Judge denies plea deal in ‘horrendous’ kidnapping, robbery

Published 5:08 pm Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Chilton County judge on Wednesday rejected a plea deal involving two Moulton men and ordered the case go to trial after a victim testified about the horrors of being robbed and kidnapped in Thorsby on Easter Sunday in 2013.

“This is the most horrendous thing I have ever heard in my time on the bench,” Chilton County Circuit Judge Ben A. Fuller told the court after hearing one of the victims testify about her experiences.

“I can hardly talk,” he said. “If this were a movie script, no one would believe it.”

Donna Henderson gave a detailed and chilling account of being robbed and kidnapped by Scotty Ray Smith, 35, and Panagiotis Jerome Theodoroy, 34.

They were accused of breaking into the home of 94-year-old Charles Dunlap, who lived on Third Street in Thorsby, on March 31, 2013, and robbing him.

The two men were scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday morning after both entered guilty pleas in October to charges of robbery in the second degree.

In exchange for the guilty pleas to an amended charge of robbery in the second degree, prosecutors agreed to dismiss four counts including three counts of kidnapping in the second degree and one count of robbery in the first degree for both Smith and Theodoroy.

Fuller allowed Donna Henderson to speak to the court before Theodoroy’s sentencing.

In the hushed courtroom, she spoke about stopping by Dunlap’s home with her husband, Tim, to check on the elderly man who was terminally ill with cancer.

The visit happened during the robbery, she testified.

The three victims were then held at gunpoint with the two men tied up, and Donna Henderson was forced to go to her home on Jones Street to give the men money. She was later dropped off in a rural area of Calera.

Donna Henderson told the judge she was a caretaker for Dunlap who she called “Papa Charlie” and had stopped by his home to check on him after he had previously called her that morning to say he did not feel well.

“It was rainy and cold that day, and he called to tell me he didn’t feel well,” Henderson said. “When me and Tim got to the house, there was a white SUV in the driveway with no license plate. I assumed it was a nurse. When we entered the home, we found Papa Charlie bound and he was crying and shaking.”

Donna Henderson said once she and Tim Henderson entered the home, the two men with “large handguns appeared.”

“They gained entrance to the home after posing as preachers,” Donna Henderson said.

“They kept making threats they were going to kill me or my daughter. I just kept praying the whole time.”

Henderson said after telling the two men there was no money in Dunlap’s home, she was instructed to “walk casually” to the car outside, and the two men drove her home to get money from a safe.

After the three left Henderson’s home, they continued to drive with her in the car until finding a remote location in Calera to leave her.

“I closed my eyes and told the Lord that if today was the day I was going to die, to please keep my family safe,” Henderson said, wiping tears from her eyes. “I didn’t know where I was, and Theodoroy asked me to give him my driver’s license and told me they had a police scanner in their car so they would know if I went to the police. He also made me give him my telephone number and told me that if I received any calls from a ‘205’ number I was to answer,” she said.

Once Smith and Theodoroy dropped Henderson off, she said she walked in the rain to a location near Alabama Highway 25 where she knocked on a stranger’s door to seek help.

“I knew I could not call the police, but a lady answered the door and I told her I had been robbed and kidnapped and needed to make a phone call,” Henderson said. “The only number I could remember from my memory was the number of a family friend who I called to come and get me. I knew I needed to get back to Papa Charlie’s house.”

Henderson was able to return to Dunlap’s home and locate both Tim Henderson and Dunlap, who had not been seriously injured.

Dunlap passed away several weeks later, after the crime occurred.

“I have to ask how anyone can be so cruel and heartless to do something like this,” Henderson said. “It was heartbreaking to see this precious man suffer after he lived with a tremendous amount of fear leading up to his death. I now live each day behind bolted doors, and simple things like going to the grocery store is difficult for me. I can’t shower if I am home alone. This has affected my entire family. These two men have taken from me my sense of security, and I want to stop being afraid.”

After Donna Henderson’s testimony, an emotional Fuller set aside the guilty plea, revoked Theodoroy’s bond, and set the case for trial.

Prior to Donna Henderson’s testimony, several individuals supporting Theodoroy addressed Fuller on behalf of Theodoroy including Theodoroy’s pastor from Moulton Church of God.

“During the time I have known [Theodoroy], he has been faithful,” the pastor said. “He is very remorseful. I have seen nothing but great character out of him.”

Theodoroy’s defense attorney told Fuller that his client has a wife and three children, and works a full-time job.

After Fuller ordered the case to trial and revoked Theodoroy’s bond, Theodoroy was escorted out of the courtroom and taken into custody.

Fuller then called Smith, the co-defendant in the case, to the stand.

Smith’s defense attorney told Fuller that Smith took responsibility for what he did and allegedly told Theodoroy they should “stop what they were doing.”

“We need to have a trial,” Fuller said. “All the evidence needs to be presented so that a jury can decide, but a nine-year sentence you are asking me to accept is just not going to cut it. I couldn’t live with myself for allowing a nine-year sentence to be imposed after hearing the testimony we just heard from one of the victims.”

Fuller then rejected Smith’s guilty plea and revoked Smith’s bond, pending trial.

Smith was also escorted out of the courtroom and taken into custody.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no trial date set, according to court records.