Attorneys paint two sides of Hankins couple

Prosecution, defense give opening statements in Hankins murder trial

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Cynthia Hankins

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Terry Hankins

Attorneys for the prosecution and defense painted different portraits of a man accused of first-degree murder and his wife, who he is charged with killing in June 2007.

Hankins, 72, of Craig, is charged with first-degree murder, a Class 1 felony, and abuse of a corpse, a Class 2 misdemeanor, in connection with the death of his wife, Cynthia Hankins, 34, also of Craig.

Terry Hankins killed his wife in self-defense, said Scott Troxell, a public defender in the case.

In contrast, Jeremy Snow, deputy district attorney for the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office, told the jury Terry Hankins killed his wife because she refused to have sex with him.

Troxell's case was thus:

On June 2, 2007, the day before Cynthia Hankins' death, Terry Hankins came home to find his wife cooking barbecue, Troxell said. However, she said she wasn't making it for him.

According to the public defender, Cynthia Hankins took the food to someone else's house and never returned that night.

Terry Hankins was used to this kind of treatment, Troxell said, which included a pattern of adultery that spanned Terry and Cynthia's five-month marriage.

"At some level, he understood," he said about Terry Hankins. "He understood that when a young woman moves from Texas to Craig, Colo., to marry a 70-year-old man, it might not be with the purest of intentions."

The next day, when Cynthia Hankins came home and the two were in bed together, Troxell said Terry got irritated when Cynthia didn't want him to touch her.

"That's when Terry made his final mistake," Troxell said. "He talked back to her."

The defense attorney went on to say Cynthia Hankins picked up a fan, one she had used to beat Terry with before, and hit him several times, knocking him down.

"He knew if he did not defend himself, he would be dead," Troxell said. "It was not a cold, calculated decision. It was a mental, instinctual reaction to kill or be killed."

Snow also said Cynthia Hankins not only had a reputation for having a temper, but she also was a felon with a marijuana habit who cheated on her husband repeatedly.

However, Snow said it was Terry Hankins who was the initial aggressor the night of Cynthia's death. He killed her because after everything he put up with, she decided she wouldn't have sex with him anymore, the prosecutor said.

Her declaration came after Terry Hankins gave his wife about $65,000 during the time they knew each other, Snow said, starting with a car to drive from Texas to Colorado, and including a diamond ring for each of her 10 fingers.

The deputy district attorney added he would show the jury recorded statements made by Terry about that night, one in which Terry says he first kicked her off the bed, and another in which he says he rolled over and choked her unconscious before any physical altercation.

Snow also questioned whether self-defense was a reasonable conclusion, given Terry Hankins' statements that he hit Cynthia Hankins in the head twice with a crowbar after choking her, and then used a pillow to smother her face.

Those acts show a calculated decision to kill her after she was made defenseless, Snow said.

Terry Hankins then dismembered her body and buried it on a gold claim he owned north of Craig, along with some of her belongings, Snow added.

Three months later, after confessing that he killed Cynthia Hankins, Terry Hankins showed law enforcement officials where her remains were buried.

The first witness the prosecution called after opening statements said she saw and heard Terry Hankins take boxes, garbage bags and a large object wrapped in either a rug or towel out to his van the night of Cynthia Hankins' death.

Julie Wernsman lived in the apartment below Terry and Cynthia Hankins at the time, and said she heard the couple fight that night before hearing a series of loud bangs, then footsteps, more bangs, silence, and finally Terry Hankins packing things into his van.

The second witness was Cynthia Hankins' mother, Willie Faye Runnels, who came to Craig from Fort Worth for the trial.

On cross-examination, public defender Sheryl Uhlmann, also representing Terry, questioned her about several previous incidents involving Cynthia and her aggressive nature.

Those included about nine separate run-ins with law enforcement from 1990 to 2003, up until Cynthia Hankins was sentenced to a Texas prison for striking a man in the face with an ashtray.

In each of the separate incidents, Runnels denied her daughter did what was contained in the police reports, said she lied to police about what happened, or said she didn't remember.

Collin Smith can be reached at 875-1794 or cesmith@craigdailypress.com.

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