“I Know Now That Their Deaths Came Quickly”

The two brothers, David and Dickie, possibly would be grandfathers now, possibly looking forward to retirement, possibly noticing a touch of gray in the bathroom mirror in the mornings.

Instead they are the two sons who will forever be babies to their mother.

Gladys Carolyn Hungerford was the daughter of Herbert and Vanoy Hungerford. Herbert Hungerford was a Fort Worth police officer. Carolyn had attended Trimble Technical High School.

In 1961 Carolyn had married Airman Third Class Willie Richard Adams.

By 1964 Carolyn was twenty, separated from her husband, and the mother of two sons: Dickie, two, and David, one. She and her sons lived in a duplex on Blevins Street in the Riverside area. She attended night school at Trimble Tech.

Mr. and Mrs. Hungerford were divorced. Carolyn’s mother, Vanoy Hungerford, lived at 3736 Maurice Street on the southern edge of Sylvania Park in Riverside. Mother and daughter lived just ten blocks apart. Mrs. Hungerford babysat Dickie and David when Carolyn worked during the day and attended classes at night.

Charles Roy Hefley Jr., sixteen, was a junior at Carter-Riverside High School.

Charles lived with his mother and stepfather on Harper Street eight blocks from Mrs. Hungerford.
Charles was a troubled teen, did not make friends easily. He was described by classmates as “pushy,” a “smart-aleck.”
He had a history of lying and stealing, had lived two years in the Tarrant County Juvenile Home.
But Bob Barron, county juvenile probation officer, called Hefley a “quiet youngster who never showed any viciousness whatsoever.” Barron said Hefley had been receptive to adult supervision, never a discipline problem at the home.
In fact, one classmate of Hefley would later say, “You could line up a thousand kids, and Charles would be the last one you’d pick out as a criminal.”
Likewise, Sheriff Lon Evans would later describe Hefley as “the last person you’d pick out of a police lineup.”
But Hefley’s classmates also described him with two other terms: “impulsive” and “remorseful.”
In a matter of seconds on a warm night in September 1964, Charles Roy Hefley would be both.
At 10:27 p.m. on September 10 Fort Worth police received a call from a resident in the 3800 block of Maurice Street: A suspicious male was on the roof of a building in Sylvania Park across the street.
Before police could respond, at 10:30 Charles Roy Hefley was one block away, walking down the 3700 block of Maurice Street.
As Hefley walked, by the dim light of a streetlamp he saw a foot-long iron pipe lying at the curb. He picked up the pipe.
Impulse.
Hefley hefted the pipe in his hand. It was blunt and heavy, unlike the paring knife in his back pocket. He walked on.
He saw a car parked in front of the house at 3736 Maurice Street.
He decided to steal the car.
Impulse.
But then he watched a young woman walk out of the house and get into the car.
As she was about to pull away from the curb, he stepped to the driver’s-side door, shoved the paring knife through the open window, and held it against the woman’s ribs.
Before Carolyn Adams could scream, at the tip of the knife blade Hefley forced her to move over, got into the driver’s seat, and placed the new-found pipe on the seat beside him.
Up close, he recognized the woman.
Hefley said to her: “I know you from the [Sylvania Park] pool.”
Carolyn Adams did not recognize him.
Hefley pulled away from the curb.
He later recalled: “I was just going to steal her car, but she came out of the house . . . so I didn’t know anything else to do but take her with me.”
He had committed not only grand theft auto but also kidnapping.
Remorse.
For Charles Roy Hefley, it got worse. He had not driven far before he realized that he and his kidnap victim were not alone:
Two baby boys were lying asleep on the rear seat, one in training pants, the other in a diaper. Carolyn Adams had placed sons Dickie and David on the back seat before Hefley had spotted her leaving her mother’s house.
Hefley had kidnapped a family, not just a woman.
Remorse.
But in the mind of Charles Roy Hefley, remorse did not trigger the decision to undo what he had done.
Rather than abandon his busted plot, he doubled down: Frightened, he drove on into the night. Even more frightened was the young mother who shrank from him against the front passenger door. On the back seat were two increasingly restless infants.
As Hefley drove he told Mrs. Adams that he was fleeing from the police. That was a lie. He told her that he would not harm her if she did not “cause trouble.”
That, too, would turn out to be a lie.

Hefley drove south and then east toward the edge of town and the ever-more-isolated roads of the Trinity River bottoms.
After eight miles and an interminable dozen minutes, Mrs. Adams felt the car slow.
Hefley pulled the car off Randol Mill Road near Precinct Line Road just south of the river.
Hefley marched Mrs. Adams at knife point into the woods along the river.
Mrs. Adams started screaming, and Hefley hit her on the head with the pipe.
“She just turned and stared at me and then fell,” Hefley recalled.

Then, to grand theft auto and kidnapping, Charles Roy Hefley added the crime of rape.
Hefley recalled: “It was then that I tore part of her clothes off and assaulted her.”
Then Charles Roy Hefley sabotaged himself:
He told his victim his name.
He also reminded her that she knew his sister.
Now Carolyn remembered: She had last seen Hefley when he was twelve years old.
“He was just a little kid you didn’t pay any attention to,” she would say later.
Now Hefley said to Carolyn: “I guess you know I’m going to have to kill you to keep you quiet.”
Carolyn recalled: “I tried to reason with him. He was very calm and apologetic about having to murder me.
“I pleaded with him, and then he stuck a knife to my chest. He asked me, ‘How would you like for me to stick this knife in your heart?’”
Beaten and raped, she begged him to take her to a hospital.
He refused.
“God forgive you then,” she said.
Carolyn began screaming.
Hefley recalled: “I lost my head and started stabbing her with the knife. When it broke, I threw the blade in the bushes and used the pipe until she stopped screaming” and “fell limber.”
Carolyn recalled: “He stabbed me in the eye. I don’t remember anything after the first few stabs.”

Then, to grand theft auto, kidnapping, and rape Charles Roy Hefley added the ultimate crime.
He walked back to the Hungerford car, where Dickie, age two, and David Adams, age one, were sleeping.
Hefley later said: “I thought their mother was dead and didn’t know what to do with them.”
One by one he carried the two baby boys to the river and threw them in.

Then Hefley drove away. He parked the Hungerford car a half-block from Mrs. Hungerford’s house.

He then met two friends at a drive-in restaurant on East Belknap Street for a “bull session” that lasted an hour. Then he returned to the Hungerford car and, wearing gloves, wiped off every part of the car where he thought he might have left fingerprints.

Then Charles Roy Hefley went home to bed.

Meanwhile in the Trinity River bottoms, Carolyn Adams had regained consciousness. Her attacker was gone. Her car was gone. More ominously, her children were gone.
She later recalled: “When I woke up, I remembered that I had seen what looked like a cowpath, and I tried to crawl to it.”
As dawn broke she heard traffic and crawled on her hands and knees—beaten, bleeding, half-blind—toward the sounds.

Meanwhile, on Friday morning Charles Roy Hefley went to classes at Carter-Riverside High School. Classmates later recalled that he betrayed no hint of his night of crime.

As Charles Roy Hefley was attending class, about nine o’clock Friday morning Carolyn Adams was found by two men searching for stray cows along the river.
She had managed to crawl only a short distance from where Hefley had attacked her.
“Help me,” was all she had the strength to say to the two men.

Charles Roy Hefley had left Carolyn Adams for dead.
And his assessment very nearly was correct.

She was admitted to John Peter Smith Hospital in extremely critical condition. A physician gave her only a twenty-five percent chance of living. She had been beaten. She had fourteen stab wounds to her head and chest. One foot was almost severed. She probably would lose her left eye.
A nurse reported: “When she is asleep she reaches out, as if she were crawling.”
After Carolyn Adams was able to talk to police investigators later on September 11, they began two searches: to find her children and to find her attacker.
Before noon searchers, supervised by police chief Cato Hightower and composed of police officers, firemen, and volunteers, began to comb the tall grass and thick underbrush of the crime scene. They dragged the river in boats. Divers searched the murky water. Men searched on foot and on horseback. Overhead a helicopter was an eye in the sky.
Searchers were hampered by rain. When night fell they continued with floodlights.

Meanwhile, in her hospital bed Carolyn Adams muttered to a nurse the words “Diane and Barbara Hefland” but nothing else.
The nurse notified police.
Police detectives began the step-by-step process of investigation: Grab a clue—no matter how thin—and tug on that thread.
A detective said to Mrs. Adams: “If these [two] names have anything to do with who did this to you, squeeze my hand.”
She took his hand and squeezed.
A witnessing police officer recalled: “I saw her fingers get white around the ends as she took that hand.”

At Mrs. Hungerford’s home on Maurice Street, three detectives asked Mrs. Hungerford about the names “Diane and Barbara Hefland.”
She said she thought the Hefland sisters had a younger brother, but she did not know his first name or whereabouts.
The detectives kept tugging at the thread.
An acquaintance of Carolyn Adams told the detectives that a girl named “Hefley” had a brother who hung out at a drive-in restaurant on East Belknap Street. She did not know his first name.
At the restaurant the detectives questioned carhops, who knew only that the brother’s first name was “Charles” and that “he lives around here someplace.”
To the detectives, “around here someplace” seemed like a mighty big world.
But that world was about to shrink.
The detectives returned to the Hungerford neighborhood. On Harper Street they encountered police patrolman J. A. Davis, who was investigating a house burglary.
Patrolman Davis told the detectives that a teenager had broken into a house and stolen two pairs of pants.
The detectives asked the name of the teenager.
“Charles Hefley.”
The thread was unraveling.
A detective asked the burglary victim: “Do you have any idea where he lives?”
“Sure, he lives right next door.”
The thread was tied in a bow around a suspect.
But the detectives learned that Charles Hefley and his stepfather had gone bowling.
When Hefley and his stepfather returned home shortly before midnight, patrolman Davis was waiting.
Davis took Charles Roy Hefley to the police station for questioning.

Hefley was not surprised by his arrest.
“I knew the police would get me. You can’t do a thing like that and get away with it.”
He admitted everything: kidnapping, rape, murder.
After midnight he guided police investigators to the river and showed them where he had thrown the two infants into the river.
With that information, searchers—now numbering more than one hundred—focused on a stretch of the river downstream from the crime scene.

Just before 5 a.m. on September 12, after a search of more than twenty hours, the two bodies were found snagged on the limbs of a submerged tree in the river east of Precinct Line Road. The bodies were found by three civilian volunteers who had been turned away by search organizers but had searched anyway.

The story was news from coast to coast.

On September 14 Dickie and David Adams were buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery, their caskets carried by colleagues of the boys’ grandfather, police officer Herbert Hungerford.

Meanwhile at John Peter Smith Hospital, Carolyn Adams—the only survivor of what Sheriff Evans called the worst crime in the county that he could remember—kept asking about her two sons.
Family members and hospital workers had avoided telling her while her condition was so critical.
But her father, officer Hungerford, recalled: “She sensed something was wrong. She knew we had a reason for evading her questions.”
Finally her physician told her.
Her fear confirmed, the victim comforted those who had gathered to comfort her.
“Everything is going to be all right,” she kept telling family members through the bandages covering her face.
Reverend Cabel Roberts, pastor of Friendly Lane Baptist Church, who earlier that day had presided at the funeral of the two babies, noted her compassion: “She turned to comfort her parents even though she was in desperate sorrow herself.”
Of her attacker Carolyn Adams echoed what she had said to Hefley after he had raped her: “I know God will have mercy on him. I want God to do what He thinks is right. I wouldn’t pass judgment.”
Coping with her loss, Carolyn spoke of her mental stress as she had imagined that her two sons were being tortured and mutilated by Hefley.
“Until they told me [that her sons were dead], I imagined everything. I could see him doing to my little babies what he had done to me. But I know now that their deaths came quickly, and I know that they are in heaven now—that’s what’s pulled me through.”

On September 30 Carolyn Adams, after eighteen days, left the hospital and went home to an empty house. She had undergone extensive surgery, including plastic surgery. She wore a wig because her head had been shaved. She wore the eyepatch that she would wear the rest of her life.

Meanwhile, Charles Roy Hefley on December 1 turned seventeen while in jail awaiting trial.
He was charged with one count of rape and two counts of murder. Because he had committed the crimes before age seventeen he could be assessed a life sentence but not the death penalty.
The mental state of Charles Roy Hefley quickly became an issue, with his father insisting that Charles was “mentally ill,” and District Attorney Doug Crouch insisting that Charles was sane because his confession showed that he knew right from wrong and understood the nature and consequences of his actions—the test of sanity in Texas courts.
Crouch would change his mind.

In March and April 1965 two psychiatrists—one for the state, one for the defense—examined Hefley and agreed that he was insane, a paranoid schizophrenic. One of the psychiatrists was Dr. John Holbrook, who had been a key witness for the state in Jack Ruby’s murder trial.

By May 1965 District Attorney Crouch had become a believer: As a sanity hearing for Hefley began, Crouch recommended that the jury find Hefley insane and that Hefley be committed to Rusk State Hospital.
Dr. Holbrook testified that Charles Roy Hefley had been mentally ill since childhood and was insane at the time of the crime and at the time of his sanity hearing.
Hefley’s court-appointed attorney admitted that Hefley’s crimes were “horrible, unbelievable.”
Within Hefley, the attorney said, ticked “a small time bomb.”

The jury found Hefley to be insane.
Because he was found to be insane at the time of the crime and at the time of his hearing, he could not be tried for his crimes if later found to be sane.
Among the witnesses at Hefley’s sanity hearing in May was his only surviving victim. She testified for eight minutes about the attack as Hefley sat at a courtroom table twenty-five feet from her.
By May 1965 Carolyn Adams had reset her life. While she had been in the hospital she had met Gene Witcher, a bus driver who had visited her after reading about her ordeal in the newspapers.
By the time Charles Roy Hefley’s sanity hearing began, Mrs. Carolyn Adams was “Mrs. Carolyn Witcher.” The Witchers lived in Dallas with their French poodle Shalimar: her “wee, bitty, bitty baby.”
Interviewed by the Star-Telegram she said, “Four or five years from now we hope to adopt a child. . . . Maybe two or three.”
Carolyn Witcher repeated the compassion she had expressed at the time of the crime, saying of Hefley: “You know, I don’t hate him. He’s done all he can to me, and now he’s got his to go through. I wish for him what he really needs. A psychiatrist and some place they can put him where they can help him. I really don’t care where he is, as long as he is not out where he can hurt somebody else.”
As she spoke those words, her son David would have been two years old, would probably have been walking and talking. Her son Dickie would have been three years old, perhaps would have been riding a tricycle.

During the next nine years Charles Roy Hefley would undergo psychiatric treatment and examination at Rusk State Hospital. Five times Rusk staff would certify him as sane; five times a jury in district court would find him to still be insane.
Carolyn Witcher monitored the hearings. She remained convinced that Hefley should remain right where he was.

At a sanity hearing in 1973 Hefley’s defense attorney presented this scenario to explain his client’s emotional state at the time of the crime in 1964: Hefley had gotten his girlfriend pregnant, the mothers of Hefley and the girlfriend wanted the girlfriend to get an abortion, Hefley wanted his girlfriend to have the baby, and he had attempted to steal Carolyn Adams’s car so that he could run away from home.
A jury again found Hefley insane.
Carolyn Witcher said of the jury’s ruling: “I’m just tickled to death, both for his sake and for my own.”
If Hefley were released, Mrs. Witcher said, “I don’t think he could make it.”
She added: “I never bore him any hatred.”

But one year later, in 1974, Charles Roy Hefley was released from Rusk State Hospital after a three-judge federal court ordered the release of inmates who had been certified as sane by hospital doctors.
Carolyn Witcher reacted to the ruling: “I don’t believe he is sane. I don’t think they did anything to help him. I’ve always felt sorry for him, sorry because I knew he was sick. A man has to be to do what he did to me and the way he did it. Like when he told me he was going to have to kill me. He seemed to think that I shouldn’t be upset because I should know that he had to kill me.”
In 1974 her sons Dickie and David would have been twelve and eleven years old, students in elementary school.

Fast-forward to 1986. Charles Roy Hefley was living in Vermont, had married and started a family: He and wife Janet (see reader comment below) had a daughter. Two years later, in 1988, they had a son.
In 1988 Dickie and David Adams would have been young men, perhaps with families of their own.

Fast-forward again, this time thirty-four years to 2020. In 2020 the Carolyn Adams of 1964 was seventy-six years old. And she again suffered a personal loss: Her grandson, eighteen, was shot to death in a park in Plano. Three men were arrested and indicted for murder.
Again, as she had fifty-six years earlier after being raped and maimed and losing her two sons, during her time of loss in 2020 she expressed compassion for others: “This is all so very sad,” she said of her grandson’s murder. “It has hurt so many people, including our family but also the families of those who did the shooting and who were arrested. It has caused so much pain.”
Today her sons Dickie and David would be sixty and fifty-nine years old.

(Thanks to Linda Wood Campbell for the tip.)

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6 Responses to “I Know Now That Their Deaths Came Quickly”

  1. Janet says:

    New Years Eve 1983 Harold and Ralphye Hoffman, Charles Hefley’s mom and stepdad revealed that Barbara Powell (half sister) had altered the birth certificate that Sr. presented to the judge that showed he was 16 at her dad’s printing company Powell Printing. I did not laugh with them,they were real criminals, intentions were evil all of them.
    I read there was a lot of evidence prior to the indictments, like school records and detention records that Hefley Jr was 17 at the time of the crime; turning 18 on December 1, 1964. I was married to him, for 11 years and divorced in 1991.

  2. Cate Murray says:

    I remember this tragedy as a cautionary tale for young girls. But caution for what? A young woman shouldn’t step into her car in the evening?

  3. Sally and Tom Campbell says:

    What a sorrow. What a remarkably evil manchild. What a remarkably kind survivor.

  4. Evelyn says:

    Thank you for a horrific but well written story.

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