A 1964 cold case murder is reopened. Idessa Hennings was found strangled in her Cincinnati apartment 47 years ago. No one was ever charged. Local 12's Deborah Dixon tells us one place a homicide detective is looking for answers is behind the walls of a Tri-State church.
On June 13th, 1964 the Cincinnati Enquirer headline was about Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater's drive for the Republican Presidential nomination. June 13th was a big day for 31 year old Idessa Hennings too. She was supposed to be in court for the abuse of family charge she filed against her husband. But Idessa didn't show up for court... because she had been murdered.
Idessa's body was found inside her Harvey Avenue apartment. She had been strangled. The registered nurse moved there with her 12 year old son, after filing the family violence charge and filing to divorce husband John Hennings, a city employee. At one time the couple ran a record shop on Montgomery Road. "When we moved to Harvey, that was her escape. To get away from him."
Richard was not interviewed by police after his mother's murder. Days earlier, Idessa sent him on a bus to her mother's home in Alabama. If police had talked to Richard, he would have described a chilling encounter with stepfather John Hennings after a court hearing. "As we came out of the courthouse he stopped us in the hall and said 'I'm going to kill you.' She looked at him, turned and walked away."
Richard says Hennings would sometimes wake him in the middle of the night, claiming the murder had happened. "He would wake me up and say I killed your mother, here's the blood. I cried. He'd say you better shut up, I'll do it to you. If the crying got too hard, I got beat in the middle of the night."
It was Richard who called Cincinnati cold case detective Jeff Gramke. "It is apparent to me there is enough information to reopen the case. We're doing that right now."
Gramke looked at the 47 year old case in a new way. "There is enough from 47 years ago, with advancement in forensic enough to keep pushing forward."
Gramke says there is evidence but he needs DNA tests. There was no such thing in 1964. Gramke also says he's talked to the only suspect there is now in Idessa's murder-John Hennings. "I would like his DNA, yes. IS HE GIVING YOU THE DNA? He's refusing DNA."
Idessa's husband is now a pastor in a West End church. John Hennings told me detectives recently talked to him about Idessa. He also told me he is not giving up his DNA profile and not going to talk about the case. Pastor Hennings told me to call his attorney, who has "no comment." Back in 1964, Hennings denied killing Idessa.
"I know him as a man of God." Reverend Peterson Mingo has known Hennings more than 20 years. He did not know him in 1964. "I can't imagine his past life. I didn't know him. I can only relate to the man I know now, a good friend, brother, strong man man of faith."
Idessa's son has spent his life wondering: would his mother be alive if she'd gotten on that bus with him? Richard is now a 60 year old man, who can't says he can't forget the violence of his childhood. He tries to focus on his mother- a woman he says was educated, beautiful and strong. "She will live forever. Because she is not forgotten. Not being forgotten is eternal life."
If you know anything about this cold case murder - call Crimestoppers at 352-3040. You never have to give your name and can get cash for clues.