Chesterton Tribune

Florida man sentenced in killing of Liberty resident

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An Orlando, Fla., man who admitted bludgeoning Liberty Township resident Robert Verboom to death in November 2002 will spend the next 20 years of his life at least behind bars.

Chad Henry, 20, was sentenced on Tuesday to 45 years in prison by Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper, with five years of that sentence suspended. He will be eligible for parole after completing half, or 20 years, of that term.

Verboom’s badly decomposed body was found by his daughter Dec. 14, 2002, in his trailer in the Whispering Sands Mobile Home Park at 71 W. U.S. Highway 6. Henry was arrested three days later by authorities in Florida, extradited to Porter County, and charged with murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison.

In December, however, Henry agreed to plead guilty to a reduced charge of voluntary manslaughter with a deadly weapon, a Class A felony punishable by a term of 20 to 50 years in prison.

Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Blair Todd characterized the deal as a “plead and argue,” under which Henry admitted killing Verboom in exchange for a minimum term of 20 years, with the balance of the sentence to be determined by Harper following arguments by Todd and Henry’s attorney, public defender Matt Soliday. In the end Harper slapped Henry with very nearly the maximum sentence.

Todd told the Chesterton Tribune that Henry—who had been living with Verboom, 50, after the two met while both were employed by Area Tree Service—admitted to bludgeoning Verboom to death on the evening of Nov. 23, 2002, with a weapon which investigators never succeeded in recovering. Henry first described that weapon as a pipe or possibly a jack handle but then later identified it as a hammer, Todd said.

Todd noted that Henry’s version of the events leading to Verboom’s death is inconsistent as well. On the one hand, Todd said, Henry told investigators that, after rooming with Verboom for several weeks, he had decided to return to Florida and was packing for the trip when Verboom asked him to stay and then made a homosexual advance; Henry reacted violently, according to that version of the events, Verboom attacked him in turn, and Henry responded by beating him with the weapon. On the other hand, Todd said, Henry told the court on Tuesday that he did not believe Verboom to be homosexual and in fact had no reason to think so.

In any case, Todd said, no evidence was ever recovered to corroborate Henry’s initial claim about Verboom.

The case broke quickly, after investigators with the Porter County Sheriff’s Police spoke with Henry’s brother and his brother’s girlfriend, and learned that Henry had come—covered in blood—to the woman’s Portage residence on the evening of Nov. 23, 2002, and told them that he had just killed his roommate “Bob” and wanted help in disposing the body. When his brother refused, Henry told him that he planned to return to Florida. He did and was promptly located in an Orlando motel room by the Orlando Police Department and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.


Posted 1/29/2004