Amy Weidner

As I watched this case being discussed on an episode of 48 Hours recently I kept asking myself why I did not know this case, although the more I saw the picture of Amy Weidner I was convinced that I had in fact seen it several times.  I should have been very familiar and followed this case over the years.... why?  I lived in the same town as she did, Indianapolis, and although I went to a different high school she was close to my age.  Then I looked at the date and realized that although I have always, even at that age, tried to stay on top of the news, I had just entered my senior year of high school and with in a few days I started dating a guy I would eventually marry... and divorce.  It is possible that I have just blocked out that entire period of my life :).  

At any rate on the day of November 13, 1989, sixteen year old Amy Weidner was home from school because her two year old daughter was sick.  Her mother, Gloria, had attempted to call her several times during the morning to check up on her but got no answer.  At some point Gloria decided to call a neighbor and ask them to knock on the door.  When the neighbor also did not receive an answer Gloria became worried and headed home from work.  What she found still haunts her today.  When Gloria entered her daughters room she found her beaten and no longer breathing.  There was apparently blood everywhere. Amy's daughter, Emily, seemed unharmed.

As with many of the cases that I blog about, this one came about before DNA was the staple in criminal cases that it is today so catching the killer was not easy and in fact took nearly 23 years to do so. So, in 1989, what did the investigators know?  First they discovered that a rather expensive stereo system belonging to Amy's brother John-Paul had been stolen.  They also found a bloody hand print that they were sure belonged to their perpetrator. They also discovered that not only was Amy beaten but she was also strangled and sexually assaulted.  While apparently the Weidner family believed that this had to be a case in which a stranger had entered the home, investigators thought there had to be a connection with the stolen stereo.  They say, or at least they do now anyway, that they thought it had to be a friend of John-Paul's... someone who knew about the stereo.  The initial investigation had them interviewing many teenagers, including Emily's biological father.  They appeared to have cleared everyone and as time went on the leads were less and less.

Then in 2012 someone created a Facebook page dedicated to Amy's memory. Amy's case had fallen into the cold case file and while it was not necessarily being actively worked on one of the cold case detectives had come across this Facebook page.  The detective involved did not know a lot about social media or how those things worked so he contacted an officer named Bill Carter.  Carter worked a lot with social media in his Nuisance and Abatement Unit.  Although the 48 Hours episode did attempt to explain exactly what Carter's unit does, I did a cursory search to see if I could understand and then explain it better. Basically those in the Nuisance and Abatement Unit enforce city codes and ordinances.  They do things get property owners of blighted houses, or people with a large amount of animals that may be a nuisance to the neighborhood.  They also sometimes use social media to for instance determine when and where a large party is planned so they can be ahead of the game.  As most of us know, some people are just more open about things on social media than they may be with authorities so it has become a useful tool in many areas of law enforcement.  Bill Carter helped the detective by printing off the Facebook page and giving a little instruction but Carter also became intrigued with Amy's case and although not a detective himself, or assigned to the case, he took it upon himself to read up on Amy's file and look into the case.  He was quoted later as saying that when he interviewed Gloria and saw that she had lost hope of her daughter's case being solved, instead of discouraging him in his efforts he decided he would dig deeper himself and hopefully be able to bring a solution to this family.  

In the preceding twenty three years Gloria had not only continued to raise her other two children, John-Paul and Cassie, who were also teenagers when Amy was murdered, but she had also officially adopted Emily and raised her as her own.  Emily has stated that while she pretty much always knew that biologically Gloria was her grandmother and John-Paul and Cassie her uncle and aunt, she looks at them as her mother, brother and sister.  She remembers nothing of her mother or of that day. It does not seem that Gloria or Emily expected much at first from Bill Carter.

Carter in the meantime decided to basically start from scratch with the case.  He began interviewing neighbors and people who had been friends with the teenage Weidner children at the time of Amy's murder.  Someone mentioned the name of Rodney Denk.  While Carter and other investigators say they had not heard of this name before others claim that he had been mentioned, if not early on, at least in the preceding years and his name had appeared in the file. One officer, who had worked the case indicated that Denk may have simply been overlooked as they had many people they had looked at.  Rodney Denk had been a friend of John-Paul's so he matched the profile they were looking for and initially Carter just simply wanted to interview him.  He found out Denk was living with his mother and had also discovered that Denk had been arrested for theft in 1997 so his fingerprints were on file with IAFIS.  Carter went to Denk's mothers house but he was not home and so he left his number.  Later that day Denk called and they planned a meeting for in a few days.  Rodney Denk did not show up for the meeting and it was discovered that he had stopped going to his job, had rented a car and had suddenly stopped staying with his mother.  In fact, one report says that his girlfriend of the time filed a missing person's report a few days later.  It was during this time that information came back linking Denk to the bloody hand print found in the Weidner home. Although Denk's behavior had obviously raised the antenna of Bill Carter the hand print proved things to him. Denk was not going to come in easily though.  Officers did find him but he held them in a stand off and apparently, or at least wanted the officers to believe, attempted suicide as he cut his wrists (some reports say he may have slightly cut his throat also but no serious injury occurred there apparently, as well as he may have taken some over the counter sleeping medication).  Once in custody Rodney Denk appeared to eventually confess.  I say "appeared" because he apparently kept changing his story as to who was involved and possibly the motive.  

In the end Denk entered a plea deal with prosecutors and received a 65 year prison sentence (50 years for the murder and 15 years for rape) but apparently prosecutors may not believe it to be completely solved.  While DNA was not available in 1989 it has obviously in the years since and several reports say that semen recovered from the scene does not match Denk.  Throughout his confessions Denk would never name another suspect but at some points indicated that there was someone else, although he eventually settled on a story that stated he and he alone committed the crime even though forensics tell another story.  Rumors are that someone, although I never found a name associated with this person had confessed to someone else in the preceding years to raping Amy and being at the scene, although claimed to have not murdered her.  From a layman's standpoint it is hard to determine based on the information given if I believe Rodney Denk acted alone or not.  I am unsure that the semen makes a difference or not as I do not have enough information as to where it was found at the crime scene.  Not to victim bash but she was a teenage girl, who obviously, at least in the past had been sexual active. Teenagers often keep secrets and maybe she had been sexually active earlier that day or in the days preceding her death. I am just uncertain as to if the simple presence of semen at the scene says for sure that another person was involved.  One thing I did find interesting about the prosecution theory was that from the beginning they claimed that they believed, as investigators at the start did also, that Amy's brothers stereo was the motive for Rodney Denk entering the home.  They went on to claim that Denk did not realize that Amy was home that day and likely assumed that like most other school days she was not home. However, they went on to claim that Denk entered the home with some sort of pipe and this is what he used to beat Amy with after she had confronted him. Taking the pipe, for me anyway, indicates that he suspected he may have encountered someone inside the home, or at the very least was prepared in case he did.  

After twenty-three years the Weidner family were stunned.  This was not the stranger that they expected.  Denk had been a family friend; he had attended Amy's funeral and had often visited the home before and after the murder.  They stated at sentencing they were still coming to terms with the fact that this was someone they knew and trusted. They, and apparently the judge, praised Bill Carter for his work.  It was said that he was later offered the job of detective but that he turned it down although I cannot officially confirm this.

So it would seem that this would end the case of Amy Weidner and Rodney Denk, but there was a twist that was discovered during the investigation. Rodney Denk was 18 years old when he murdered Amy Weidner.  A few years after her murder he fathered a child. It was said that Rodney Denk did not have a lot of contact with his son, Dillon Ray.  By 2009, three years before Rodney's arrest, Dillon Ray was living with his mom in Owensboro Kentucky. By this point apparently the only real record that Rodney had was the 1997 theft arrest that had eventually caught him for Amy's murder. But, on July 24, 2009 Dillon Ray apparently took a baseball bat and beat his own mother, Mary McHenry, to death.  He was seventeen at the time, one year younger than his dad had been when he committed murder but no-one knew that yet.  Reports say that at some point, apparently while he was awaiting trial his lawyer asked that Dillon be released into the care of his father, Rodney, but the judge denied it. In May of 2001 Dillon Ray accepted his own plea deal and received a sentence of twenty years.  Initially apparently the deal was for 25 (or was it 30?) which included not just the murder charge but charges of theft (he stole his mother's car after the crime) and tampering with evidence (he had hid the murder weapon) but the judge reduced it to 20 years supposedly on the grounds that he had been abused by his mother.  Upon searching this it was supposedly well known that his mother abused him (although I cannot confirm officially) and at least one person has claimed that they reported this to school officials before the murder. Some credence I suppose should be given to this claim since the judge apparently believed it to be true.  So while Rodney Denk sits in a prison cell in Northeastern Indiana with an earliest possible release date of 2044, his son, Dillon, sits in a cell in a Western Kentucky prison.  While I am a little more familiar with the Indiana Inmate site than I am for the one in Kentucky, it appears that Dillon faces a parole hearing in July of 2017 yet his "minimum good time release date" says November of 2022.  It also states that his maximum release date would be July of 2029, fifteen years before his father.

In my research it seems rare (although I have heard of a few) to find a father and son both in prison for unrelated murders.  I am sure that it opens up the discussion of nature vs nurture debate.  Some would likely argue that Dillon Denk murdered his mother because it was "in his genes" while I am sure there are just as many others who would say that the apparent abuse he suffered was the reason for murder.  I am unsure that this debate will ever be officially settled.

Comments

  1. I'm sure you mean well but as someone who is really close to this case I wish people would quit writing about this. I know first hand the abuse this child endured. He had his hea split open with a beer bottle, he was beat in the back with a broom stick and those children had to scrape for food. Please get all of the facts before you write a speculative blog..

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    1. A lot of kids endure some form of abuse but they don't KILL THEIR MOTHER!!! If he hadn't killed her he would have killed someone else. But thanks for taking time out of your normal schedule of protesting OJ Simpson's guilt.

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    2. The author did indicate she couldn't confirm a lot if her information. If you were so close to the case and knew a lot about the abuse, why didn't you do something about it?

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  2. I am always open to hearing and making more facts available so that is never an issue here. I am confused as you say "this child" and use the pronoun "he" yet you do not say who you are speaking of. Are you speaking of Rodney? Are you saying that he suffered abuse so we should excuse the fact he went into someone's home and murdered them? Or are we talking of his son, Dillon? While as I stated I welcome any fact or information that you would like to share to be fair, the child abuse in reference to this blog in my opinion plays no role, regardless of who you are speaking of. This blog was about the Amy Weidner case. Maybe one day I will blog about Dillon's case... and if you are speaking of him suffering child abuse than I am sure I would find it and also report it. Would it make a difference in that one? Maybe but since this one was not about Dillon I only referenced his charges and conviction.

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    1. She is referring to Dillon. It is well known that he was abused by his mother. Sadly, the people who should have helped him, let him down.

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    2. And no, abuse is not an excuse for mjrder, but it is a viable explanation. And if this blog is about the Amy Weidner case, then Dillon Ray is irrelevant here. He apparently didn't know or associate with his father, so speculating about his motives for murder is tabloid-esque ridiculousness.

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  3. in 2009 Dillon killed his mother, but accepted plea deal
    in May 2001 for 20 years. was that supposed to be 2011?

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  4. I am a 50 yr. old female speaking up because I to was physically, mentally, and sexually abused as a young child! If there was a legal agency or educated caring adult to "TELL" of my abuse during the years of 1973-1978, at that time I was not aware! I am not sure if this was of geographical problematic nature or not. I grew up in extremely rural Western Kentucky. All that comes to my memory during those horid years of abuse was that as a child I was told by my "UNCLE" who was my abuser, to "NOT TELL!" and so I did as I was told and "DIDN'T TELL!" My point to my comment is that I KNOW being abused is NO EXCUSE for abusing another no matter what life brings your way! I WAS BLESSED BY GOD TO HAVE BORN AND RAISED 3 YOUNG MEN THAT HAVE ALWAYS DONE NOTHING BUT MAKE ME PROUD TO BE THEIR MOTHER! JUST AS MY HEAVENLY FATHER LOVES ME UNCONDITIONALLY I TO LOVE MY 3 SONS UNCONDITIONALLY! THE THOUGHT OF ABUSING THEM AS THEY GREW UP LITERALLY SICKENS ME TO DEATH! CHOOSING THE PATH OF EVIL AND CONTINUAL ABUSE THROUGHOUT FUTURE GENERATIONS IS A CHOICE! YOU YOURSELF MAKES THE CHOICE TO BE THE "VICTIM" OR "THE VICTOR" I CHOSE GOD AND TOGETHER HE CREATED A LOVE IN MY HEART AND A HEAVENLY, HEALTHTY, BOND FOR MY OWN CHILDREN THAT BROKE THE EVILNESS OF MY CHILDHOOD ABUSE! IF I CHOSE THIS LIFE PATH SO CAN ANYONE!

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  5. There was a case in Oregon where a father and at least two other members of his family committed murder. I can't remember if it was his son and grandson or stepson and nephew. Last name Weaver.

    I do know it's very easy for an abuser to convince their victims not to tell. The perpetrator simply has to tell them they will kill the person the victim loves most if they tell. It works Every time.

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