DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) — An Iowa man was convicted Friday in the murder of a 10-year-old girl who was missing for eight months before her remains were found in a pond.
A judge found Henry Earl Dinkins, 51, guilty of first-degree murder and kidnapping in the death of Breasia Terrell, whose disappearance July 10, 2020, led to huge searches by dozens of volunteers and numerous law enforcement agencies. Fishermen found her body in March 2021 in a rural area north of Davenport.
Sentencing was set for Oct. 11, at which Dinkins faces a mandatory term of life in prison.
Prosecutors charged Dinkins with Breasia's death in May 2021, alleging he kidnapped and then shot her to death. She had been staying the night with her half-brother and his father, Dinkins.
Dinkins is a registered sex offender who was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse in 1990, when he was 17.
Judge Henry Latham issued his decision after reading through a long description of the evidence. At times, the judge paused as he struggled to maintain his composure.
“The court finds beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant was the last person seen with Breasia. He had taken custody of her, had no authority to do so and had removed her from the apartment from which he had authority to care for her with the specific intent to inflict a serious injury upon her,” Latham said. “As a result of that removal, Breasia suffered death.”
After the decision, as deputies were removing Dinkins from the courtroom, spectators erupted in cheers.
During the two-week trial, defense attorneys noted a lack of physical evidence, including no blood or semen linking Breasia and Dinkins in places prosecutors said they were before her death.
Prosecutors pointed to testimony that Dinkins' roommate awoke at 3 a.m. on July 10 and found that neither Breasia nor Dinkins were in the apartment. Prosecutors said Dinkins took Breasia to a site where he sexually assaulted her and then killed the child.
Dinkins’ son later gave investigators details about accompanying his father to a Walmart to buy bleach and traveling to a site that matched the description of where Breasia’s body was found months later.
The trial had been moved to Cedar Rapids when the Iowa Supreme Court granted a change of venue, but just before the trial began, Dinkins decided to have the case heard in front of a judge. Because of that, the trial was moved back to the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport.