Alleged Fawn Twp. double murderer blames dead wife
Alleged double murderer Paul Jackson Henry III took the stand in his own defense at his death-penalty trial, telling jurors it was his now-dead wife who gunned down two people in a Fawn Township farmhouse.
The four victims who survived the Sept. 13, 2016, home invasion all testified under oath that they watched Paul Henry holding a gun and firing it directly, and repeatedly, at home resident Foday Cheeks until Cheeks fell.
On Monday, May 21 — the third week of trial — the 41-year-old Henry told jurors that Veronique Henry was an opioid addict and that the two of them went to Cheeks' Brown Road home shortly before 10 p.m. so she could buy 10 bags of heroin.
He testified he gave his wife a hundred-dollar bill and that she went inside alone, but armed.
"She had the .45 (Colt Combat Commander). I had the .44 Remington Magnum and the .38 Smith & Wesson," Henry said.
"Probably about five seconds later I heard some arguing," he testified. "I heard a shot and I started running toward the back door, kind of fumbling around trying to get the .44 out."
He said when he got to the door, he saw a woman lying on the floor and bent down to determine it wasn't his wife.
Shot in throat: That victim was 26-year-old Danielle Taylor of Spring Grove. She had recently moved into Cheeks' home and was cooking in the kitchen when she answered a knock on the door, prosecutors have said.
Taylor was fatally shot once in the throat as she opened the door, first assistant district attorney Jen Russell has said — taken so off guard she didn't even have time to drop the cigarette between her fingers.
"I heard some more (gunfire) around the corner and I seen the muzzle flash directly in front of me," Henry testified, so he stepped over and around Taylor's body to investigate and "clear the house."
"That's how I was trained in the service," Henry told jurors. During his testimony, he repeatedly mentioned his military training and being in the military. He told jurors he was in the U.S. Marine Corps. He also repeatedly mentioned having children.
Henry said he saw his wife shoot Cheeks, 31, with the .45-caliber Colt.
"She emptied the clip on him," he testified. "I did notice he had his hands up (in a defensive posture). ... That's when I noticed it ... he wasn't in the best of shape."
Cheeks was "staggering toward us," according to Henry, who said, "I kind of put my arm up to keep him from falling against us. He brushed my arm."
Victim's blood on sleeves: The significance of that testimony is that it offers jurors a different explanation as to why the cuffs of the sweatshirt Henry wore that night had Cheeks' blood on them. The prosecution maintains it's because Henry shot Cheeks.
"I looked over at Veronique and said, 'What the f—?' and she said they pulled guns on her," Henry testified.
He said he then gave her the loaded .44 he was holding and took the empty Colt .45.
Jurors have been told that Veronique Henry wasn't allowed to possess guns. That's because she was a convicted heroin dealer, which is a felony.
She committed suicide in York County Prison one day after police captured the Henrys, two days after the deadly home invasion.
Jurors haven't been told that the defendant's criminal history also prohibits him from possessing firearms. Earlier testimony has indicated one of the guns Henry possessed at the scene, the .38-caliber, is his mother's firearm.
Henry lived on his mother's 11-acre property on Canal Road Extended in East Manchester Township.
'SWAT-team fashion': Henry told the jury that after giving his wife the loaded .44, "I started to proceed forward ... in a SWAT-team fashion to clear the room."
He said he told the two women and two teenage boys in the room to lie down, then searched the house.
But he denied he searched the house for cash and drugs, instead claiming he was looking for "Foday's gun."
The surviving victims testified last week that Henry demanded to know where the drugs and cash were and seemed angry.
All four also said Veronique Henry never fired a shot, although three testified she was armed with a handgun. They said she reassured them they wouldn't be killed as her husband searched the home.
Henry testified he never asked where the cash and drugs were. He claimed he asked them where "the gun" was, but no one answered. All eyewitness testimony has indicated Cheeks was unarmed when he was gunned down.
Henry admitted they took the victims' cellphones. The surviving victims testified to that fact last week, and police testified the stolen phones were found in the Henrys' possession after they were captured following a police chase in Dauphin County.
Denied firing gun: Henry denied firing a gun in Cheeks' home that night and denied robbing Cheeks of his wallet after Cheeks was shot. Cheeks' wallet was found with the Henrys when they were captured.
During cross-examination, Henry denied being jealous that his heroin-addicted wife was sleeping with Cheeks and initially denied knowing they were sleeping together.
That prompted first assistant district attorney Jen Russell to show him — and jurors — Henry's Facebook post of a photo of Cheeks. He commented in the post that his wife "brought her pimp/drug dealer" to his home, causing him to "flip the f— out."
At that point, he admitted it made him angry.
"I wouldn't say (I was) jealous of Foday," Henry said. "I'd say 'upset,' I guess."
He also wrote on Facebook about Cheeks, "I'm digging out my sawed-off shotgun" for any "uninvited guest."
He admitted he never considered calling police, despite things having gone seriously "sideways" at the Brown Road home, as Russell put it.
Trained to shoot: Russell got Henry to confirm that he was trained in the Marines to be an accurate shot, including at moving targets in stressful situations. Testimony has revealed Cheeks was walking toward the kitchen and kept moving as he was being shot.
Asked why he fled from state police trying to pull him over in Dauphin County the day after the homicide, Henry claimed "I was going to pull over," but that his wife asked him not to stop at that particular spot.
He said his intention was to pull into a nearby parking lot, prompting Russell to point out that he accelerated and rammed an unmarked police car while two marked cruisers were chasing him.
Covering the angles: Henry confirmed he reviewed the surviving four eyewitnesses' statements 20 to 30 times prior to trial, and also reviewed prosecution diagrams, autopsy reports and some photos.
"Isn't it true that your testimony here today was an effort on your part to make sure you have all the angles covered?" Russell asked. Henry denied that.
Russell then played a portion of a phone call Henry made to his mother from York County Prison on April 24, 2017, in which he said:
"I just want to make sure I have every angle covered. ... They have four different motives; I want to make sure they're all covered."
Presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner has issued a gag order in the case that prevents attorneys or witnesses from speaking publicly until trial is over.
Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 22.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.