a case Christina Henry fears may yet have a final chapter.
It began shortly before 3 p.m., Dec. 6, 1977, at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport, where police and FBI agents stood scrutinizing passengers coming off American Airlines flight 156 from Tucson. They were looking for a man named A. Donald Vester, who had aroused the suspicion of a Tucson ticket clerk by his bizarre appearance and behavior. According to the clerk, Vester had the massive torso of a weightlifter and a tiny head. He was wearing a foolish-looking black wig, and when he moved his arms his biceps seemed to wrinkle.
Vester had acted so jumpy when he tried to baggage-check his briefcase that the clerk told him he would have to carry it on board. Then the clerk dashed to the security gate and watched as the case was X-rayed, revealing what looked like a pistol. Asked to open the briefcase, Vester said he'd lost the key. He voluntarily surrendered the case, however, and was permitted to board his flight to Dallas. Minutes later, bomb experts pried the briefcase open. Inside they found burglary tools and an odd assortment of gear: In addition to the .32-caliber pistol and nine bullets, there was a glass cutter, glue, pliers and a plumber's helper, as well as 23 firecrackers, string, three books of matches and a double-edged hunting knife.
In Dallas, authorities could not at first find anyone fitting Vester's description. Finally, an FBI agent spotted a wisp of black hair trailing from a passenger's raincoat pocket. The passenger identified himself as "Donald Vester." When the agent had him empty his pockets, he produced a bottle of pills, safety pins, a street map of Tucson, a car-rental application covered with hand-written notes and, in a wallet, full sets of identification in two names, neither of which was A. Donald Vester. There was a Maryland driver's license, social security and library cards, and a post office receipt, all in the name of Terry Lee Cordell. There were also credit cards and a U.S. Public Health Services ID identifying the bearer as Dr. Patrick Henry.
With a few phone calls, agents confirmed that the man was indeed Dr. Patrick G. Henry, a senior resident in dermatology at the University of Maryland hospital in Baltimore. Henry was registered at a hotel in Dallas, where he had been attending a medical conference. Apparently he had left the conference, flown to Tucson and returned to Dallas under a false name. When the agents asked him about the false IDs and the wig, Henry told them, "I like to travel incognito." Then, sweating profusely, he asked if he might shed some of his clothing. As the puzzled agents looked on, Henry stepped out of his baggy pants and sweater. Underneath he was wearing thermal underwear larded with cotton padding to add bulk to his arms, chest, hips, buttocks and legs. He looked like a football tackling dummy.
The authorities had no way of holding Henry—he had, after all, committed no crime they knew of. They kept his briefcase, however, as well as his clothing, notes and IDs, which were turned over to Charles Wallace, a Tucson-based agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Asked by the U.S. Attorney's office to investigate, Wallace thought he was wasting his time until he examined the notes on the Hertz application. Among the decipherable jotting was what looked to him like a burglary plan: "In 1409; select window; tape, plunger; thru-open; find T; M T; out front; or rm window." What, Wallace asked himself, did "T" stand for? And "M"? He thought of the gun and the double-edged knife. Murder?
Henry's notes included two Tucson telephone numbers. One belonged to the Broadway Boulevard Kindergarten and Preschool at 1403 East Broadway Boulevard. The other was listed for a Mr. William Bellios at 1409 East Broadway. Wallace drove to 1409, half expecting to find a body there. Instead, he found Christina Bellios Henry. In a guest house out back lived her parents, William and Athena Bellios. When they called their daughter Tina, Wallace suspected he had found "T."
The mere mention of Patrick Henry's name upset Christina. She told Wallace she thought she had seen her ex-husband on the sidewalk across the street the day before, though he seemed heavier and had very long hair. Later that morning, she said, she was sure he had phoned her, disguising his voice and pretending to be a parent interested in putting his child in her school. He had asked to see the school, which was closed that day. "He said he wanted to meet me there," Christina told Wallace, "and see what I had to offer." Terrified, she had slammed down the phone and run screaming to her mother's house.
Leaving Christina's house, Wallace went to see William Randolph Stevens, chief prosecutor for Pima County. A no-nonsense ex-Marine with a passion for detail, Randy Stevens was fascinated by Wallace's report. After interviewing Christina himself, he too began to fear for her safety.
Christina told Stevens that she and Patrick first met in 1967 when Henry, a medical student at the University of Arizona, rented a room next door to her parents' house. Henry was polite, even charming, but terribly shy. Tina had been sheltered by her staunchly traditional Greek parents and knew little about men. But Henry persisted and the couple was wed on May 31, 1971. It wasn't long, Christina said, before her husband began to reveal a darker side. He began to call her by a private, ugly nickname: "Toad." He would sometimes sit impassively for hours, ignoring her.
When he did talk, the conversation could be unnerving. A favorite topic, Tina told Stevens, was what he'd do to anyone stupid enough to cross him. "I'd get even no matter how long it took me," Tina said her ex-husband told her. "First I'd stick pins in their eyes.... If you put a knife in their lower abdomen—stick it straight in—you can pull it up in a single movement and cut someone wide open.... That's one of the most painful ways to die." Stevens thought about the safety pins found in Henry's pocket and the double-edged knife in his briefcase. "I'd take explosives—not big ones; they'd have to be small, or I wouldn't be able to stay close enough to watch.... If it was a woman I'd put it in her vagina and ass.... I'd stand close and watch while they went off." Stevens thought of the firecrackers. It gave him a chill.
Then there was the matter of the camera. On a vacation trip to Florida, said Tina, she was swimming alone in a remote lake when Pat shouted to her to get to shore fast and not to look back. Tina swam furiously; as she did, Pat aimed his camera and clicked away. She hit the beach just seconds ahead of an alligator. When she broke down sobbing, Henry laughed hysterically. Appalled, Stevens investigated. Former acquaintances of the Henrys told him they had indeed seen Pat's slides of an alligator swimming after his wife.
For Tina, leaving Pat was out of the question. She believed her church did not permit divorce, which would, in any case, shame her parents. In her desperation she thought a baby might change her husband. Their only child, Patrick Steven Henry, was born Sept. 7, 1973. At first Pat played with Stevie, but soon he began to ignore him too. One night Tina said she had heard Stevie screaming and ran to his crib to find his blanket wound around him like a smothering cocoon, the edges neatly folded and tucked. Tina said she urged her husband to get psychiatric help, but he refused.
Finally in the spring of 1974, she took her child and went home to her parents. There was a divorce, and within a year Henry remarried, adopted his new wife's two daughters and settled into the life of a suburban Baltimore physician. He waited three years and eight months from the day Christina left him before returning to Tucson in disguise, planning the revenge he had so often described to her.
That, at least, was the scenario pieced together by Randy Stevens. Christina's safety, he felt, depended upon his being able to put her ex-husband behind bars. The trouble was that Henry hadn't actually done anything to Christina. To make a charge of attempted murder stick, Stevens would have to convince a jury that the doctor had not merely plotted to kill his ex-wife but had committed "acts in furtherance" of the crime. First Stevens had to persuade Christina to testify. "I'm so afraid," Christina told him. "He can fool anyone. He's a doctor. He knows how to act and be the perfect person. They'll look at him and they'll see the person he's pretending to be. He'll fool them, you'll see."
The trial began Sept. 6, 1979. Henry admitted he had plotted to kill Christina, but only, he said, to gain custody of his son. "I loved him more than my own life," he said. He testified that once he had seen Christina and Stevie he "was overcome with emotion...and I determined I couldn't go through with it."
Challenging this account of Henry's epiphany, Randy Stevens told the jury that only when Christina had recognized her ex-husband's voice did Henry realize the game was up and flee to the airport. When Christina took the stand, jurors listened raptly as she described Henry's sadistic fantasies and the humiliating snapshots he took. Attempting to show that his client's photographs were just typical family fare, Henry's lawyer, Harold Glaser, produced some slides Henry had given him. One showed Christina on her birthday. As Glaser was about to enter it into evidence, Christina interrupted to say, "I think that's the picture that says 'Happy Toad Day' on the cake." To Glaser's chagrin, she was right.
The star witness for the defense was Nancy Henry, Pat's new wife. Petite and quiet-spoken, she sobbed as she tried to impress upon the jury the injustice that was being done her husband. But when she testified she had never seen the man's dark side, of which Christina had spoken, prosecutor Stevens glanced pointedly at a mannequin that stood dressed in Henry's padded disguise. "Did you know what preparations were made before he came out here?" he asked. The second Mrs. Henry said that she didn't. Did she know what had happened in Tucson? "No," she admitted. "I did not."
It took the jury roughly six hours to reach its verdict: guilty of attempted murder in the second degree.
After serving six-and-a-half years in the Arizona State Prison at Florence, Patrick Henry was released on parole last February. Next week he will be released from supervision entirely. In the interim, says Harold Glaser, his client has been working as a physician's assistant somewhere in Alabama. He has applied for the return of his medical license in Maryland, and a hearing on the application will be held the day after his parole is up. Glaser says it is unthinkable that Pat would try to harm Christina now. "He has too much to lose," says the lawyer. "He's got a wife. He's got two children he loves. He wants to continue in the practice of medicine." In fact, says Glaser, if anyone needs psychiatric help now, it is Christina. She is hysterical, he says, "an oddball coming in from left field."
Randy Stevens disagrees. Henry, he maintains, is a "textbook sociopath...with no qualms, no ethics, no conscience," a disturbed man with a genius for mimicking sanity, a man capable of plotting revenge, then waiting years to achieve it.
From Tucson it is 78 miles across the desert to Florence, a small, sandblown community dominated by the high walls and turrets of the Arizona State Prison. One day last summer, eight months before Patrick Henry was scheduled to be released, the temperature outside hovered at 110°F. Inside, in the cool oasis of his office, Warden Lloyd E. Bramlett had Henry's files spread across his desk. "He was in minimum security," said Bramlett. "Pretty much a model inmate." No violence. No discipline problems. But wait. Three years before, he had been caught using a "mail drop," an arrangement that enabled him to send correspondence outside the walls without revealing that he was writing from prison. Using the names of two different people, one a prison employee to whose personnel file he had apparently gained access, he was sending for their birth certificates and social security cards.
Subsequently, prison officials searched Henry's cell and found a collection of books on confidence tricks, fraud, method acting, disappearing without a trace—and one on locating missing people. Hidden in the cover of a handmade historical album on England, they discovered a plan of the prison and a map of Florence. The model inmate was shifted for a time to maximum security.
Had Henry been planning an escape? Bramlett wouldn't hazard a guess. "Win, lose or draw, he's done his time," said the warden. "But he was thinking about something he shouldn't have been thinking about." Did this sound like the behavior of a wronged man? "Let me put it this way," he said with a smile. "That's a very tough cellblock he's in. Those prisoners are the best psychologists and sociologists in the world. They can sniff out someone who doesn't belong there in five minutes, and they accepted Patrick Henry real quick."