Lives ripped apart

American missionaries Harold Nichols and Randy Hentzel were murdered in 2016 the worlds of their widows, Teri and Sarah, hurtled out of orbit.

The wives, ahead of the sentencing of the last of the two men convicted for the murders, described in victim impact statements — read into the records of the Home Circuit Division of the Supreme Court in downtown Kingston on Friday — the turmoil into which they were thrown following the deaths of their spouses.

Nichols, 53, and Hentzel, 49, were missionaries for the Pennsylvania-based Teams for Medical Missions.

They went missing on Saturday, April 30, 2016 after leaving their Tower Isle, St Mary, homes on motorcycles to visit a site where they would be doing charity work the following week. When they did not return a search party later that day discovered Hentzel’s body lying face down, his green helmet still over his head, with his arms bound “tightly” behind his back by a piece of cloth torn from the green T-shirt in which he was clad. Nichols’ body was found some distance away on the Sunday afternoon.

A consultant forensic pathologist contracted by the national security ministry disclosed during the trial that Hentzel died instantly from a single bullet to the head, fired at close range, while Nichols, who was still alive after being shot once in the back, died from one of six chop wounds to his head, delivered with enough force that could chop “the branch of a big tree”.

On Friday, taxi driver Andre Thomas was slapped with two life sentences for his role in the murders by trial judge Justice Leighton Pusey.

He will be eligible to apply for parole after spending 26 years in prison.

His co-accused and cousin, Dwight Henry, in January this year, took a plea deal and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole until after 28 years. Henry, in turning against Thomas, testified that he killed one of the men, while his cousin shot and chopped the other.

Sarah, Hentzel’s widow, who said they were married as teenagers and had therefore figured out life together for more than 29 years, stated that she was left twisting in the wind.

“He was the love of my life and my companion, his death affected all future plans. It’s like half of my life was amputated,” she said.

In describing herself as a single mother by virtue of the murder, she said their five children — who had shared a close relationship with their father and who were at critical stages of their development and lives when he died — have been deeply affected.

“Randy was pretty much the family advisor… Randy was our biggest cheerleader,” she said in sharing that her husband had been killed before the marriage of one of his daughters and the high school graduation of his only son and one of his teen daughters.

“Not one day goes by that I don’t remember my husband, Randy Hentzel, for the kind of person he was. Taking him away from us has derailed a lot of our family’s future plans and we will never be the same,” she said.

Teri Nichols, in her statement, said the death of her husband of 25 years ripped her life apart.

“I lost the love of my life and the only family I had. I lost my home. I lost my dogs. I had to move back to the United States because I lost everything. I had to get a job and start all over because I had no money,” she said.

Nichols said she has had to receive therapy and has had sleepless nights where she “played everything over” in her mind. And while she has “been trying to cope with everything, it was hard to do”.

“Harold was an absolute angel, and if you ask anyone they would tell you exactly that,” said Nichols, who shared a memory of her husband atop a roof in a hurricane working to secure it so the occupants would not get wet. She said after selling everything they owned in the United States and moving to Jamaica in 2001 as full-time missionaries, “to do the Lord’s work”, they had built 75 homes for people in the community.

On Friday, Justice Pusey, in his sentencing address, described the killings as “senseless” and “without reason” stating, “this is a killing which damaged not just the two gentlemen and their families but also damaged our country in many ways in terms of the work they were doing”.