Michael Peter Henshaw B: c1940
|Michael Peter Henshaw [ID 12534]||Click here to switch to Ahnentafel view:|
Born about 1940, possibly Canada.1
An article about Michael Peter Henshaw was published by columnist Frank Ritter in "The Tennessean" (Nashville, Tennessee) on Wednesday, Feb 2 2002:1
He's done his time; when do we leave him alone?
Where the news media are concerned, when is enough enough, already?
We ask the question because it concerns newspaper ethics and basic fairness.
I was reminded of that the other day while I was leafing through old papers from 1962, when I was a fledgling reporter and learning my way around the Metro Courthouse and police station.
His name was Michael Peter Henshaw. In his early 20s, he was a relative newcomer to Nashville, had a small rented room and a little job that paid barely enough to keep body and soul together.
Walking home one night, he got into a fight and was stabbed to death. His assailant - whom I will not name here, for reasons that will become evident - was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and served a couple of years in prison.
But the story did not end there. Because, you see, no one ever found out exactly where Michael came from. Thus, the young man was buried in a cheap grave with no one to mourn him, and to this day the mystery persists. Who was Michael Peter Henshaw?
"The mystery almost certainly will never be solved," says George H. Currey, retired investigator for the district attorney. "Not after all these years, nearly four decades later."
For several years after his death, I would resurrect Michael Peter Henshaw, metaphorically speaking, in newspaper stories. I would recount the details of the case, tell what happened to his killer, and state once again that we still didn't know who he really was, except for his name, nor where he came from.
This went on until one day the convicted killer, paroled by then from prison, called me on the phone. "Ritter," he said, earnestly, "when are you going to stop writing about this? ...
"Look, Ritter. I paid for this. I served my time in prison. Now I'm out of jail and getting along with my life. I'm law-abiding, a good citizen. Isn't it time that you and your newspaper gave me a break?"
I was pretty hard-nosed in those days. If it was a story, according to my philosophy, then it should be printed in the newspaper. "Pay me the price for a copy of the daily paper," I said, "and I'll tell you what happened yesterday in your community - always, with no exceptions, even when it hurts or embarrasses my friends."
But the young man, newly released from prison and striving to put the past behind him, made sense. Would he ever be allowed to get on with his life?
I decided that he was right. As journalists, do we have ethical standards? If so, what are they?
Currey notes that if, in 1962, we had had the technology that we have now, perhaps we could have found Henshaw's relatives.
"One thing we had," Currey says, "was the FBI's fingerprint file. We could take the fingerprints from the corpse and send them to Washington, D.C. Or, if the hands were in too bad a shape, we could cut off the hands and ship them to the FBI, where they had the equipment to retrieve the prints."
And after a while, the hands would be returned to Nashville's law enforcement officers, where the county medical examiner was supposed to dispose of them.
But recently, as was reported in The Tennessean, one pair of hands failed to reach their intended destination. While cleaning out a neglected and dusty part of the Metro Courthouse, someone discovered a pair of hands. From years and years ago.
They were able to figure out whom the hands belonged to because in the box that contained the hands was a letter from Currey to the FBI.
There were some slight clues that Michael Peter Henshaw might have come here from Canada, and that he aspired to be a songwriter. It's an old and common story - young man trying to live out his dream in Music City, USA. If you know him, let me know.
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