Jury: Paul Henry guilty of 2 counts of first-degree murder, robbery

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

Jurors took less than 90 minutes Tuesday to find Paul Jackson Henry III guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and one count of robbery for a 2016 home invasion that left two people dead.

The verdict was announced about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22, in the packed courtroom of Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner.

Henry — who blamed his dead wife for the crimes — showed no visible reaction as the verdict was read.

Veronique Henry and Paul Henry in happier times.

Bortner ordered the jury to return at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 23, for the penalty phase of Henry's trial. It will be up to jurors to decide whether Henry should receive a life sentence without parole or the death penalty. It only takes one dissenting juror to oppose the death penalty.

The verdict came several hours after closing arguments in the double-murder trial.

Key, patsy: York County District Attorney Dave Sunday said Henry used his now-dead wife twice — first to gain access to victim Foday Cheeks' Fawn Township home so he could kill the man, then again as his patsy.

"He used his wife as a key to get in that door ... just like he used his wife as an excuse during trial," Sunday told jurors during his 68-minute closing argument. "It is finally time to hold him responsible for what he did."

State police said Foday Cheeks, 31, and Danielle Taylor, 26, were fatally shot inside 706 Brown Road in Fawn Township on Sept. 13, 2016.
(Photo by John Joyce)

But defense attorney Farley Holt, during his nearly two-hour closing argument, argued that it was the "dope-sick" and "desperate" Veronique Henry who knocked on the door of Cheeks' home before 10 p.m. Sept. 13, 2016, and fatally shot 26-year-old Danielle Taylor in the throat while his client was waiting outside the rural farmhouse.

'Relentless': Holt told jurors Veronique Henry then walked over Taylor and into the home, where she gunned down Cheeks, her heroin dealer, with a .45-caliber Colt Commander.

"Veronique was relentless, and she dumped the clip in him," he said. "My client ... didn't know this whole thing was going to go down."

Veronique Henry, 32, committed suicide in York County Prison on Sept. 15, 2016, according to the York County Coroner's Office. She hanged herself two days after the double homicide and one day after she and her husband were captured in Dauphin County after a police chase in which Henry rammed a police cruiser.

Holt said the physical evidence introduced at trial supports the version of events testified to by Henry, 41, on Monday.

Paul Henry III

"I dare you to try to poke a hole in his story," he said.

Sunday took that dare during his closing argument.

Reviewed evidence: He reminded jurors that only one lay witness who testified at trial had the ability to scrutinize every witness statement and every police report, as well as diagrams and photographs over and over — and that was Henry.

In fact, he noted, Henry admitted during his cross-examination that he went over the witness statements more than 20 times each.

Sunday also reminded jurors that the four surviving victims of the home invasion all testified they watched as Henry, not his wife, repeatedly shoot Cheeks in the chest.

And while Holt argued to jurors that the testimony of the four eyewitnesses — two women and two teenage boys — wasn't credible, Sunday said it would be absurd to expect four people to remember details exactly the same way.

Foday Cheeks was fatally shot inside his Fawn Township home during a robbery Sept. 13, 2016, police said.
(Photo courtesy of Facebook)

He said the surviving victims went through a traumatic ordeal. So the fact that a year and a half later they couldn't remember details such as where everyone was sitting when the shooting started is to be expected, Sunday said.

"There was well over seven hours of cross-examination of (the prosecution's) lay witnesses by skilled attorneys," Sunday said, adding the witnesses held up under the "brutal" and "withering" defense questioning.

Jealous rage? Henry's motive, the DA said, was rage. Testimony revealed Veronique Henry lived with and was sexually involved with Cheeks earlier in 2016, when she and her husband were temporarily split up.

And on July 28, 2016, she brought Cheeks to Henry's home in East Manchester Township, where he lived with his mother. Henry ordered them off the property while videotaping his wife and Cheeks.

Danielle Taylor, 26, of Spring Grove, was fatally shot inside a Fawn Township home during a home-invasion robbery on Sept. 13, 2016.

Henry posted that video on Facebook, describing Cheeks as his wife's "pimp/drug dealer" and saying he had a sawed-off shotgun for any "uninvited guests," according to trial testimony.

"Are you trying to tell me he wasn't furious?" the DA asked, and reminded jurors that Henry talked about being trained to shoot in the military.

Cheeks, a moving target, was shot in the left and right shoulders and four times in the chest, Sunday said; he also suffered a gunshot wound to his wrist. Testimony has indicated he had his hands up in a defensive position as he was being shot.

'Pure visceral hatred': Sunday told jurors that after Cheeks was lying on the floor, already dead, Henry shot him one final time in the head.

"That last round is the epitome of pure visceral hatred," he said.

"Danielle Taylor, God rest her soul, was collateral damage" in Henry's mission to kill Cheeks, Sunday said.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.