John Patrick Henretta is now 70 years old.
He was convicted in April 2002, by a Bradley County Criminal Court jury in the death of Frances Rose Crabtree, a Salvation Army Thrift Store worker.
The case went cold in the November 1988 murder which happened across the street from the Cleveland Police Department.
Henretta and Michael Goodhart traveled into Cleveland on Nov. 30, 1988, and committed one of the city’s most heinous crimes, sexually assaulting and stabbing Crabtree in the neck three times.
They had been down the street at Five Points drinking beer in a bar, waiting for the Salvation Army Thrift Store to close.
The pair entered through the rear as Crabtree was closing for the day, and attacked her, robbing and eventually taking her life.
Goodhart died in a Balstrop, Texas, prison, but not before revealing that he and Henretta had traveled through Cleveland and killed Crabtree.
Henretta was in federal custody at Leavenworth, Kan.
Lt. Danny Chastain of the Cleveland Police Department traveled to Kansas in January 1994, and interviewed Henretta about the murder.
TBI’s Brook Wilkens also went to Kansas for the interview.
The Goodhart and Henretta had begun their criminal journey through the south after leaving Pennsylvania.
Multiple homicides, assaults, robberies, thefts and arsons were reportedly committed by the two men along their murderous journey, according to officials.
Former Bradley County Sheriff Dan Gilley said after the trial and conviction, “Henretta is one of the most dangerous serial murderers to have ever been housed in the Bradley County Justice Center. Henretta had two prior convictions for murder along with a very extensive criminal background.”
In late 2005, requests for a retrial beganb but were eventually denied by the court.
He was set to die on Oct. 4, 2011.
In 2010, state Supreme Court Justice Sharon Lee upheld the death penalty, citing, “In summary, upon our consideration of the entire record in this case, we conclude the issues raised in this appeal do not warrant relief and accordingly, Mr. Henretta’s conviction and sentences are affirmed.
“The sentence of death shall be carried out as provided by law on the 4th day of Oct., 2011, unless otherwise ordered by this Court or other proper authority. It appearing that defendant John Patrick Henretta is indigent, the costs of this appeal are taxed to the State of Tennessee,”
A stay of execution has delayed the process.
Joe Vaughn of Franklin is the prosecution attorney in the appeals process. The Tennessee Office of the Post-Conviction Defender is providing indigent defense for the capital murder appeals.
“The TOPCD’s job is to make sure everybody gets a fair trial. They are generally concerned with doing away with capital punishment in the state of Tennessee,” Vaughn said.
“The agency’s mission is to ensure, through high quality representation, that Tennessee's death penalty is imposed in accordance with the United States and Tennessee Constitutions and to provide the other services to the courts and members of the defense bar that are enumerated in Tenn. Code Annotated, 40-30-206,” according to the office’s website.
“Our office is the presumptive counsel appointed by the State to represent death row inmates in post-conviction proceedings. We investigate the case and present the court with evidence of potential constitutional violations. Following an evidentiary hearing and briefing of such claims, the trial court determines whether the petitioner's constitutional rights were, in fact, violated during either the guilt/innocence or the sentencing phase of trial. If the court finds such violations, it will grant a new trial or a new sentencing hearing, depending on the type of the error committed. This is exactly the process through which we are going in Mr. Henretta's case,” according to Justyna Scalpone, of TOPCD.
According to Vaughn, elements of the evidentiary trial and conviction phase are both in play during the current appeal.
“What this case is about is consideration about childhood trauma Mr. Henretta was supposed to have experienced and other things such as his being ‘mentally disabled,” Vaughn said.
Vaughn said the TOPCD presented evidence of childhood trauma had been “inappropriately put to the jury” in the 2002 criminal case. Henretta’s mental status also came into question.
“In the state of Tennessee, you can’t put to death someone who is ‘mentally disabled,’” Vaughn said.
“What we (the prosecution) are doing now is working to prove Mr. Henretta had a fair trial and he really deserved the death penalty,” Vaughn said.
On Aug. 5, special judge John Kerry Blackwood, Vaughn and the TOPCD team will present elements of the case regarding chain of DNA custody and other evidentiary items from the 2002 trial and conviction.