The attorney representing a Texas man accused of drowning his 6-year-old nephew and then hiding the body in a trash bin is questioning the validity of a statement the suspect reportedly made to detectives following his arrest.
During a first appearance for Andrew Henckel, 19, in Everett District Court on Wednesday, defense lawyer Rachel Forde argued against a prosecution request that bail be set at $1 million. She said that Henckel suffers from “autism spectrum disorder” and shouldn’t be held based solely on statements he made in custody without an attorney present after the body of Dayvid Pakko was found early Tuesday morning in Lynnwood.
Forde said individuals with the disorder are often overly eager to please, deferential to authority figures and “prone to respond compliantly to requests and demands.” These traits are compounded with her client, she said, who grew up in a military family and was expected to follow orders.
Henckel’s father voiced similar concerns to a television station in San Antonio, Texas.
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“My autistic son, who would never hurt a fly, has been sequestered since last night by the police. Apparently, they evoked a confession from him. He had no lawyer present. No family present,” Randy Henckel told the FOX-TV affiliate in San Antonio.
Randy Henckel said his son has Asperger’s syndrome and has difficulty answering open-ended questions. Those with the developmental disorder often have difficulty with social interaction and nonverbal communication.
In court Wednesday, Deputy Snohomish County Prosecutor Matt Baldock disputed that the suspect’s statement was coerced, saying police found evidence that corroborated the story, including details about how Dayvid was dressed and where and how his was found.
And while acknowledging reports that Henckel has a form of autism, prosecutors noted he “does not report a formal diagnosis and is not taking medication.”
According to the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, Henckel graduated high school with As and Bs, attended a year of college and was working for U-Haul before he came to stay with his sister near Lynnwood.
District Court Judge Tam Bui granted the prosecutor’s request and set bail at $1 million, but agreed to revisit the issue later. The prosecutor’s office has 72 hours to file criminal charges.
Henckel, of Kerrville Texas, was visiting his sister at her family’s Lynnwood-area apartment.
In documents filed after his arrest, the Sheriff’s Office alleges Henckel, “with no motive provided … developed a plan to kill” the child sometime between 1 and 2 p.m. Monday. While Dayvid’s mother was not home and her boyfriend left to run errands, Henckel is alleged to have filled a bathtub with water and then called Dayvid into the bathroom.
Henckel, who is 6-foot-4 and 180 pounds, reportedly grabbed the 48-pound boy around the chest from behind and plunged him face-first into the tub, holding him under water until he stopped struggling, according to court documents. He then wrapped the body in a large blanket, put it in a cardboard box and took it to a dumpster about 30 feet from the front door of Dayvid’s apartment, the documents said.
It was found there early Tuesday by a detective searching the area.
According to the court document, when the boyfriend returned to the apartment Henckel told him he had fallen asleep on the couch and didn’t know where Dayvid had gone. He searched the neighborhood with the boyfriend for more than a half-hour before they called police.
As one of the last people to see Dayvid, detectives questioned him. The documents indicate that Henckel came under particular scrutiny based on his actions after the boy’s body was found in the dumpster. Rather than showing interest in the sudden activity, they said, Henckel walked about.
“It appeared that police interest in the dumpster was quite obvious, yet (the suspect) walked away at that precise moment in time,” according to the document.
Randy Henckel told the San Antonio TV station that his son had been staying with Dayvid’s family for about a week when he was asked to babysit his nephew. He says he spoke to his son Monday night and he indicated the boy was missing.
Randy Henckel said his son met Dayvid for the first time during his visit.
“They’re both autistic,” the senior Henckel said. “And my daughter told me they both connected very naturally. That’s what I was told. I’ve been talking with them every day since, during the week that he’s been there, and there were zero problems.”
He told the TV station he does not believe his son is capable of murder.