By COURT TV STAFF
SCOTT COUNTY, Iowa (Court TV) — An Iowa judge has found a convicted sex offender guilty of kidnapping and murdering a 10-year-old girl.
Judge Henry Latham announced his guilty verdicts Friday in the trial of Henry Dinkins, who was charged with first-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping in the July 2020 death of Breasia Terrell. Dinkins opted for a bench trial, meaning a judge decided his fate rather than a jury.
Prosecutors delivered their opening statement on Aug. 10, with evidence concluding nearly three weeks later. While reading his verdict, Judge Latham explained the delay is due to Iowa law requiring a written ruling. Sentencing has been scheduled for Oct. 11.
Terrell and her half-brother had plans to sleepover at Dinkins’ apartment the night she disappeared. Dinkins is the biological father of the boy, who testified at trial that he saw Terrell leave the home with his father. Judge Latham credited the boy’s courage with bringing Dinkins to justice while reading his verdicts.
Dinkins’ girlfriend, Andrea Culberson, also testified at trial that she woke up that night to find both Dinkins and Terrell missing around 3 a.m. Culberson said Dinkins quietly entered the apartment at 3:30 a.m. and she looked out the window and saw Terrell standing next to Dinkins’ maroon Chevy Impala. Dinkins would not tell Culberson where he was going. He quickly grabbed something from the closet and left. Culberson then said she went back to the window as Dinkins was leaving the parking lot, presumably with Terrell, who was never seen alive again after that night.
Terrell’s mother, Aisha Langford, reported her daughter missing the next day. Dinkins, who was a registered sex offender with a significant criminal history, was immediately a person of interest in her disappearance.
He was jailed shortly after for violating sex offender registry requirements. Dinkins had failed to notify authorities when he moved in with his girlfriend. He was also forbidden from having contact with minors. According to the Iowa Sex Offender Registry, Dinkins was convicted in 1990, at the age of 17, of the third-degree sexual abuse of a girl under the age of 13.
Dinkins remained jailed for several months during the search for Terrell. In March 2021, two fishermen came upon human remains in a secluded pond on private land about 25 miles north of Davenport, in rural Clinton County. An autopsy positively identified the remains to be those of Terrell.
A medical examiner testified Terrell’s manner of death was homicide caused by multiple gun shot wounds.
Days before Judge Latham’s decision, Dinkins penned a letter accusing prosecutors of withholding evidence in his case.
DAILY TRIAL UPDATES
DAY 15 – 9/15/23
- Judge Henry Latham announced guilty verdicts in charges against Henry Dinkins in the kidnapping and murder of 10-year-old Breasia Terrell.
- Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 11.
DAY 14 – 8/29/23
- Closing arguments from the State were delivered by Scott County Attorney Kelly Cunningham and Elizabeth O’Donnell.
- Closing arguments from the defense were delivered by Chad R. Frese.
- The judge dismissed the court for the day. While he did not set a deadline for his decision, he’s expected to take a couple weeks to deliberate before delivering his sentence from the bench.
DAY 13 – 8/28/23
DAY 12 – 8/25/23
- Branden Stepanski, a criminalist for Iowa, testified about testing trace evidence related to the case.
- Stepanski tested several items of clothing and the remnants of a plastic bottle.
- The bottle, when it arrived, was described as a “white plastic bleach bottle,” and the analyst was asked to look for bleach.
- Stepanski said he noticed lightening/discoloration of the clothing items, but no tests identified bleach as being on the items. The tests showed that while bleach could have caused the discoloration, the same effects could have been caused by the environment.
- The plastic bottle itself did not test positive for bleach.
- Criminalist Mike Schmidt, who works with DNA, testified that analysts tested tissue from the bone of the left leg was found to likely belong to a direct relative of Aisha Langford with a probability of 99.99%.
- No DNA was found on the clothing found with Breasia’s remains.
DAY 11 – 8/24/23
- Davenport police officer Sean Johnson returned to the stand to continue his testimony, where he described what Jerod Brink told him about the night he saw Henry Dinkins.
- Johnson said that Brink told him Dinkins offered him $100 for pulling his car out and tried to offer the man money on numerous occasions.
- Brink later identified the Chevrolet Impala that detectives had impounded, which belonged to Dinkins, as the one he had helped pull out of the ditch.
- During cross-examination, Johnson admitted that the clothing that Brink described Dinkins as wearing did not match what Dinkins was seen wearing on surveillance video.
- When detectives looked inside the Chevrolet Impala after it was impounded, they noted the trunk smelled like bleach. When the trunk was fully opened, officers observed an axe and a box of cleaning supplies. When technicians shined a blue light, they observed what was believed to be blood.
- FBI Special Agent James McMillian took the stand and testified about his involvement in the case.
- McMillian said he was contacted by the Davenport Police Department on July 10 to bring the FBI’s resources and assistance to the search for Breasia.
- McMillian testified that as the primary investigator for the FBI, he was involved throughout the entirety of the case.
- McMillian said that the investigation focused on Dinkins early because he was one of the last people to have seen Breasia.
- Soil samples collected from the scene where Breasia’s body was found were compared to samples of soil and debris that were collected from Dinkins’ Chevrolet Impala and found that the samples were a match.
- The jurors were shown many photos of Breasia’s skeletal remains as they were found.
- Several items were found with Breasia’s remains, including a white t-shirt, a white plastic bottle, a red shirt, a Mary Kay makeup container and two bullets.
- An FBI analyst testified that the white plastic bottle could potentially have been a bottle of Clorox bleach.
- Mark Poulos, a retired police officer who was involved in the underwater dive operations to find evidence, testified about a revolver found in the mud.
DAY 10 – 8/23/23
- Sgt. Geoffrey Peiffer of the Davenport Police was recalled to the stand and testified that the owner of the firearm found near Breasia’s body had lost their documents in a fire. On cross, Peiffer says statements from Andrea Culbertson led them to believe Breasia was in the Chevy Impala. He also agreed with the defense that after questioning D.L. he agreed Credit Island turned out not to be an area of concern.
- Testifies that at some point in the investigation the FBI takes over handling the DNA testing.
- Weeks after Breasia’s remains were found D.L. then tells his mom, who tells police that D.L. says he saw his dad shoot his sister. “He made some motion of bang, bang.” He says he saw his dad go down into the wooded area to use the bathroom and had a machete with him. When he came back he wiped if off and put it back in the trunk. When they returned to the motor home later, Dinkins allegedly took the machete into the motor home. Peiffer says he never heard about getting out of the car on the gravel road and cleaning the machete with bleach until the trial.
- A forensic pathologist, Dr. Kelly Kruise, took the stand and says she reported Breasia’s reason for death a homicide caused by multiple gun shot wounds.
- There’s additional testimony about the search warrant on the Chevy Impala and a deputy who helped recover Breasia’s remains.
- A common line of questioning for anyone involved in the recovery of Breasia is that the driveway was much too steep to drive down, that night during the search it was getting dark outside. The area was very rural with thick vegetation.
- Jerod Brink, the man who helped Henry Dinkins pull his car out of a ditched on July 10, 2020 at 4:30 a.m., died in June 2023 from a heart attack. His deposition was read into the record by Davenport Police Officer Sean Johnson, who also prepared the search warrant for Dinkin’s Chevy Impala.
DAY 9 – 8/22/23
- Cross examination of Detective Evan Obert resumes on Tuesday, discussing the search warrant of Henry Dinkins and the steps taken by law enforcement during the investigation.
- DNA evidence was collected from Dinkins hands, penis, fingernails
- His hands were not tested for gunshot residue
- D.L did not mention bleach to Obert that he can recall. And did not find any physical evidence to coroberate that.
- Obert says they didn’t measure the pattern of the shoe or could determine what kind of shoe it was from the muddy footprint at the crime scene, only the size which was size 11.
- Obert says he didn’t know Dinkins changed his clothes during his initial interview. He learned later after reviewing body camera footage that he had changed sometime on July 10, 2020. On cross, he said it was also alarming that when they searched Dinkins apartment, they could not locate that clothing he was wearing in the surveillance video, leading investigators to believe Dinkins stashed his incriminating clothes somewhere.
- Heather Garvin, Forensic Anthropologist testifies about the human remains she identified to be Breasia Terrell. She also reviewed dental records to ensure her identity.
- Matthew Dean, Inmate at Clinton County Jail in January 2021, where Dinkins was also housed. He testified that Dinkins blamed Breasia’s disappearance on sex trafficking.
- The three fishermen who found Breasia’s body on March 22, 2021 each took the stand and told the court how they spotted something white in the distance which turned out to be a skull.
- Another inmate took the stand and testified that Dinkins said that no one would ever find Breasia’s body.
DAY 8 – 8/21/23
- Detective Evan Obert walks the court through all the movements of Dinkins on July 10, 2020, using Google Maps and surveillance videos that led them to Credit Island.
- Detectives testify to details from D.L.’s interview that they corroborated including:
- A long knife found in the motor home on top of the microwave
- D.L.’s descriptors of going to Walmart to get Clorox with Dinkins
- D.L. putting the battery pack back into Dinkins’ cell phone while he was in the Walmart
- Going to Credit Island area via footprints
- A flip-flop was initially recovered that Breasia’s mother confirmed was not hers.
- Detective Obert testifies about the day Breasia’s skeletal remains were found. The seashells in her hair and her flip-flop helped investigators identify her.
- Obert testified that Breasia was shot 3 times and that a firearm was located within 50 yards of her body in a pond.
- There was almost no paper trail of this particular firearm, or way to track its owner.
- On cross-examination, Obert testifies that D.L. made inconsistent statements, though some were corroborated by physical evidence. D.L. never told investigators that he saw the shooting.
DAY 7 – 8/18/23
DAY 5 – 8/16/23
DAY 4 – 8/15/23
- The victim’s grandmother, Donita Gardner, testifies that on the night Dinkins picked up Breasia and her younger brother, he refused to take their older brother, claiming the car was too small for all of them.
- More forensic testimony reveals how dogs were used in the search for Breasia on Credit Island in July 2020.
- Finally, FBI Special Agent Eli McBride shows evidence photos taken from the trunk of the Chevy Impala of a hatchet handle and machete sheath.
- WATCH: Sleepover Kidnapping Murder Trial: Day 4
DAY 3 – 8/14/23
- Breasia’s younger brother, who was 8 years old when his sister went missing, testifies during direct examination that he saw his father clean a bloody machete with bleach.
- During a contentious cross-examination, Dinkins’ son says he actually saw his father shoot his sister, but he didn’t tell his mother until sometime after.
- WATCH: Henry Dinkins’ Son Testifies to Seeing His Father Shoot Breasia
- Breasia’s mother takes the stand and talks about the many frantic calls she made to Dinkins the morning of July 10, 2020. She testifies that Dinkins told her he woke up and Breasia was gone and that he was going “downtown” to file a police report, which he never did. Her 911 call is replayed in court before the judge.
- Dinkins’ girlfriend, who was living with him at the time of Breasia’s disappearance, testifies that she woke up the night of the sleepover to find Dinkins and Breasia missing. Dinkins returned to their apartment at 3 a.m. to grab something from the closet. She testified that she saw Breasia standing next to the Impala in the parking lot. Dinkins didn’t say where he was going and left, presumably with Breasia, who was never seen alive again after that night.
DAY 2 – 8/11/23
- Testimony centered around forensics and investigators, with the most testimony from Sgt. Geoffrey Peiffer with the Davenport Police, the lead detective on Breasia’s case. He testifies about the investigation following the girl’s disappearance, starting with the where her body was found near a pond on Credit Island.
- Detective Peiffer’s testified about cell phone data used to narrow in on an area where they believed Dinkins to be. After reviewing hundreds of surveillance videos, they tracked Dinkins’ maroon Chevy Impala to a Walmart parking lot, where the defendant was seen purchasing two bottles of Clorox bleach at 7 a.m. on the morning of July 10, 2020, hours before Breasia’s mother reported her missing.
- On cross, the defense questioned Peiffer about another homicide investigation in Clinton, Iowa, during the 10 days following Breasia’s disappearance in which a white youth size 10 t-shirt was found with blood on it. Witness says he turned in the shirts, but they were not tested because there was not a causal connection to Breasia’s case.
- Detective Peiffer also said Breasia’s brother was interviewed by detectives and his story was not consistent. In his most recent interview, he said he saw his father shoot Breasia and that Dinkins’ girlfriend, Andrea, had been there too.
- A civilian Crime Scene Technician, Alycia Fritz, testifies about the photos she took at the crime scene, Dinkins’ appartment and inside the Impala. She collected swabs, but did not process them. She did note that there was a bleach bottle on the top of the water bottles.
- The last to testify is an FBI Special Agent in charge of cell phone analysis, which helps police figure out a timeline of the defendant on the day of Breasia’s disappearance.
DAY 1 – 8/10/23
- The prosecution delivered an opening statement.
- The defense reserved its right to present an opening statement.
- Mona Varela, an employee of the Davenport Police Department described taking the non-emergency call reporting Breaisa was missing on July 10, 2020 at 8:29 am.
- The call was placed by Aishia Lankford, who said that Henry Dinkins told her that the child was missing and that he was on his way to the police station to report it.
- When Varela called Dinkins, he said he changed his mind and would not come in. She testified that she felt that nobody appeared concerned about the child.
- Crime scene analysts and technicians testified to bullets found at the crime scene and photos of Dinkins, Dinkins’ vehicle and shoe impressions at Credit Island in Davenport along the Mississippi River.