Liberty, SC – A South Carolina woman has pled guilty to the murders of her two sons, stepmother, and ex-husband. The shootings occurred in two separate mobile homes located at 236 and 304 Pinedale Drive in Liberty on October 14, 2011.
In what authorities call a calculated attempt to conceal the murders, 49-year-old Susan Hendricks was accused of trying to make the deaths appear as though they’d been part of a murder-suicide at the hands of one of her dead sons.
In addition, the woman, who claims to suffer from a split personality disorder, tried to reap the financial rewards of their life insurance totaling nearly $700,000. Investigators believe the money was only one of several other unknown motives behind the massacre.
Although she’s admitted to killing four people, Hendricks was found to be mentally ill. A psychiatrist testified that Hendricks was likely taken over by a personality incapable of discerning right from wrong, the same personality that shot her own son in the head and tried to make him appear to responsible for the homicides.
The gun used in all four slayings was found beside 23-year-old Matthew Hendricks’ body. Investigators said Susan Hendricks told deputies her son was suicidal when interviewed.
Next door, authorities found the bodies of her other son, stepmother, and ex-husband. Marshall Hendricks, 20, was shot several times while in the house and was fatally wounded as he tried to run outside, collapsing on the concrete stoop. Mark Hendricks, 52, was found on a couch in the living room, shot in the chest. Susan Hendricks’ stepmother, 64-year-old Linda Burns, was found in her bedroom. She was shot several times in the chest, arm, and stomach.
Hendricks’ story of a murder-suicide quickly fell apart when questioned as to why she failed to call 911. Hendricks was initially charged due to the insurance motive, ownership of the weapon, and the inconsistencies in her story. Tests found gunshot residue and traces of Marshall’s blood on her clothing.
Forensic, clinical, and neurological psychiatrist Dr. David Price testified on Hendricks’ mental condition throughout her life and at the time of the killings. The psychiatrist explained Hendricks’ personality disorder stemmed from the severe post-traumatic stress she suffered due to extensive sexual and physical abuse in her childhood before leaving home at 14. The personality disorder was established as a coping mechanism. The defense said the woman spent years being violated by both parents, who also allowed others to abuse her. Over the last three decades Hendricks had been admitted to psychiatric hospitals several times.
Investigators were concerned Hendricks may have been malingering, fabricating or exaggerating symptoms of a mental illness, given the possible death penalty she could have faced otherwise if found completely sane and unhindered by a murderous alter-ego.
Regardless, she accepted a plea deal from prosecutors which will impose a life sentence for the four counts of murder. The plea bargain guarantees Hendricks will receive proper psychological help while behind bars. The remaining family members were satisfied with the punishment.
Split personality disorder – also referred to dissociative identity disorder and formerly multiple personality disorder – is a mental condition characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring identities with alternate control over a person’s behavior, resulting in memory impairments. The disorder is difficult to diagnose due to the possible comorbidity of other mental disorders with similar symptoms and typically develops after prolonged traumatic psychological events.
This is not the first time Hendricks has shot someone. Back in April 2006, Hendricks shot and killed 36-year-old Doyle Brian Teague, claiming the man entered her home uninvited. Criminal charges were not filed and the shooting had been considered an act of self-defense.
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