Trial set in Fawn Twp. double-homicide home invasion
- Trial for Paul Henry III is set to begin March 5, 2018. He's accused of committing double murder during a home invasion.
The man accused of committing double murder during a Fawn Township home-invasion robbery last year will stand trial in March on that case as well as on charges he fled from police and rammed a cruiser.
Attorneys for Paul Jackson Henry III asked presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook to order separate trials for the two criminal cases. But she denied that request at Henry's pretrial motions hearing on Tuesday, Aug. 22.
"The charges are ... totally unrelated to the homicide and would be prejudicial to my client," Farley Holt argued to Cook. Holt jointly represents Henry with fellow attorney Suzanne Smith.
But chief deputy prosecutor Dave Sunday argued the alleged police chase and assault were "part of a chain or sequence of events."
He said the chase happened 13 hours after Henry and his now-dead wife went on the run for allegedly killing two people.
Evidence found in car: A number of items of physical evidence were found inside the Henrys' car after they were captured, including guns and property linking him directly to his alleged victims, according to Sunday.
"It would be almost impossible not to present all that evidence together," he told the judge.
Cook agreed the alleged chase and cruiser-ramming were part of one sequence of events that began with the home invasion. She ordered Henry receive one trial for both cases.
She also ordered that trial to begin on Monday, March 5.
Facing death: If convicted of first-degree murder, Henry, 41, of East Manchester Township, faces a possible death sentence.
He remains in York County Prison without bail, charged with two counts each of first- and second-degree murder plus aggravated assault, burglary, robbery and related offenses for the Sept. 13, 2016, deaths of alleged heroin dealer Foday Cheeks and Danielle Taylor, 26, of the Spring Grove area.
Henry's wife and co-defendant, 32-year-old Veronique Henry of Manchester Township, was found unresponsive in her York County Prison cell Sept. 15, 2016, after hanging herself, according to the York County Coroner's Office, which has ruled the death a suicide.
Also on Tuesday, Judge Cook noted the prosecution and defense agreed statements made to police by Veronique Henry after her arrest won't be introduced at trial unless the defense broaches the subject first.
Life is life: Both sides also agreed that expert witnesses for the defense will be given an opportunity to examine the crime scene and that during Henry's trial jurors will be told that there's no possibility of parole for life sentences in Pennsylvania.
"I think the jury needs to be as informed as possible when making that kind of decision," Cook said, referring to the fact that the jury would have to decide between a life sentence and the death penalty if they convict Henry of first-degree murder.
Cook denied several defense motions to throw out the death penalty, including an argument that it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment.
The background: State police say the Henrys knocked on the back door of Cheeks' 706 Brown Road home about 10 p.m. Sept. 13, 2016, and when Taylor answered the door, one of them fatally shot her in the neck.
Paul Henry then shot Cheeks, who had put up his hands and said, "Oh God," according to preliminary hearing testimony by two people who survived the alleged home invasion.
Cheeks suffered eight gunshot wounds, according to state police.
The survivors testified the Henrys were looking for Cheeks' stash of heroin.
Two adult women and two teenage boys were robbed but not shot during the invasion, police have said.
At the time of his death, the 31-year-old Cheeks was free on $25,000 bail, charged with two felony counts of dealing heroin. The York County Drug Task Force raided his home May 12 and seized heroin and packaging materials, charging documents state.
Survivors robbed: Paul Henry made the two women and two teens lie face down on the floor, at which point Veronique Henry guarded them at gunpoint while Paul Henry searched the home, according to preliminary hearing testimony.
At 10:43 a.m. Sept. 14, 2016, state police issued a be-on-the-lookout alert to area law enforcement for the Henrys.
The alleged pursuit: Seven minutes later, a state trooper spotted the Henrys' Nissan Altima on Route 322 at Fishing Creek Valley Road, according to charging documents. The trooper turned on his lights and siren and tried to pull them over, documents state
The Henrys fled westbound on Route 322, at which point another trooper drove his cruiser in front of their Nissan, police said.
But Paul Henry hit the gas and rammed the rear of the cruiser, causing it to crash, documents allege.
Troopers were able to stop the Nissan and arrest the Henrys along Route 322 near the Red Rabbit restaurant near Duncannon, in Reed Township, Dauphin County, documents state.
After arresting the Henrys, troopers found the women's purse, Cheeks' wallet, three handguns, one shotgun and multiple cellphones inside the Nissan, police have said.
Because the pursuit arose from the York County homicide investigation, troopers were given approval by Sunday to file the chase charges in York County.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.