Skip to comments.Body of Sgt. Jason Hendrix to remain in Tulsa, Okla.- Judge Rules Against Mother (tears not genuine)
Posted on 11/02/2005 1:01:54 PM PST by Former Military Chick
WATSONVILLE Jason Hendrix, the soldier whose buried remains have been the subject of a long and bitter custody battle between divorced parents, will stay in Tulsa, Okla.
A Santa Cruz County Superior Court judge's ruling on Tuesday put a close to one of the most unusual civil cases to stem from the Iraq War.
Renee Amick, Hendrix's mother, failed to prove in court that she had an "overriding public purpose" for exhuming her son's remains, Judge Robert Yonts wrote in a 12-page ruling.
And her tearful testimony in court a month ago "appeared forced and contrived. The tears were not genuine," Yonts wrote a line Amick called "very, very appalling."
In his ruling, Yonts wrote that, unfortunately, Hendrix would be remembered more for the legal dispute that arose from his death than for his heroic acts on the battlefield moments before his death.
"May this brave soldier, Sgt. Jason Hendrix, rest in peace," Yonts concluded.
Hendrix, a Watsonville resident until his sophomore year at Aptos High School, was killed by a roadside bomb outside Ramadi, Iraq, on Feb. 16. He had pulled several fellow soldiers from burning Bradley fighting vehicles moments before his death.
But because Army Staff Sgt. Hendrix did not have a will, nobody in the family knew where he wanted to be buried: California, where he was born and reared, or in Oklahoma, where he moved to when he was 16.
After his death, Hendrix's body was given to his father, Russell Hendrix, of Claremore, Okla., in accord with U.S. Army policy that grants the remains of dead soldiers to the eldest parent in cases where there is confusion.
Amick, however, has been fighting the Army's decision in court since late March, contending she was rightfully entitled to her son's remains.
She was the first to be notified of his death and he gave her the power of attorney, Amick testified in court.
Amick testified that she was listed as the primary next of kin on court documents, not the father.
And her son's body, she argued, was initially shipped to a Watsonville funeral home, where it lay in limbo for more than a month not to Oklahoma.
In nearly three hours of testimony last month, Renee testified her son had told her in a telephone conversation on Mother's Day 2004 that he wanted her to handle his remains should he be killed in Iraq.
But the judge said he didn't think her testimony was credible. If it were, the judge ruled, such a fact would have surfaced immediately after her son's death and not during the trial.
"Obviously Judge Yonts doesn't know what it's like to lose a son, and I'm very proud of my son," said Amick, who broke down outside her Freedom home on Tuesday.
"All I wanted to do was to carry out his last wishes and what he wanted... No mother should ever have to go through this. It's very, very appalling that the judge would ever think that I was making up my emotions. I don't need to justify that to a judge or anybody else."
In addition to holding the judge responsible, she also cast blame on President George W. Bush.
She angrily referred to him as "the commander in chief who had no problems sending my son to Iraq and putting him in harm's way.
"But when he gets sent home in a box, they Yonts and Bush can't even honor his last wishes."
Michael Barsi, Amick's attorney, said he was not yet sure whether he would appeal the decision, but believes he has a strong case.
An appeal must be filed within 60 days at the Sixth District Court of Appeals in San Jose, he said.
"The court applied a higher standard and higher burden of proof," Barsi said. "... You can't just change the goal post in the middle of the game."
Barsi was referring to a previous case, Maffei v. Woodlawn Memorial Park 2005, upon which the judge based a portion of his decision.
In his ruling, Yonts cited the case often, including the passage that "many circumstances arise from time to time necessitating a disturbance of the repose of the dead, but it must be some controlling public reason or superior private right ..."
Barsi said the content of Maffei v. Woodlawn bore little relevance to the Hendrix case.
"In that case, a man was trying to dig up the remains of his first wife and bury them alongside his second wife," Barsi said. "That had nothing to do with our case, and the judge overlooked all of the military documents that were written in Jason's very own hand six months prior to his death."
Factors taken into account throughout the five-day trial, according to Yonts, were:
All of Hendrix's immediate family, with the exception of his mother, testified they strongly preferred he remain buried in Tulsa. Initially there was consensus among all family members including the mother that Oklahoma would be the final resting place for Jason, but the mother unilaterally reversed this decision. Hendrix's remains have been dishonored by being held in cold storage for nearly six weeks between his death and burial. To further disturb the repose of the deceased would be emotionally upsetting for all members of the family.
Sharon Cole, who represented father Russell Hendrix, said she was happy with the judge's decision.
"I feel in my heart that the right thing has been done," she said. "I really believe that this is what Jason would have wanted."
Amick did not attend her son's funeral in Oklahoma, and she had hoped to bury him here, she said.
She said Tuesday she still wasn't sure whether she would visit what appears to be his final resting place.
Contact Tom Ragan at email@example.com.
ping to you
"All of Hendrix's immediate family, with the exception of his mother, testified they strongly preferred he remain buried in Tulsa. Initially there was consensus among all family members including the mother that Oklahoma would be the final resting place for Jason, but the mother unilaterally reversed this decision."
Tough one to call.
So, she will fight a contentious court battle to have him dug up and re-buried in California, but she will not hop on an airplane to visit his gravesite in Oklahoma. What's up with that?
How about they just cremate him and put the remains in a FedEX envelope. He can be in California on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, in Oklahoma on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and lying on the beach in Hawaii on Sundays...
In addition to holding the judge responsible, she also cast blame on President George W. Bush. She angrily referred to him as "the commander in chief who had no problems sending my son to Iraq and putting him in harm's way. But when he gets sent home in a box, they Yonts and Bush can't even honor his last wishes."People say peculiar things when they're grieving, and transfer of anger is common. I hope Tom Ragan learns to be more discrete when quoting grieving mothers.
in seeing this on the news, I figured she was another Cindy Sheehan. And that was before I heard her make anti-Bush comments. She is making this all about her.
No, I think she's a Cindy-in-training. I've seen a few interviews of her locally, and she's a piece of work.
What's up with the soldier's chain of command for not insuring that he had a will and a medical power of attorney done before he deployed? Perhaps the Army does it differently from the Marines but we had LCpl Namsman Jr.'s will and powers of attorney before he left. There's no ambiguity in any of them. His wishes are in writing. For the curious, his first choice is Arlington National Cemetary. If you have to spend the time remaining until Judgement day somewhere, you can't find better company than there.
As a parent though, I will say that it was surreal to have my child's will in my hands. It's supposed to be the other way around.
Before the brave and handsome Sgt. Phantom's first deployment to Iraq, everyone in his company had to write their will.
Agreed. Our command (Navy P-3 squadron) made SURE that my husband had his will and power of attorney done well before his next 6 month deployment (which could start as early as this month - have to be evasive on details for obvious reasons)
The woman is obviously nuts and is using the remains of her son as a tool to fight the dad.
If you want on
or off this list
Hmm, with this new info, I'm going to have to reconsider and move over to the mother's side.
If not now, she will be. Too bad.
All this crap for want of a piece of paper...correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it military SOP to advise - even strongly - that this kind of paperwork is in place before deployment??
People: Get it on paper. so this can't happen to you & yours.
Even if she should have been the one to decide in the first place, who in their right mind would go through this sort of fight after the remains are in the ground?
She is obviously just wanting to piss off the dad.
I was squarely on the fence until I read this sentence:
Initially there was consensus among all family members including the mother that Oklahoma would be the final resting place for Jason, but the mother unilaterally reversed this decision.Had she been so certain that his desire was to buried in CA as she is now, she couldn't have been part of a consensus that he be buried in OK and later change her mind.
The good Sgt is in neither CA nor OK. Any important part of him that remains is somewhere far different.
A true American hero! Rest in Peace, Sgt. Hendrix!