SEPARATED BY MURDER
One brother was a saint but his identical twin was a sinner. Yet Greg and Jeff Henry were inseparable—locked together in a sadomasochistic relationship that would end in a grisly death.
It is a twisted tale of a strange, dysfunctional Southern family that could have come straight out of the pages of an Erskine Caldwell novel.
Throughout their lives Greg delighted in intimidating and terrorizing his meeker brother, ordering him to fetch beer after beer and then clean up. To reinforce his dominance, Greg often fired his .22 caliber rifle at Jeff to scare him, spraying their apartment walls with bullet holes.
The Henry brothers lived and worked together in a strange master—slave relationship for nearly thirty-seven years, until they were ripped apart by a single shotgun blast at their home in rural Georgia.
Killed instantly was Greg, the brutal power monger, who finally pushed things too far one night after a marathon drinking session, when he threatened Jeff with a shotgun. For once the docile brother turned, savagely killing his twin before giving himself up to the police and being charged with murder.
Even as babies, Greg and Jeff Henry faced an uphill battle for survival in a world they could never quite come to terms with. They were born on January 23, 1955, in Dublin, Georgia, during a freak snowstorm. It became a family joke that the real reason the town’s antiquated switchboard broke down from too many calls wasn’t the snow, but the arrival of the Henry twins.
Their father, Dick Henry, was a successful executive, managing a local chemical plant, and their mother, Sue, once the most beautiful girl in Dublin, had won many local beauty contests in her youth.
Dick and Sue, who already had two boys, were overjoyed when the twins were born after a difficult Cesarean section. But within a few months Greg became sick and almost died. He was diagnosed with a brain disorder and had to have his spine tapped to save his life.
As infants, the Henry twins captured the imagination of the town. Sue, then thirty-six, would proudly push them through the streets to church every Sunday in their double stroller. And they caused quite a stir at Dick’s country club, where they would play with their two older brothers, Chris and Mike.
From the very beginning they were known as “the twins” and never referred to by their names. Even their mother couldn’t tell them apart and would ask them to raise their shirts to identify them, as one had an inner bellybutton and the other, an outer.
Sue Henry dressed them alike in fabulous no-expense-spared outfits and the twins became her pride and joy. She spoiled them rotten. As infants Jeff and Greg were inseparable and even sucked each other’s thumbs. They played together and slept together and seemed like a single person inhabiting two identical bodies.
“If you had one, you had them both,” declared their mother. “I don’t remember them being any different.”
Even before they could talk English they had instinctively developed their own language, which no one else could understand. They would happily jabber away for hours, using strange words like “Jogabawamama” and “Debogdoogwotama.”
But the Henrys’ perfect world fell apart when, in April 1958, Dick was diagnosed with brain cancer and died a year later. While he was on his deathbed, Sue brought Greg and Jeff into the hospital to say their final good-byes.
“Aren’t they adorable?” said their dying father as he kissed them for the last time.
So at the age of forty, Sue—or Ma, as the twins called her—found herself a widow with just a small trust fund to support the twins and their two brothers.
“I’m a survivor,” says the tough Southern belle, who became a secretary to make ends meet. “You do what you have to do to get by.”
There seemed to be an almost supernatural, psychic bond between Jeff and Greg as they grew up. At the age of five Greg disappeared and couldn’t be found anywhere. When Jeff was asked where his brother was hiding he immediately walked off and found him a mile away from their home. Somehow he was just drawn toward him.
Together the twins created their own world of fantasy and didn’t seem to need anyone else. But from their earliest days Greg appeared to dominate Jeff, assuming the role of leader in all their games. By the time they started at a private pre-school and kindergarten, Jeff cheerfully took a back seat to his more extroverted brother, who always got better grades and made more friends. And wherever Greg led, Jeff followed.
From a young age the twins discovered a fascination for electrical appliances. When they were seven they surprised their mother by completely rewiring their bedroom, connecting every appliance to a single master switch so they could turn on everything at once.
It inspired them to want to become inventors when they grew up and they started reading everything they could about technology.
In 1962, Ma Henry remarried a local man named Jack Wright. The seven-year-old twins hated their new stepfather, a strict disciplinarian who tried to rein them in. Jeff and Greg considered him physically abusive and would avoid him at all costs.
At home there were frequent arguments and fights between their mother and new stepfather, who did not get along. Ma Henry turned to drink to overcome her problems, finally divorcing Wright in 1973.
Painfully shy and far slower than his smarter brother, Jeff struggled through Henderson High School as a “C”- and “D”-grade student. The introverted Jeff was physically frail and far weaker than Greg, and developed an inferiority complex after failing to have his brother’s success with the girls.
Jeff could barely read or write, but he found that he had a talent for fixing radios and stereos, spending hours happily tinkering away with the electronic devices. The tall, skinny teenager, who sported long, blond hair, dreamed of inventing revolutionary machines that would change the world, like the ones he read about in science fiction comics.
Though they looked alike, the twins were as different as chalk and cheese. Unlike his nervous brother, Greg was a fearless daredevil. He loved racing his bicycle up and down the hallway of his high school, showing off to the other kids with his patented wheelies.
During their late teens the twins fought over everything and had an increasingly troubled relationship. Greg seemed to enjoy humiliating his shy brother in public, ridiculing his whimsical ideas. But if Jeff ever dared to stand up for himself and criticize Greg, it always ended in a fight.
“They were going through that rebellion thing,” their mother would later explain.
The Henry family was torn apart when the twins’ eldest brother Richard was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized in the late 1960s. It had a profound effect on Jeff who began to fear insanity might run in the family.
At the age of eighteen the twins graduated high school, finding jobs in the mailroom of a local company. Now that they were financially sufficient they left home to get an apartment together.
Both standing six foot two inches and weighing just one hundred and sixty pounds, the wavy-haired, pencil-thin Henry twins were an imposing sight. Their fellow workers found it almost impossible to tell them apart, before getting to know them. Then it was easy to pick out Greg by his loud bullying ways as opposed to his quieter, more easy-going twin brother.
“We used to kid him and call him a little wimp,” said Ma. “He was so passive.”
Two years after leaving high school, the twins were briefly separated for the only time in their life when Greg married his girlfriend, Julie. Jeff, who had never had a girlfriend of his own, couldn’t bear to be apart from Greg and moved into the basement of the house the couple bought. But the marriage was short-lived and Jeff was overjoyed when Julie left and the twins were reunited.
Taking a large apartment on Seville Drive in Clarkston, Georgia, Jeff and Greg decided to become rock stars. Greg bought a set of drums and Jeff tried to teach himself bass. They recruited a couple of friends to join their band, rehearsing late into the night in the basement of their new apartment.
During band practices Jeff and Greg would down cases of Budweiser beer until they could hardly stand up. And the more beer Greg drank, the meaner he became to Jeff.
Friend and fellow band member and Jason Hill remembers Greg Henry constantly picking fights with his weaker twin brother.
“When they weren’t drinking they were pretty much normal,” said Hill. “But when they started drinking—I don’t mean a twelve-pack of beer but two or three cases—Greg turned into a different person.”
The brothers were so proud of their drinking that they would save each empty beer case to stack up against the wall as trophies. And they delighted in proudly showing off their collection of empty beer “suitcases” that soon reached to the ceiling.
Fueled by beer, Greg would pound his drums late into the night, refusing to allow the other band members to go home. On one occasion when Hill insisted on leaving at 2 a.m. so he could go to work the following morning, Greg flew into a rage, kicking his drum set across the floor.
“As we left you could hear Greg screaming at Jeff to carry on playing,” remembered Hill. “You would have to drag him off those drums to stop him.”
Greg Henry was often totally out of control, exploding at the slightest provocation. One night when the twins were staying with their mother, they started arguing so loudly that she asked them to be quiet.
“Greg gave me some lip,” said Ma Henry. “And I don’t take lip off my sons. When I told him not to talk to me like that he picked up a clock radio and hurled it across the room and it broke. Then he just grabbed his stuff and got into his car and left.”
The growing tension between the twins escalated dramatically when they developed a fascination with firearms. They each bought themselves shotguns and proudly displayed them against the living room wall.
Now Greg’s anger took on a sinister dimension. To make a point in an argument with Jeff, he would suddenly grab his .22-caliber firearm and start shooting up the room in fury.
Early one Sunday morning Jeff arrived at Jason Hill’s apartment shaking with terror. He said he’d had enough of Greg and was moving out of their apartment.
“Greg had pulled a gun on him,” remembered Hill. “Jeff wanted to get away from him and I don’t blame him.”
Although Jeff moved back with his mother, within a few weeks he found he couldn’t bear to be separated from his twin brother. But as they moved into a new apartment together, Greg stepped up his reign of terror, making life even more miserable for the unfortunate Jeff.
The twins settled into a one-bedroom apartment at Tree Terrace in Maxham Road, Lithia Springs, and started drinking themselves into oblivion. Greg set up his drum kit in the front room and played along to his favorite rock ‘n’ roll albums into the early hours. He picked constant fights with Jeff, firing his gun indiscriminately at the least provocation.
In early 1989, Ma Henry, then seventy, decided to step in and try to get her twin sons’ lives back on track. She was particularly concerned about Greg’s drinking and the danger he posed to Jeff.
The twins had recently been arrested for driving under the influence and feared losing their licenses and not being able to drive their jointly owned Camaro sports car. So under pressure from Ma Henry they agreed to go on the wagon and give up alcohol.
The effects were immediate and they calmed down and began to get along with each other for the first time in many years. Turning over a new leaf, they both found jobs as audio repairmen at the Circuit City electronics store in nearby Austell, Georgia.
At first the twins impressed their boss with their enthusiasm and punctuality. They would spend hours in the back room, tinkering around with the broken amplifiers and televisions, as a nonstop talk radio station played in the background. It was piece-work, and Jeff and Greg took so long on repairs that they did not make much money.
“They’d test it and test it,” remembers their Circuit City co-worker Ted Crowder. “They’d help you for two hours and speak to you, while neglecting their own work.”
A few months into the job the brothers started drinking again. While on the wagon Greg had become addicted to coffee for the caffeine buzz. He drank so many cups a day that he became sick. When a doctor friend suggested an occasional beer instead, saying it would be harmless, Greg leapt at the chance. Soon he was back to beer, drinking more heavily than ever, with Jeff following in his wake.
As the twins fell back into their drunken ways, their fellow workers noticed Jeff becoming more and more paranoid and withdrawn. He bit his fingernails to the quick and was always scared that he was in trouble.
“Jeff had become like a Chihuahua,” says Crowder. “He was real nervous.”
At home the twins’ relationship had deteriorated even further. The domineering Greg mentally tortured Jeff as they drank their way through cases of Budweiser every night. When Ma Henry visited her sons’ apartment, she was horrified to see the stacks of empty beer containers piled up in rows against the wall.
“I knew they had a problem,” she would later tell police. “[I] just didn’t seem to be able to convince them that they did.”
Things got so bad that Ma begged them to take the twelve-step program at Alcoholics Anonymous, but they refused, claiming that they were fine.
“I had discussed it with friends of mine that were friends of A.A.,” said Ma Henry. “I was told that sometimes people had to get really violent before they recognized there was a problem. They had performed so well as children and had such a good reputation in their profession, that I couldn’t convince them that they [needed help].”
Jeff began to confide in his mother about Greg’s violent temper tantrums. He said he was frightened when his brother turned on him and began blasting off the shotgun that he kept by his bed.
When Ma challenged Greg, he admitted shooting at his twin once during a heated argument. But he apologized, saying that he had learned his lesson and would never do it again.
“Jeff was scared to death of Greg,” said their mother. “He couldn’t go to the bathroom without asking Greg’s permission.”
Since Greg’s divorce almost fifteen years earlier, the twins had not dated, preferring their own company. But when a persistent young woman began pursuing Greg romantically, he told her that he was not interested. When she refused to take no for an answer he pulled out his shotgun and fired over her head, and she fled the apartment in fear for her life.
One Christmas in the late 1980s, Ma Henry organized a family reunion at her luxurious new home in Roswell, Georgia. After a full turkey dinner with all the trimmings, the twins and their brothers staged an impromptu musical jam while Ma washed the dishes.
Remembered Ma Henry: “Mike was there with his guitar and Greg had his guns [by his drum kit]. I was putting up with it because it was Christmas, but at two in the morning Jeff and Mike were ready to go to bed. And we went out to try and get Greg to go to bed but he just would not give up. He just sat there beatin’ that drum. And he got mad.”
Eventually, Greg drunkenly kicked his drums over and stormed into the house in a black mood. He went upstairs and climbed out of a second-floor bedroom window, sliding down the roof and landing in the garden.
When Ma heard Greg drunkenly staggering around outside, she went out in the garden in her pajamas to see if he was all right. It was a freezing night and when she failed to find Greg she gave up and went back to bed.
Half an hour later she was awakened by screams coming from the garden. Greg had fallen into a bed of roses and scratched himself badly. Staggering back into the house, he began hammering on his mother’s bedroom door in tears.
“I let him in,” said Ma, who felt sorry for him. “And he got into bed with me. He was just convulsing with crying. And he said, ‘I almost blew it, didn’t I?’ I said [he had] and told him I loved him.”
Then her weeping thirty-four-year-old son fell asleep in her arms until he woke up the next morning with a savage hangover.
In June 1990, the Circuit City store laid off most of their workforce because of a recession, but the Henry twins managed to stay on. Their supervisor liked their work, considering them hard workers and the two best technicians on his staff.
Although they were both drinking heavily, they still managed to get in on time, insisting on working longer hours than anyone else.
That Thanksgiving, Greg caught flu and went into work while the rest of the family celebrated at Ma’s house. He spent the whole three-day holiday alone in the repair shop, catching up on his workload.
Over the next few months Jeff withdrew even further as his twin brother became ever-harder to live with. Jeff was now expected to be at Greg’s constant beck and call, serving him beer after beer and preparing all the meals. And the more Greg demanded, the harder Jeff served his unappreciative brother. He would even politely thank him afterward.
“Jeff says thank you all the time,” said Ma Henry. “‘Yes, ma‘am, no, ma’am.’ We used to say, ‘Jeff, you could get run over by a Mack truck and you would get up and thank the man for not killing you.”
But alcohol was taking its toll on the twins. They worked during the day and drank in the evenings and on weekends, staying in their one-bedroom apartment watching football games and old movies. Every night Greg would play his drums into the early hours and the neighbors were beginning to complain about the noise and the twins’ constant arguments.
Late one night in June 1991, the apartments’ security officer, W. M. Montgomery, was summoned after Greg and Jeff got into a violent argument. When he entered the apartment he was shocked to see them blind drunk and covered in blood, the apartment littered with empty beer cans.
“Greg had a cut hand and Jeff had blood on his shirt,” remembered Montgomery. “There was blood on the carpet and the Sheetrock wall opposite the doorway was damaged.”
The twins refused to discuss why they were arguing, and when Montgomery walked through the squalid apartment, he saw Greg’s loaded .12-gauge pump shotgun with pistol grips lying on a bed. When the guard asked them if they were on drugs, the twins angrily denied it, ordering him to leave.
On his way out, Montgomery told them that he would be reporting the incident to the landlord and they would be evicted. Then Greg burst into a rage, slamming the door as hard as he could behind Montgomery.
A few days later Greg and Jeff received a landlord’s eviction letter, ordering them out by the end of the month. They were told they were breaking their lease as there were two people occupying a one-bedroom apartment.
The first thing the twins did after receiving the letter was to call their mother for help. Immediately the indomitable seventy-two-year-old Henry matriarch came to their rescue, as she always did. Telling her sons not to worry, she found them a two-bedroom apartment across the road in Sweetwater Creek, even helping them move in the following weekend.
After moving out the furniture, Greg told Jeff to go back and clean up. While Greg spent the rest of the afternoon watching a football game, Jeff dutifully scrubbed the blood off the carpet and threw out hundreds of empty beer cans.
On Sunday, December 15, Greg and Jeff awoke at noon to spend the day drinking and watching a football double-header on television. Over the last month, the brothers had been drinking harder than ever and it was beginning to affect their work.
Three weeks earlier, Jeff’s Circuit City boss had sent him home for being drunk, giving him an official warning. Ever sensitive, Jeff had sunk into a depression, fearing that his job was now in jeopardy and he would soon be unemployed.
After getting up late, the brothers settled down on the settee, wearing identical white T-shirts and faded jeans, to watch the first Falcons game. They began knocking back Budweisers as they argued about the finer points of the game.
By late afternoon, between games, Greg ordered Jeff to the kitchen to prepare him a meal of shrimp and fried potatoes and bring more beer. They were already drunk as they ate together and began watching the second football game. When it was over they watched a couple of movies on their betamax recorder, chugging back beer after beer.
It was one a.m. when they turned off the television and began debating Jeff’s fanciful new theory for a revolutionary source of power. Through a haze of alcohol, Jeff enthusiastically explained that the power would be 99 percent efficient and pollution-free. Greg started laughing at him, calling him a dumb-ass imbecile and a moron.
When Jeff told his brother that he had a right to his theory, Greg turned violent, viciously lashing out at his twin.
“[He started] hitting me and cursing me,” Jeff would later testify. “He knocked me out of my chair to the floor and pulled me up by the hair.”
Greg suddenly ran to his bedroom, and Jeff’s first thought was that he was going for the loaded shotgun that he always kept by the bed. Fearing for his life, Jeff ran into the other bedroom to get his own gun to defend himself.
Jeff felt a rush of adrenaline as he rushed toward Greg’s room, smashing the door open with the barrel of his gun. Inside, Greg was lying flat out on the bed, drunk.
All Jeff’s years of ridicule and torment suddenly came to a head as the twins had their final confrontation.
Their eyes met briefly as everything seemed to go into slow motion. Jeff screamed out, “Take this!” shooting his brother in the chest at point-blank range. Greg stared at Jeff in stunned disbelief as his chest exploded, his lungs splattering out over the bedroom wall. On hearing the shotgun blast and seeing the flash, Jeff went into shock. Then his nightmare began. He couldn’t believe that he had actually pulled the trigger on his brother. He felt himself being separated and torn in two. It was as if the shotgun blast had ripped his very molecules apart. He knew he would never be the same again.
Then he dashed out of the bedroom and into the hall to try and calm down, as the full horror of what he had done sank in.
“I threw my gun away and went back in,” he would tell homicide detectives several hours later. “I saw Greg lying on the bed.”
In a mad moment of desperation, Jeff screamed as he jumped on top of his dying brother, begging him not to die and leave him alone. He used his palm to try and stem the bright red blood oozing from the wound, but it was too late. Greg died in his twin brother’s arms, with one blazing eye still open.
“I started screaming and yelling,” said Jeff. “I saw he was wounded and I shook him and tore open his shirt.”
In a frantic attempt to bring him back to life, Jeff began giving Greg mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. For five long, agonizing minutes he tried unsuccessfully to breathe life back into his twin.
With tears running down his face into his brother’s blood, Jeff looked at his brother’s one gazing eye; a demented stare that would haunt him forever. Finally he couldn’t take it anymore and closed the eye, screamed and ran barefoot out of the apartment.
Jumping in his car, Jeff drove off to find a pay phone to call his mother for help. It was two in the morning and Ma Henry was asleep when the telephone by her bed started ringing. When it wouldn’t stop she picked it up to receive the shocking news.
But, though Ma Henry had managed to rescue her son from schoolboy scrapes to unemployment, poverty and eviction in the past, murder was something she would not be able to save him from.
“Mom, my God, my God, I’ve killed Greg,” sobbed her tearful son into the phone at a nearby Citgo gas station.
Oblivious to the freezing temperatures, he stood under a streetlight covered in his brother’s blood and tearfully told Ma Henry what had happened.
“I tried to revive him, Ma,” he cried. “I gave him CPR, Ma. I did everything I could. He’s dead, Ma, he’s dead.”
Remaining calm, Ma asked him if he was certain his brother was dead. When Jeff said that he was, Ma told him to stay put while she called the police. She promised that she would then come and meet him at the filling station and look after him.
After reassuring him that everything would be all right, she put down the phone and called the police.
Later, Ma would admit that she was not surprised about what had happened; in fact, she had even been expecting it.
“There you go—I knew this would happen,” she would say philosophically.
At 2:31 a.m. Douglas County Police Officer Mike Hicks drove into the Citgo station and found Jeff Henry waiting by the pay phone. His white T-shirt and faded blue jeans were covered in blood and he had a grotesque reddish-brown circle around his mouth, making him resemble a circus clown. With his hand on his gun, Hicks approached Jeff and asked him what had happened.
“I killed my brother,” he sobbed. “It was self-defense. He had a rifle and he shot at me so I shot him with a shotgun.”
Hicks could smell the alcohol on Jeff’s breath as he handcuffed and searched him. Then he asked Jeff to get into the police car and direct him to his Sweetwater Creek apartment to find Greg. Shaking with terror, Jeff said that he would do anything to help.
During the short drive, Officer Hicks radioed for back-up and they were met outside the apartment by Lieutenant Eddie Morris. Hicks stayed in the police car with Jeff while Lieutenant Morris went into the Henry brothers’ apartment to investigate.
Carefully threading his way through the scores of empty beer cans littering the front room, Morris entered the bedroom to find Greg’s body lying on the bed next to his Rutger .22 shotgun. He was stripped to the waist and Morris could see the gaping gunshot wound in his chest. When he failed to get a pulse and found no signs of breathing, he radioed headquarters that they had a probable homicide on their hands.
Checking the rest of the apartment, Morris saw Jeff’s recently fired shotgun lying on the bed in the other bedroom and found a spent shell on the bathroom floor. He also noticed a large hole in Greg’s bedroom door caused by Jeff’s shotgun barrel.
Back at the station, Jeff was read his Miranda rights and arrested for the murder of his twin brother. He immediately confessed to killing Greg, telling detectives that it was self-defense after Greg had shot at him four times.
In a videotaped confession after the arrest, Jeff claimed he hadn’t known his Mossberg shotgun was loaded and that he was merely trying to frighten Greg. As the video camera rolled, Jeff sat bowed over a long Formica table as he kept staring at his still-bloody hands in total disbelief.
“I just killed my twin brother,” he sobbed nervously. “Look at me! I have my brother’s blood all over me.”
Although Jeff swore he was telling the “honest truth,” when detectives later examined Greg’s blood-soaked semi-automatic rifle, they found no bullets in the chamber and determined that it had not been fired.
“He shot at me four times,” Jeff still insisted. “He’s done that in the past. This time I just clicked. I showed him my gun—boastfully—and basically I just shot him accidentally. I honestly didn’t know the gun was loaded.”
At 5:35 a.m. Ma Henry and her second-eldest son Mike backed up Jeff’s story, telling homicide detectives about the twins’ violent relationship. Both expressed amazement that the victimized Jeff had killed his bullying twin and not the other way around.
They said that Greg had often fired at his twin brother in anger and his uncontrollable temper was exacerbated by heavy drinking. But they explained that although Greg ill-treated Jeff, the twins were completely dependent on each other.
“They were so close,” Ma told police. “They were just like one person speaking to you. I’ve lost two sons, for the time being. I want one of them back.”
As he awaited his murder trial in Douglas County Jail, Jeff’s lawyers prepared to use the “battered wife syndrome” as his main line of defense. This was the first time this defense would be used in Georgia in a case not involving a husband and wife, and it set such a precedent that it would take years to bring the case to trial.
Devastated by the family murder, Ma Henry found herself in an impossible, heartbreaking situation as she stood squarely behind Jeff, defending him against his dead twin. She even came to court offering to put up her home as surety to bail Jeff out of prison until his trial, but was turned down by a judge.
“I’m the victim’s mother and the defendant’s mother,” she told reporters. “I’m caught in the middle. All I can do is stand behind my one son and support him.”
And at Greg’s funeral she urged family and friends to say a prayer for Jeff, saying that he needed all the help he could get.
In the months after Greg’s murder a team of psychiatrists and experts visited Douglas County Jail to examine Jeff and determine his state of mind. Psychologist Dr. Dennis L. Herendeen met Jeff for a series of interviews in the visitors’ room in the jail house. Throughout the sessions Jeff fidgeted, appearing defensive in his answers.
Saying that he experienced deep feelings of guilt about Greg’s death, Jeff told doctors that he had fallen into a depression since the killing. He said he feared having a nervous breakdown and had suffered severe anxiety attacks and nervous rashes in jail and couldn’t sleep.
“I’m badly in need of a vacation,” he told Dr. Herendeen.
Tests showed that Jeff had below-average intelligence with an IQ level of just seventy-five.
“He is a warm, quiet individual who is fairly eager to please,” wrote Dr. Herendeen in his report to the court.
Jeff opened up to Dr. Herendeen, admitting being shy and having an inferiority complex. He described his relationship with Greg as “troubled,” saying that he had turned to religion and looked for God’s forgiveness.
“[Jeff] appears extremely dependent and submissive,” wrote Dr. Herendeen. “He passively allows others to assume responsibility for major areas of his life because of an extreme desire to please them and inability to function independently.”
The psychologist found that Jeff had little self-direction, looking to Greg for a sense of identity and purpose. He had built up his twin brother as the stronger, smarter, more competent one, seeking his protection and shelter from the hardships of life. Rather than running the risk of being alone, Jeff had eagerly allowed Greg to enslave him and become his master.
“He may allow himself to be intimidated and abused rather than assert himself for fear of being even worse off alone,” wrote Dr. Herendeen.
It took almost three-and-a-half years for Jeff to go on trial for his brother’s murder. During the long months in jail Jeff read comics and prayed, desperately trying to come to terms with killing his brother. Ma Henry visited him every week without fail, trying to bolster his sagging morale as he slowly became acclimated to institutionalization.
He had constant nightmares and the only peace he found was when he dreamed of Greg and the good times they had once had as children.
“We play together and we have so much fun,” he would recall, a rare smile coming to his thin, bony face. “Those are the only good dreams I have, because we’re together again.”
On Monday, April 17, 1995, soon after his fortieth birthday, Jeff Henry arrived in court in heavy shackles to defend himself against the charge of murdering his twin brother. One of his attorneys, Bruce Harvey, had spent three years preparing the defense, which was a twist on the battered-wife syndrome.
“It isn’t just women who are battered,” explained Harvey before the trial began. “There are siblings.”
He brought in a clinical social worker, who was an expert on emotional abuse, to testify that Jeff suffered from battered-wife syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder.
But prosecutor Beau McClain disagreed, saying it was a clear-cut case of murder.
“The question is not whether Greg Henry deserved what he got or even if he brought it on himself,” said McClain. “The question is whether Jeff Henry had a legal right to take his brother’s life.”
McClain told the jury that Greg was killed in a “drunken fury,” pointing out that Greg’s shotgun had never been fired, as Jeff still claimed.
In a moment of high drama, the Henry matriarch defiantly took the stand to defend one twin son against the other. Wearing a pink jacket and constantly dabbing her eyes with a handkerchief, Ma carfully told the court how Greg could become a monster, saying even she had been scared of his vicious temper.
“Greg would normally be just as sweet and kind as Jeff,” she sobbed. “But when he would reach a certain point in his [beer] consumption, he would just get ballistic.”
She recounted a night when he had gotten drunk at her house and she’d implored him not to drive home until he had sobered up.
“He got up from the recliner and he pushed me,” she recounted. “And he said, ‘Get out of my way, I’m going.’ Well Greg had never hit me before.”
Then she spoke about the strange, tortured relationship her sons had had since childhood.
“They loved each other more than any kind of love I’ve ever seen,” said Ma. “It was like one identity in two bodies.”
It was riveting testimony and when Ma came off the stand, one of the defense lawyers told her it was one of the best courtroom performances he had ever witnessed.
The emotionally charged trial sent tempers boiling over on both sides. Bruce Harvey was even jailed twice by the judge for contempt of court after losing his temper.
The three-week trial ended in a hung jury and was finally declared a mistrial. Half the jury held out for acquittal, publicly declaring that Jeff should be released so he wouldn’t have to go through another trial.
A month later Jeff Henry returned to Douglas County Court to request bail so he could live with his mother until his second trial. To focus attention on her son’s plight, Ma organized a rally on the courthouse lawn for thirty friends and family. She tied yellow ribbons around the trees and made placards, demanding Jeff’s release.
With heavy coverage of his first trial in the local newspaper, there was great sympathy for Jeff in the community. And during the lunchtime recess his supporters gathered on the lawn outside the courthouse where a picnic of barbecue sandwiches and deviled eggs was served under an oak tree bedecked in yellow ribbons.
Ma Henry and Jeff were totally unaware that prosecutors and the defense were spending their lunch time at a secret meeting to hammer out a plea bargain. And as they agreed that, if Jeff would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter to be freed on time served, Ma Henry was running through the court building, searching for the defense team.
“Where’s the attorney?” she cried. “What is going on?”
When court resumed after lunch a shackled Jeff stood arm-in-arm with his mother before Judge Robert James, still hoping for bail.
The judge, who had watched the picnic outside with disapproval, told Ma that it harked back to an era when trials drew entertainment-hungry crowds.
Jeff’s face visibly dropped as he gripped Ma Henry’s arm even tighter, convinced that he would now have to spend many more months behind bars until his new trial date.
And it wasn’t until the judge patiently explained the plea-bargain deal that it dawned on the Henrys that Jeff would be free immediately if he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge.
Jeff instantly agreed and was sentenced to ten years, then released on time served. But Judge James gave him a stern warning to stay away from any alcohol or face a new jail term.
Five minutes later Jeff hesitantly walked out of the courtroom looking bewildered, clutching an orange garbage bag with his belongings in his right hand. Alongside was his jubilant mother, triumphantly tossing roses to her cheering supporters.
A flock of reporters descended on the courtroom steps as Jeff savored his first breath of freedom since the night of Greg’s death. Dorothy Smith, one of the jurors convinced of his innocence in his first trial, rushed up the steps to hug him, boasting that she had been one of those to force the mistrial.
Jeff blinked nervously as his tired, greenish-blue eyes adapted to the bright sunlight and flashing cameras, and he tried to express his emotions to the press.
“I’m going to start all over,” he said. Suddenly Ma Henry was overcome by the emotion of the moment and burst into tears.
“You’re the best mother in the world,” Jeff told her, hugging her tightly. “My mother and my family got me through this.”
Although Jeff might have been legally free, he was still imprisoned by nightmarish memories of the night that he killed Greg. He moved into his mother’s Roswell house and tried to adapt to the outside world, but without Greg his life would never be the same.
In the four years since the trial, hardly an hour goes by when Jeff doesn’t think about his dead twin.
Ma Henry, now a feisty seventy-nine years old, takes care of him, but he rarely leaves her house as he suffers from agoraphobia—a fear of open spaces. He hardly eats Ma’s home cooking, which he—and Greg—once enthusiastically devoured. He has lost sixty pounds and his tall, thin body is emaciated. He no longer drinks beer, existing on a constant diet of Coca-Cola.
Although Jeff is now forty-four years old, his mother treats him like a little boy. And there is always Greg’s ghost in the background of everything they do.
“He was my life,” declared Greg in early 1998, as he tried to explain the twins’ twisted relationship, by an open fireplace in his mother’s front room. “He was me. The only reason we fought was that I wasn’t him. He would get angry at my weaknesses. He wanted me to be more like him.”
Mother and son live together locked in an unspoken guilt about Greg’s death, which is always referred to as “an accident.”
Ma admits that she doesn’t know what really happened between the twins that fateful night, and probably never will.
“Jeff has never had the courage to tell me,” she says, adding that she has never asked him.
“I just know that he’s my son and I love him. I lost one son. I wasn’t going to lose another. I’m a survivor [and] you do what you have to do to get by.”
Copyright © 1999 by John Glatt.