COQUILLE — The murder trial of Timothy Henson started Monday with the two survivors of the shooting pointing out the defendant as the man who shot Milton Leach and George Michaeux III.
Vallena Tuell and her mother, Ruth Micheaux, were in the car when they claim Henson shot Leach and Michaeux in the head Sept. 2 on U.S. Highway 101, just north of Bandon. The two women corroborated each other’s story while on the stand.
The women described Henson, 43, as sitting in the rear passenger seat with his wife, Tuell, when he allegedly put a gun to the back of Leach’s head, who was sitting in the passenger seat.
Tuell said she noticed Henson and yelled, “No, not my dad,” while struggling to stop him. A shot allegedly was fired, but it was not clear if anyone was injured from the first shot. The driver, Micheaux, stopped the car immediately, Tuell said.
She claimed Leach then got out of the car and Henson opened fire on him, killing him with multiple shots to the forehead.
Tuell said she was shot in the arm.
As Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier pressed for an answer as to who Tuell’s shooter was, she started to sob.
Henson — who walked into court in the morning clean shaven and smiling —began to lose his composure as Tuell cried.
“Who shot you?” Frasier asked Tuell.
Choked up from her tears, Tuell exhaled and said “Timothy.”
After Leach and Tuell were shot, Micheaux allegedly came out from behind the car unarmed and with his hands up. The women said Henson shot him multiple times, at least once by the car and once fatally as he lay dying near the highway's fog line.
“There, he’s not in pain anymore,” Micheaux alleged Henson to say after Micheaux was dead.
As slides of the victims’ bullet wounds popped up on Frasier’s projector, cries rang through the air in the courtroom.
After the shootings, the women claimed Henson forced them back into the car, kidnapping them and making his wife drive.
“He had guns pointed at my mom’s head and I didn’t want him to shoot her,” Tuell explained. “I just wanted it to stop and all go away.”
Afterward, Henson went through hyper mood swings, according to testimony.
He allegedly told Michaeux, “I would never hurt you,” one moment, and then press his face against his wife’s face and angle the gun so he could shoot both of them in one shot.
“That wasn’t him in the back seat at all,” said Tuell.
The women claimed Henson had them stop the vehicle a few miles from the shooting, where he tried to hide the gun used in the killings and himself from approaching law enforcement officers.
Police eventually found Henson hiding in the bushes with his shirt off and placed him in custody.
Everyone except for Leach — who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and visiting Bandon to find a place to spread his ashes — was using methamphetamine throughout the weekend, according to toxicology reports.
While no definitive motive has been established in the case, Tuell said Henson was “uncomfortable” with Leach around the time of the shooting. Everyone in the car at the time of the incident had been living together in Myrtle Creek.
Frasier reached an agreement with defense attorneys before the trial to take the death penalty off the table in exchange for a ruling in the case being made by Judge Richard Barron instead of a jury.
Henson faces two counts of aggravated murder, one count of second-degree assault, and two counts of second-degree kidnapping in the case. The trial continues Wednesday morning.
Reporter George Artsitas can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 236, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @COPSTheWorld.