Monday, October 4, 2010

Great-Grandmother Raped/Murdered

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The frequency of breaking and enterings at the former Vineyard Hills public housing complex had Mazura Henry living in fear.
Mrs. Henry applied with the Wheeling Housing Authority to be relocated from the high-crime neighborhood to an apartment at Luau Manor. She moved in with her daughter in St. Clairsville while the transfer request was being processed.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, 1978, Mrs. Henry returned to her apartment to check her mail. The next morning a housing authority employee found her battered body in her apartment.
Murder/Rape cases are heinous enough, but when the victim is a 77-year-old, great-grandmother, the crime rises to a new level of inhumanity. 
The employee told police he found the victim's apartment door open with a glass panel broken out, and the body was lying in the middle of the floor.
Police said Mrs. Henry's robe was undone, a wallet was left nearby and the refrigerator door had been left open, but nothing appeared to be disturbed.
A Wheeling News-Register report of the crime quoted police Lt. Joe Davis as saying Mrs. Henry "may have been executed by a new breed of criminal that preys on the elderly. (The assailants) know the elderly have poor eyesight, and they can't identify their attackers, and defense attorneys can pick them apart on the stand."
Davis said she had been raped and beaten about the face and head. He listed the cause death as severe brain concussions.
Investigators gathered evidence, including fingerprints and a short length of chrome pipe, dented on one end, but they doubted the pipe was the murder weapon.
According to Davis, Mrs. Henry may have not had the time or strength to put up much of a struggle, and her head may have been knocked against the concrete floor.
Police said Mrs. Henry had been the victim of several robberies in the past, one just a month prior to her murder. On Nov. 9, an intruder had broken through the west window of her apartment, then reached in and unlatched the window while Mrs. Henry was resting on the sofa. She told police she could not identify the intruder because she had removed her glasses. When she screamed, the intruder left the apartment after asking repeatedly, "Where's the money? Where's the money?
As the murder investigation continued, officers arrested an 18-year-old East Wheeling man and charged him with the Nov. 9 break-in. The Wheeling newspaper reported that detectives were not questioning the suspect about the murder, but rather, were inquiring about the attempted burglary. 
Police Chief Ed Weith questioned security at Vineyard Hills where the housing authority had spent $108,000 to install 300 steel doors as part of an exterior modernization program. Each door had a four-inch high by two and one-half foot long glass panel set in the center.
"They installed these steel doors with glass panels that can be broken and reached through to unlock the door," Weith said. "A peephole would have been much more sensible."
He said the glass panels had helped thieves gain entry to a number of apartments many times.
"The frequency of crimes in the neighborhood was bound to lead to murder at some point," he said.
Wheeling Police say witnesses reported seeing a black male in this late teens fleeing from Mrs. Henry's apartment shortly after she was believed to have been attacked.
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