Where the Hendricks’ case stands now

By adviser Mar 22, 2021
The Hendricks’ grave can be found at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery a few miles south of IWU. Photo: Samira Kassem
The Hendricks’ grave can be found at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery a few miles south of IWU.
Photo: Samira Kassem

Welcome back for part two of our series on the 1983 quadruple homicide of Susan Hendricks and her children. Last week, we went over the facts of the case and trials of David Hendricks. 

Although the case remains unsolved to this day, there have been several recent developments and theories on what could have happened. 

After David was acquitted in his second McLean County trial, he was released from prison where he had spent seven years. 

He did get married to his second wife, Pat in a prison ceremony in 1988 two years before he was released. 

Hendricks currently is living in Florida with his fourth wife and their children. Perhaps the most fascinating part about David remarrying is that Susan’s family attended his weddings as they continue to assert that David was not the murderer. 

To me, the continued relationship between David and Susan’s family is a big indicator that he may actually not have done it. 

In March of 1992, former Pantagraph journalist Steve Vogel published his New York Times bestselling book Reasonable Doubt which covers the case. 

Vogel, who has had close contact with Hendricks throughout the trials and his time in prison, told the Pantagraph in 2018 that he “believes David Hendricks probably did not commit the crime.” He argues that the way Susan’s family members have always stood by him and never doubted his innocence is strong evidence and that he does not buy the state’s theory that David had the motive of wanting a different lifestyle. 

This is not to say that there are not community members who still believe that David is guilty. Some long-time Bloomington residents that I spoke to about my interest in the case are still convinced and feel very strongly that David was the murderer.

Although the case has yet to be reopened, 127 pieces of physical evidence remain in the evidence vault at the Bloomington Police Department. This includes the sealed containers of the Hendricks children’s stomach contents. 

Although they are likely not directly related to the killer, there were some strange happenings with the models who testified at the trial. One of them went on to purchase the home where the murders took place and live in it with her husband until 2001. Another ended up marrying the lawyer who cross examined her. 

When they were murdered, Susan was just 30, Benjamin was five, Grace was seven and Rebekah was nine.
Photo: Samira Kassem

The most recent development was in 2008 Martha Neils, Susan’s sister, called a press conference outside of the McLean County Museum of History. In that press conference, she accused her now ex-husband John of killing Susan and her children. She also announced that the  Bloomington Police Department “desperately” needs to re-open the case and investigate her ex-husband who she described as “mentally unstable.”

At the time of the murders, however, Neils had told the police that her husband had been home the entire night. Now, she claims that he had gone out to “lift weights” that night. 

After his conviction, David has said that he was made aware of his brother-in-law’s jealousy of his money and success. 

It is also important to note that the baby shower that Susan was attending the night of the murders was one that Neils was not invited to as there had been some tension in her relationship due to her husband’s dislike of David. Neils was allegedly very upset and cried that night over not being invited. Could it be that John was avenging his wife? Sounds like a potential motive to me. 

The brother-in-law also worked at a local hospital at the time and came home with bloodied scrubs the night of the murders asking Martha to wash them. When Martha asked where they came from John gave the name of a doctor. It was later found that the doctor that he named was not even working at the hospital at that time. 

Some say that John was working on his own and others think that David may have hired him then made up the story about the jealousy to disconnect himself from the case. 

Of course, this is all hearsay as there was never any physical evidence linked to David or John. After Martha’s press conference, the McLean County State’s Attorney, Bill Yoder, announced that he would not ask the Bloomington Police Department to reopen the case or investigate John. Yoder said he would only consider such action if any credible leads or physical evidence are presented that point to anyone besides David Hendricks. 

Whatever you believe happened the tragic night of November 7, 1983, there remains no physical evidence to lead us to the true killer and the case, at least for the near future, will remain closed. 

Also, this podcast does a fantastic job of covering the case if this series has spiked your interest.


Want to submit a piece telling us what you think happened? Contact skassem@iwu.edu or iparish@iwu.edu    

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