They bought a home together in Amory, bowled several nights a week, had close friends that they socialized with on a regular basis. After having two hip surgeries to repair a broken hip, Fred and Windle decided to sell Fred’s business because it was to difficult for him to continue in his line of work. They opened up an auction together in Amory. Fred ran the auction and Windle ran the concession. To them they had the perfect life together and were very much in love and happy until December 1, 2001. That is when the night mare began.
The afternoon of December 1, 2001 Fred had made plans for he and Windle to attend an auction in Columbus Mississippi. Windle told Fred she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to stay home that evening but he should go to the auction. Fred called in dinner at 4:00 p.m. at the Long Horn Restaurant located a few miles from their home. He went to the restaurant and picked up their order and returned home some where around 4:30. After eating his dinner he took a shower and got ready to leave. When he left his wife around 5:30 she was sitting at the table finishing her meal.
On the way to the auction Fred stopped at the Aberdeen Marina to buy a Mountain Dew and 2 packs of cigarettes for himself and 2 packs for Windle. He then drove to the Auction and arrived some time between 6:15 and 6:30 p.m. He left the auction that night a little after midnight. On his way home he called Windle to see if she needed him to bring her anything. He did not get an answer and figured she was in bed asleep. He arrived at their home a little before 1:00 a.m. He came through the front door and called out to his wife but did not get an answer. He went to their bedroom and turned on the light. That is when he found his wife was dead and called 911. Some one had broken into their home and shot his wife twice in the back. He found that they had broke the glass in the back door to gain entry into the house. They stole a couple of guns and a money box from their auction which was sitting on the kitchen counter.
A neighbor who was also an investigator with the Monroe County Sheriff's Department was the first to arrive at their home. He came in the front door. The second person to arrive was a deputy with the Monroe County Sheriff’s department. She came through the back door which was the entry to the scene of the crime. Of course the coroner and crime scene expert eventually showed up along with several more members of the Monroe County Sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s department took Fred in for questioning and tested him for gun powder residue at approximately 5:00 a.m.
Through their investigation, no finger prints were found nor any evidence. They had no witnesses or murder weapon. They only talked to one neighbor to see if they had heard anything. They kept telling Fred through out the investigation that they had several suspects but of course they ruled them out.
Fred’s family and friends encouraged Fred to try to get on with his life. They kept telling him that nothing was going to bring Windle back and she would want him to move on and find some happiness. In March Fred met Debbie. He could not believe he could find some one that he could fall in love with again and be happy but he had and it was the same for her. In April, Debbie who was living in Texas at the time, decided she would move to Mississippi so she and Fred could be together.
On November 6, 2002 Fred was arrested for his wife’s murder. After the arraignment, Fred found out the DA’s office had gone to the Grand Jury on four different occasions before they got an indictment against him. At his arraignment Fred was told to be in court on February 29, 2003. There was no February 29th that year as it was not a leap year. He ask his attorney about this and was told not worry about it, the court would realize their mistake and notify him of the new date.
On February 19, 2003 while in Indiana, Fred received a phone call from some one at the DA’s Office telling him he was to be in court on the 21st and if he did not show up his bond would be revoked and a warrant would be issued for his arrest. When he appeared in court Judge Paul Funderburk informed Fred his attorney had filed a motion to withdraw as his attorney and ask Fred if he wanted the court to appoint him legal council. Fred did not see how he was going to pay for an attorney so he told the court he would like a court appointed attorney. After filling out the indigentcy affidavit, Fred was put on the stand and questioned by Judge Funderburk about his financial situation. The judge determined Fred was not indigent and told him he could afford his own legal council and dismissed the court appointed attorney Mr. Tim Ervin. At that point, the assistant DA, Clay Joyner ask to approach the bench. After a brief discussion, Mr. Joyner along with Judge Funderburk, questioned Fred at length for approximately an hour. They ask Fred about a check that he had received from his wife’s retirement and he told them he did not remember a check for the amount in question. The judge ask him if he was saying he did not get the check and Fred told him no, all I am saying is I don’t remember receiving a check for that amount. Mr. Joyner then ask Fred how much he paid his attorney when he talked to him about divorcing his wife. Fred told him he had never talked to his attorney about divorcing his wife. So they ask if he had ever talked to an attorney about divorcing his wife. These are all questions that would be brought up in the murder trial and never should have been asked at an indigentcy hearing. At one point during the hearing Fred ask the judge if he could ask a question and the judge told him no, he was the one who ask all the questions. Three times during this hearing, Judge Funderburk told Fred he did not find him to be indigent and could afford to hire an attorney. At the end of the hearing, the judge told Fred that he felt he committed perjury and was in contempt of court but he was going to let him go home, however, the DA may decide to file charges against him. Not once during this hearing was Fred read his Miranda rights, he did not have legal council there to represent him and he was not allowed to represent himself. Immediately after this hearing, Fred hired an attorney. He had to sell everything he and his deceased wife owned, Debbie sold just about everything she owned and they both borrowed from family and friends to raise the money to pay the legal bills.
Fred, Debbie and the attorney combed through the massive amount of discovery the DA’s office had put together. The test results from the gun powder residue taken on Fred’s hands showed small traces of particles that could be conclusive to gun powder residue but did not show that it was gun powder residue. The coroner’s report showed Windle had been dead approximately 8 hours. It did not say eight hours from what time nor did it give a definite time of death. The investigators had interviewed a numerous amount of people. Some of them they interviewed several times. Most of the people they interviewed were nurses who had worked with Windle. In the first statements given they said Fred and Windle seemed to be very much in love and happy and that they did not know of any problems the two might be having. In the second statements they all said that Windle had been complaining over financial issues and problems with Fred’s family.
On May 12th, 2003 Fred was in Tennessee on business when he received a phone call from his mother telling him a sheriff had showed up at her house looking for him. Fred called his attorney and was told to stay put where he was until they could find out what was going on. It took them a month to find out the DA had gone back to the Grand Jury and got an indictment against Fred for Perjury. Fred turned himself into the Monroe County Sheriff’s department on June 12, 2003. Three weeks later, he went before Judge Gardner for another arraignment. After the hearing, Judge Gardner said he wanted to take it under advisement and would give his ruling in 3-4 days. Forty five days later, Judge Gardner denied bond for Fred therefore, he was forced to stay in jail until his trial.
Fred’s trial began on September 17, 2003. During the jury Voir Dire the judge, DA and Fred’s Attorney specifically asked the perspective jurors if they knew Fred, Windle or any of the witnesses that would be called to testify. One juror spoke up and told the judge she did not want to be a juror on this trial because if he was found guilty he would only have to serve 6 months. Several others made similar remarks. Fred’s attorney ask for a mistrial to which it was denied. Finally the jury was selected and non of the jurors spoke up and admitted to knowing Fred, his wife or any of the witnesses.
The nurses that testified all testified on the stand that Windle was unhappy because of financial reasons and problems with Fred’s family.
The crime scene expert testified that in his opinion the crime scene had been staged and based his opinion on the fact that there was no glass from the broken door tracked through the house, no finger prints or fibers were found and Windle’s watch and eye glasses were on her night stand. Windle wore contacts and rarely wore her glasses. He also said in his opinion Windle appeared to be asleep at the time she was killed.
The coroner testified that Windle died about 5:30 p.m.. He based that on the time she last ate. He testified he was told she ate at 4:00 p.m. He also said there was a three hour window in which she could have died, therefore, the time of death could have been anytime between 4:00-7:00 p.m. Phone records showed Fred did not call the order in until 4:00 p.m. however the owner of the restaurant testified that Fred called the order in around 3:45 p.m. Phone records also showed some one called their home three times at 6:30 p.m. and one of the three calls was answered. The lady who had called their home, testified that she had been trying to call her husband and kept getting a wrong number. She also stated during one of the calls a lady answered the phone.
The expert witness on the gun powder residue testified to the results of the test taken on Fred’s hands. He could not say that there was residue on Fred. He stated in order to get an accurate reading of gun powder residue on a persons skin, the test has to be done with in 4 hours of firing a gun because the residue comes off of skin very easily and would no longer show up on a test. He testified that if it was residue on Fred’s hands, he could have gotten it off of his wife or anything in the room where the gun had been fired.
The deputy who was the second person to arrive on the scene and came through the back door which had the glass broken, testified she did come through the back door but she stepped through the glass very carefully. Now she was not a little woman. She is about 5’8” and at least 200 lbs but she did not track any glass through the house. Several people who had been at the auction testified as to seeing Fred at the auction between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m. on December 1, 2001.
After the trial we found out that one of the jurors attended Windle’s funeral. She signed the guest and friends register. We also found out that another juror was good friends with Fred’s son in law and still yet another juror went to school with Fred’s daughter and had been to Fred’s house on several occasions to visit Fred’s daughter. Non of the jurors spoke up during the jury voir dior. This was brought to the attention of Judge Sharon Aycock and she still denied the JNOV and would not call for a new trial.
At 8:00 p.m. on September 21, 2003 the twelve members of the jury found Fred Dendy guilty of murder and Judge Sharon Aycock sentenced him to life in the state penitentiary. On October 23, 2003 Fred was taken from Monroe County to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl Mississippi for Processing. December 3, 2003, Fred was taken to the Mississippi State Penitentiary in Parchman Mississippi. He was kept in lock down at Unit 32 until October 25, 2004 at which time he was moved to the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility.
I am sure I have left some things out. So much happened during the trial and more than a year has passed since it ended.
On October 25, 2004, Fred’s attorney filed the first appeal brief with the Court of Appeals. We are hoping and praying that the Court of Appeals justices will see all the errors that took place and will at least grant Fred a new trial. Of course what we really want is for a reverse and discharge. What we are trying to do is hope and pray for the best but expect the worse. God willing, this nightmare will be over soon and Fred and I can get on with our lives. We want to get married and build a future together. We want some happiness. I don’t think that is to much to ask for after all we have been through.
Entire Text (c) Debbie Branch, December, 2004 -- All Rights Reserved