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Monday, January 9, 2017

The Shane Absalon Murder Case

     In 1984, 17-year-old Shane Absalon lived in a west Fort Worth, Texas apartment building with his parents. Ginger Hayden, a year older than him, lived in the same complex with her mother. She and Absalon had attended the same high school in Fort Worth. On September 4, 1984, after recently starting class at the University of Texas at Arlington (situated halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas), Ginger, her boyfriend Jeff Green, and Shane Absalon, were gathered in her apartment drinking beer and watching television.

     At 6:15 the next morning, Ginger's mother, Sharon Hayden Harvey, was awaken by the ringing of Ginger's alarm clock. When Sharon entered the bedroom to see why Ginger hadn't turned off her alarm, she discovered her daughter lying on the floor next to her bed in a pool of blood. The hysterical mother dialed the operator and screamed, "My baby's dead!"

     According to the Tarrant County forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy, Ginger Hayden had been stabbed 57 times with a kitchen knife and had bled to death. Wounds on the victim's arms and hands suggested she had put up a fight.

     Detectives with the Fort Worth Police Department questioned Shane Absalon on September 12, 1984. Absalon said that Ginger and her boyfriend were in the apartment when he left the place at 11:30 that night. When asked if he was willing to take a polygraph test, Absalon said that he would. But the next day, stating that he was acting on the advice of his attorney, the suspect declined to submit to the lie detector test.

     For whatever reason, the investigation of Ginger Hayden's brutal murder ground to a halt and died on the vine. In the meantime, Shane Absalon, during the two years following the homicide, turned into a drunk and drug abuser with a history of arrests for crimes such as burglary, arson, and assault. In July 1986, he pleaded guilty in Tarrant County to smashing a vehicle with a club while intoxicated. The judge sentenced him to a one-year period of probation. Pursuant to his sentence, Absalon was ordered to enter a drug and alcohol treatment program in Richardson, Texas called Straight Inc. (This outfit was later closed down following charges of patient abuse.)

     In 2001, 18 years after Ginger Hayden's murder, cold-case investigators in Fort Worth re-opened the investigation which focused on Shane Absalon as the prime suspect. Detectives believed that he had murdered Hayden after she refused to have sex with him. Among other evidence of his guilt, a neighbor had seen the suspect, after he said he had left the apartment that night, climb over a fence and knock on the victim's sliding patio door. But the police needed more, and it wasn't until 2009 that they had enough evidence to support his arrest. After acquiring DNA samples from Absalon, forensic experts were able to link him to the murder scene.

     On August 20, 2010, Absalon was taken into custody at his home in Sierra Vista, Arizona where he lived with his wife and young child. At the time he was working as a welder. A month later, a grand jury sitting in Fort Worth indicted Absalon for capital murder. If convicted, he would be automatically sentenced to life in prison. Because he had been a juvenile at the time of the murder, the defendant was not eligible for the death penalty. Moreover, under the applicable 1984 law, the 43-year-old would be eligible for parole after serving 20 years of his sentence.

     Word of Shane Absalon's arrest reached at least three former patients who were treated with him in 1986 for alcohol and drug abuse at Straight Inc. These people had attended group therapy sessions with Absalon. The news of his arrest for Ginger Hayden's murder prompted the former patients to tell the Fort Worth police that during a group therapy session two years after the murder, Shane Absalon had confessed to killing a girl he knew. (It's a mystery to me why these former drug-alcholol patients hadn't informed on Absalon immediately after his confession.)

     Shane Absalon's trial got underway on September 17, 2012. Following the testimony of a DNA analyst who linked the defendant to the murder scene, the prosecutor put three of the former Straight Inc. patients on the stand to state their recollections of the defendant's group therapy confession. (Absalon's attorney, Gary Udashen, had objected to the introduction of this evidence, but had been overruled by the judge.)

     The first Straight Inc. witness, Sean Garrett, informed the jurors that "He [the defendant] told me he was angry. He told me he wanted more of a relationship with her [the victim], that he wanted to be more than just friends. Her response was no, and he was real embarrassed. He stabbed her until he was tired, and thought she was dead. His intentions were to kill her." According to this witness, after stabbing Hayden to death, Absalon cleaned up in the bathroom, threw his jacket and shoes in a nearby trash bin, and went back to his apartment.

     Former patient Stefany Knight took the stand and said, "Shane stood up to admit to wrongdoing when he was high on heroin. He said he killed a girl...stabbed her with a knife." Michele Valencia, the third Straight, Inc. witness, testified that Absalon's confession had made her physically ill.

     Defense attorney Gary Udashen, in cross-examining Michele Valencia, got her to admit that members of the rehabilitation center's poorly trained staff had pressured patients into confessing to crimes and former bad behavior. In this witness' opinion, some patients made false confessions just to please staff members running the group therapy sessions. "There was some brainwashing going on...I learned to conform. I had to get out," she said.

     Gary Udashen, in addressing the crime scene DNA evidence in his closing remarks to the jury, referred to unidentified semen on the victim's bed quilt and unidentified blood and tissue under Hayden's fingernails. The fact the defendant's DNA was in the apartment was not surprising because he had been there many times. Suggesting that Ginger Hayden had been murdered by a serial killer who had been loose in the Fort Worth area at the time of her death, the defense attorney said, "The person who killed Ginger Hayden is still out there, and the police need to find that person. That person is not Shane Abalson."

     On September 21, 2012, the jury, following a short deliberation, found the defendant guilty of capital murder. Absalon looked stunned after the foreman of the jury read the verdict. The convicted man's wife ran out of the courtroom in tears. Absalon was not eligible for parole until after the 45-year-old turned 65.  

8 comments:

  1. I think he should have got life without no parole.

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  2. Since she was pregnant, why didn't they charge him on two accounts?

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    Replies
    1. Fetus not considered a life until born.

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  3. That's a criminal



    For whatever reason, the investigation of Ginger Hayden's brutal murder ground to a halt and died on the vine. In the meantime, Shane Absalon, during the two years following the homicide, turned into a drunk and drug abuser with a history of arrests for crimes such as burglary, arson, and assault. In July 1986, he pleaded guilty in Tarrant County to smashing a vehicle with a club while intoxicated. The judge sentenced him to a one-year period of probation. Pursuant to his sentence, Absalon was ordered to enter a drug and alcohol treatment program in Richardson, Texas called Straight Inc. (This outfit was later closed down following charges of patient abuse.)

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  4. There is no end to the sadness and devastation of lives affected by drug addictions. For those who are in the struggle, it is important to know that heroin recovery is possible and lives can be saved by taking that first step.

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  5. all the people who knew including his friend should have told it was murder/no pity for a sick murderer poor girl /a simple case of if i cant have you no one can

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  6. Heroin addiction clearly leads to criminal acts; whether it's stealing to fund the addiction or acting out in a way someone would not if they were sober, this article is a compelling reason to try to get addicts the treatment they need.

    ReplyDelete