In this week's cover story, Manburner
, I witness the execution of Steve Henley and take the reader through the murder of elderly farmers Fred and Edna Stafford deep in the remote Tennessee farm country, the slip-shod investigation that followed and the prosecution's case--whose linchpin was Henley's junkie-accomplice Terry Flatt.
As with the telling of any story, some interviews are lopped for being redundant or for simply impeding the pacing of the narrative. Such was the case with a phone interview I had with Flatt's wife. The aspects of the case and Flatt's life we discussed were fascinating, at-times factually suspect if not unnecessarily revelatory.
Flatt, now living in northern Georgia after retiring from work at a treatment center in Chattanooga, declined to comment through his wife, and she declined to give me her first name, but here are a few things we discussed--some true, some not so much. In a case rife with old, shadowy family grudges and a lot of lies, it isn't surprising that each side interprets history a little differently. After each assertion made by Mrs. Flatt following the jump, I'll address the veracity of it as best I can...
"The District Attorney told me Terry (Flatt) got screwed," Mrs. Flatt said. "He should never have done any time."Fact:
I asked District Attorney General Tom Thompson if he thought Flatt got a rough deal (5 years in the can). His answer, "Hell, naw!"Flatt:
"The worst part was the District Attorney found out (Henley) killed several other people," Mrs. Flatt said.Fact:
I asked Thompson about the possibility that Henley could be implicated in other murders. After a pregnant pause, Thompson answered that he'd heard rumors, but nothing substantial enough to merit a real investigation.Flatt:
Re: Flatt's eventual confession: "(Flatt) didn't say anything, and Steve had already turned everything over on him, so he said 'Heck with this'."Fact:
Arson investigator Ishmael Wood says Flatt flipped first, and Sheriff Wayne Mahaney predicted he would.Flatt:
"(Flatt) has never been arrested. Never been since," Mrs. Flatt claimed.Fact:
In 1996 Flatt was arrested for stealing a pickup and selling it.Flatt:
"At the very beginning he testified that he did not believe Steve would have done that if he hadn't been on narcotics, pot and alcohol and everything else," Mrs. Flatt said.Fact:
A psychologist later testified during a post conviction hearing that Henley's level of intoxication would tend to aggravate old grudges.