Skip to comments.Truck fire took toddler’s life (Pure evil: toddler intentionally burned to death)
Posted on 04/01/2010 9:07:25 AM PDT by DCBryan1
Truck fire took toddlers life
She was strapped into seat to die, affidavit says
JACOB QUINN SANDERS ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE
Hannah Grace Dowdie was alive in her fathers truck when it was set afire, his body lying in its bed after he was slain for failing to pay debts, according to unsealed Pulaski County sheriffs records obtained Wednesday.
The fire killed the girl, weeks away from her second birthday.
The records depict for the first time publicly what sheriffs office investigators believe happened Dec. 12 to the child and her father, Michael Palmer, 28, after they drove from his home in Hensley toward Sweet Home and before their bodies were found burned beyond recognition in his small 1988 GMC pickup on dead-end Wilbern Road.
The documents also reveal for the first time some of the evidence investigators found to implicate the two cousins they arrested including statements that Hannah was alive when she was strapped into her car seat and the truck set ablaze.
Investigators and prosecutors requested in January that Pulaski County District Judge Wayne Gruber seal sworn affidavits for search warrants and arrest warrants because releasing such details as how Palmer and his daughter died could harm their case. Gruber unsealed the records Friday.
Sheriff Doc Holladay said that when he learned the records would become public, he told investigators to contact relatives of Palmer and his daughter to let them know what was coming.
I didnt feel it was appropriate for them to read that in the paper or see it on the news without hearing it from us first, Holladay said. He said the documents are not easy to read, even for a longtime law-enforcement officer.
Its hard for me, so I can only imagine what its like for the family, he said. We know that its going to be difficult to understand how someone could do something like that to anyone, especially a small child. But our role is to investigate it and make sure the people responsible are in jail.
Robert Todd Gatrell, 20, and his cousin, Daniel Chase Gatrell, 16, are charged with arson and capital murder in the killings.
The older Gatrells attorney, Hubert Alexander, did not reply to a message seeking comment. Mark Hampton, who represents the younger Gatrell, said he had not yet read the documents and could not comment.
Palmer took his daughter in foster care until a judge gave him custody the day before when he headed to Shamburger Lane and the home of Robert Todd Gatrell, who goes by his middle name, according to a sworn arrest warrant affidavit. Palmer called him twice before going over, according to the affidavit.
When investigators first talked to Gatrell the day of the killings, he denied that Palmer had called him, saying it had been two days since they talked. Then he changed his story, according to the affidavit.
Mr. Gatrell said that during the second call, Mr. Palmer told Mr. Gatrell that he was coming to Gatrells residence to visit and to steal some tires from Mr. Gatrells grandfathers residence, which is next door to his, for his vehicle, sheriffs office Sgt. Mike Blain wrote in the affidavit.
Gatrell also would not allow investigators to search his property that first day they talked to him, according to the affidavit, but he called back several hours later to give permission.
Lynette Beeson, a former girlfriend of Palmers, told investigators that Palmer had borrowed an all-terrain vehicle from Gatrell and sold it without giving Gatrell any of the money. She added that several weeks before dying, Palmer had gotten tires from Gatrell and never paid for them.
After his arrest, Gatrell told investigators that he and his cousin only tried to scare Palmer into paying them for other things hed stolen, according to the affidavit.
Blain wrote in the affidavit that each Gatrell offered a different story to family members and investigators, each blaming the other.
One of Daniel Gatrells uncles, Thomas Floyd, said to investigators that his nephew told him that Robert Todd Gatrell called him when Palmer was on his way over.
Daniel stated that Todd Gatrell advised him that a shotgun was on the back porch of his residence and directed Daniel to get the shotgun to protect the property, Blain wrote in the affidavit.
Palmer met up with Robert Todd Gatrell and the two walked around the corner of a shed, where Daniel Gatrell was waiting, according to the affidavit. Palmer saw the shotgun and grabbed it, but it went off, wounding him in the abdomen, according to the affidavit.
Daniel advised that at that time, he was frozen in shock and Todd Gatrell stated that Mr. Palmer was not dead and for him to shoot him again, Blain wrote. Daniel advised that he could not shoot the weapon again and at that point, Todd took the weapon from him and shot Mr. Palmer again in the abdomen. Daniel advised that Todd then kicked the victim and said that he was still alive.
Then Robert Todd Gatrell shot Palmer in the head, according to the affidavit.
Two days after his Jan. 21 arrest, Robert Todd Gatrell told investigators that his cousin fired three shots at Palmer in quick succession and killed him without any help after coming out of hiding from behind the shed, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit said the cousins accounts are consistent in describing what happened to Palmers body. They dropped the body in the bed of Palmers truck and tossed a couple wooden pallets on top and a bleach-soaked rug near the tailgate to keep blood from spilling out, according to the affidavit.
The Gatrells differ again, however, about how Palmers daughter got into the trucks cab, according to the affidavit.
Hannah was inside Robert Todd Gatrells house playing with his girlfriends daughter when her father died, according to the affidavit. One version of the story told to investigators has the Gatrells walking inside, with Todd looking at the child and back at his cousin.
No, Daniel Gatrell told his cousin, according to the affidavit.
Daniel advised that Todd stated to him that she (Hannah) was evidence and they needed to get rid of her, Blain wrote in the affidavit, attributing the statements again to Daniels uncle, Floyd.
Robert Todd Gatrell strapped her into a childs seat in the trucks cab, according to the affidavit.
In his own statement after his arrest, Robert Todd Gatrell did not say who put Hannah in the truck, only that he drove it the half-mile to Wilbern Road near Granite Mountain Quarries.
Floyd told investigators his nephew said it was only Robert Todd Gatrell who poured gasoline on Palmers body and inside the trucks cab. Robert Todd Gatrell told investigators he and Daniel Gatrell poured the gasoline and lit it.
Palmer and his daughter were unrecognizable when firefighters put out the fire. The fire burned both Gatrells as well, according to the affidavit.
Investigators found nails in the trucks bed that looked like they may have come from wooden pallets, according to the affidavit. An autopsy confirmed that Palmer died from shotgun wounds made with 12-gauge Remington shells, size No. 4. Hannah died from burns and smoke inhalation.
Four days after the killings, Pulaski County sheriffs Deputy Steve Morgan got a call from Robert Todd Gatrell, his stepson.
Mr. Morgan advised that on December 16, 2009, Todd Gatrell contacted him via telephone and advised him that he was suicidal and had placed a shotgun in his mouth on this date, Blain wrote in the affidavit.
There were nightmares, too, according to the affidavit, where he hears Hannah crying as she is burning in the vehicle.
The next day, Morgan drove his stepson to Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock, according to the affidavit. Morgan also took three guns a 12-gauge shotgun, a 20-gauge shotgun and a .50-caliber black-powder rifle out of the house for safekeeping, according to the affidavit.
After cooperating with the investigation, Morgan resigned from the sheriffs office Jan. 26.
Investigators got Robert Todd Gatrells medical records with a search warrant. At the hospital, he was treated for suicidal and homicidal thoughts as well as seconddegree burns on his lower back.
According to the affidavit, he told several people he got the burns lighting trash on his property.
Blain and other investigators served their first search warrants Jan. 6 at the two Gatrell properties on Shamburger Road. According to inventories released Wednesday, they took leaves they thought might be stained with blood, plastic oil containers, a red plastic gasoline container and a 12-gauge Remington shotgun shell, size No. 4.
They also found mail addressed to Palmer from the state Department of Finance and Administration about his 1988 GMC pickup and a CD holder with painted writing on the back that states Lynette B (heart) Michael P Always.
With Robert Todd Gatrell already in jail, investigators went back with another search warrant Jan. 25 and found what they thought could be blood.
They went back again the next day, arresting Daniel Gatrell and finding a black wallet belonging to Palmer down a well, according to that warrants inventory.
You dont get to pick and choose the circumstances youre confronted with, Holladay said. You just do the best you can and send the bad guys to jail, and were confident well be able to do that in this case.
Rest in Peace Hannah Grace Dowdie
Hope these two (2) souless monsters get strapped to a car seat, doused with gasoline, and burned to death as just punishment:
Robert Todd Gatrell, 20
Daniel Chase Gatrell, 16
Fry these bastards.
Nah, someone must have a big tree chipper, feet first.
My husband remarked this AM, relative to another story, that we have raised a generation of people in this country with no morals whatsoever.
I’m not sure what punishment is horrible enough for the perps. But I’d really love to see the anti-death penalty morons try to argue for their lives.
Back up a chipper-shredder to a catfish pond......much more efficient than “feeding to the hogs”.
Why did the baby have to die? Like a two year old can id a suspect. I hope they die in jail. Seems like prison justice is the most appropriate measure here.
Hannah wasn’t ‘crying’ as she burned (!) she was emitting God-awful screams I’m sure. I hope those cold blooded murdered hear that sound all the way to Hell and for all eternity.
I rejoice in knowing that Hannah rests in the arms of Jesus and will never feel such un-imaginable pain ever again.
I was thinking that they should be strapped into the burned-out pickup when they drop it into the car crusher, like in Goldfinger.
Amen. I was having a damn good day until I read this. I hate being so sad and so angry at the same time.
I want to watch as these bastards are dragged into the flames of hell by satan himself.
These monsters are nothing but pure evil.
Such big blue eyes. Prayers for little Hannah.
I’m really hoping the end of the world is coming. I don’t want to be here anymore.
Liberals have made a cesspool of America.
I think the words ‘pure evil’ are fitting, this is just so beyond anything I can wrap my mind around...these guys deserve whatever justice is served but nothing can be bad enough.
I am generally anti death penalty for many very good reasons, but some people just need killin, and in a most heinous way.
Baby is foster care...this dad got her out...where’s mom and why was the child in foster care in the first place?
That this baby had been in foster care, and the police story indicates that the father was a liar and a thief, indicates that neither dad nor mom were fit to be parenting a child.
Merciful Jesus, I know you welcomed this sweet little one into Your arms. Turn your mind towards justice for those that murdered her and let not your hand be stayed. Give those who do justice in your name the right anger to fullfill the laws they are charged with honoring. Move them to give a voice to the defenseless and protect all innocents.
Dr. Gerbner started a quantitative study of media violence, and has written and spoken widely about the phenomenon of copycat crimes, in which someone sees a manufactured crime in the media and then acts it out in real life.
What a shame that so few who have any power or influence have cared about anything but the dollar. Media companies want each "product" to sell as much as possible. Sex and violence transcend language barriers, and are welcomed in other countries where males dominate, such as the Middle East and Asia, since they can be understood without dialogue. The rest of the world somewhat logically sees us as "The Great Satan", based on one of our largest exports, media products.
What I find especially galling is that media advertising is the engine of commerce, clearly influencing people to buy things beyond necessity, even going into credit card debt to obtain the latest styles in clothing, household wares, cars and all other consumer goods. Yet the media industry consistently denies that violent or obscene media imagery contributes to social breakdown.
An organization that interested FReepers should consider supporting is the Parents Television Council, a grassroots conservative lobby that operates on donations, yet does vital work of confronting Congress, the FCC and advertisers who sponsor smut on television. They are leaders in the fight for cable choice, where customers do not buy a basic package that inevitably contains smut, but can choose only the stations that are morally decent and/or family-friendly.