April 16, 1982 edition of the Walla Walla Union Bulletin
with news of the murders on the bottom of the first page
Renae Wicklund was 23 years old in December of 1974, married not quite three years and a devoted mother to her nearly 2-year-old daughter, Shannah. The Wicklund family, which included Renae's husband and Shannah's father Jack, lived in Clearview, Washington, a community about half an hour northeast of Seattle, nestled between Woodinville and Snohomish. Although the Seattle area had been devastated through more than half of 1974 by missing and murdered women (crimes eventually attributed to Ted Bundy), crime had not touched the small hamlet of Clearview or the Wicklund family.
Not until the afternoon of December 11. It was unseasonably warm and sunny that day, a time of year when it was normally rainy. Renae decided to take advantage of the good weather and give herself and Shannah some fresh air and time out of the house, while Jack was working, and wash the family home's windows. While the Wicklund's one-story rambler style home sat on a good acre or so of property surrounded by fir trees, it was a Wednesday afternoon and Renae had little cause to be concerned or worry about her safety or that of her daughter. Clearview was safe; nothing ever happened there. Besides, the Wicklunds' closest neighbors, Don and Barbara Hendrickson, were within shouting distance across the street.
Renae first saw the man coming up the driveway. He was young, very tall and had reddish hair. She looked him the eye and he turned and headed back toward the road, leaving her to assume he had been lost or chosen the wrong house. She had gone back into her home, to grab more rags to use to wipe down the windows, when she saw him approaching again, this time much faster. Thinking that he was after Shannah, who was on the lawn, Renae ran back outside to grab the baby and flee back to the house and its safety. She was no match for the big man, who forced the door before she could fully close and lock it. Armed with a knife, the intruder demanded Renae disrobe and perform oral sex on him or he would kill her and her baby. To prove his point, he held the knife against Shannah's throat. Renae complied and once finished, her attacker left with a "Thanks." She quickly got redressed, grabbed her crying baby, and ran across the street, where Barbara Hendrickson let the pair in and locked the house up tight. Armed with a shotgun, she called the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office.
Born in Hawaii, Campbell was uprooted to Snohomish along with his sister, who was crippled. Both Campbell children were taunted and teased at school; their parents, never much for the responsibility of children, soon left them in the care of their grandparents. The grandparents, however, appeared to have little idea how to handle the children and Charles grew up to be a very angry individual.
School had little priority for him; he was more interested in drugs and alcohol. His first arrest came when he was sixteen, after he stole a car. The authorities, however, had known of him since before he began junior high. His juvenile record was dotted with auto thefts, burglaries, and resisting arrest and he had spent time in a juvenile detention facility.
At 19, he married a 22 year old woman; they would divorce only 10 months later, one month after she gave birth to a child. She would claim that Campbell both physically abused her and the child and neglected them. She was awarded $75 a month in child support with no visitation rights for Campbell,. By that point, Campbell had been charged with defrauding an innkeeper. The following year, in 1974, he would be arrested for allegedly possessing amphetamines and in the fall, before he attacked Renae Wicklund, he would be charged with violation of the federal firearms act, criminal trespass, burglary, grand larceny, carrying a concealed weapon, assault and resisting arrest.
The charges from the fall of 1974 were still pending when Renae Wicklund was attacked and raped that December.
Renae's marriage to Jack Wicklund suffered in the aftermath of her attack; the couple separated and eventually divorced but remained friendly, with Renae and Shannah remaining in the Clearview house. Renae worked as both a beautician and accountant for beauty salons. Whatever help she needed, whether it be with Shannah or with household chores, was gladly assisted by Don and Barbara Hendrickson.
In December of 1977, Jack Wicklund became the victim of a bizarre attack in his home. He recalled that a man walked into his home carrying a package, wished him a Merry Christmas and then tied him to a chair, poured gasoline over him and struck a match. It was a miracle that he survived. The incident left him burned and scarred over most of his body, suffering with excruciating pain and requiring that he wear a rubber body suit in order to protect his skin and minimize the formation of scar tissue. He told authorities that the man who had attacked him was a stranger.
Only four months later, in April of 1978, the car in which Jack Wicklund was driving crashed into a tree, killing him instantly. There were no witnesses and it appeared there was no other vehicle involved. There was a dangerous curve on the road he crashed on, and it was where his vehicle had left the road, but Jack had traveled the road many times before and knew the curve was there. Authorities never determined who had set Jack on fire in December 1977 or if the April 1978 car accident was indeed an accident, suicide, or the completion of the prior assault.
Renae had figured that when Charles Campbell was sentenced to a total of 45 years, he would actually serve every one of those 45 years. She certainly didn't realize that his sentences were running concurrently and not consecutively, meaning the most time he would spend behind bars would be the 30 years for her assault and that he could actually be free after serving the minimum of 7 years.
Campbell was only 25 miles away, incarcerated at the Monroe Reformatory, a mid-level penal institution. He had acquired a nickname while there - - "One Punch," on account of his strength. He bullied fellow prisoners and trafficked drugs while behind bars, something that the guards were allegedly well aware of. Despite this, he would be granted work release, beginning in 1981, for good behavior.
He had apparently spent his years in prison not only continuing with his criminal activities but simmering with anger against the person he felt was responsible for his incarceration -- Renae Wicklund.
Tragically, Renae was never informed that her rapist had furloughs from prison and was, effectively, free. She also had no idea that he had acquired copies of his trial transcripts that had her name and address, as well as Barbara Hendrickson's.
In early January of 1982, it had snowed in Clearview and both Don Hendrickson and Renae had noticed large footprints outside their homes. Since her home sat off the road, the footprints frightened Renae. Her dog, a large Afghan hound she had acquired after her divorce, had gone crazy, barking wildly around that same time. As the dog rarely barked, it was upsetting.
As the authorities had not informed Renae, or the Hendricksons, of Campbell's work release, they also chose not to share the fact that he had been transferred to a work-release facility less than ten miles from Clearview.
On Easter Sunday of 1982, Renae was sick with what was diagnosed as strep throat. Given medication and told to stay in bed, she was doing just that on Wednesday, April 14. Barbara dropped by that morning, to check in on her, and found Renae watching t.v. and attempting to read a book. She promised to return that afternoon.
Don Hendrickson remembered that his wife went to collect the afternoon mail and saw Shannah returning home from school. She told the little girl to tell her mother Barbara would be over shortly to make Jell-O, as it would be easy for Renae to swallow. It was 4:20 p.m. when Barbara asked Don if she could borrow his wristwatch so that she might take Renae's pulse and then left to head across the street to the Wicklund residence.
Don thought nothing of his wife being gone a little while; she and Renae were friends and probably got to chatting. But by 6 p.m., when she had been gone for an hour and a half, he put on a jacket and went to the Wicklunds' to fetch her. Seeing the sliding glass doors that led into the kitchen, where he would normally enter, partially open was the first sign that not all was right. Entering the kitchen, he noticed a dining chair knocked over and heard the sound of running water, which was coming from the kitchen faucet. Other than the water, the house was overwhelmingly silent.
He found his wife first. Barbara lay in the hallway that led to the bedrooms, blood spreading out around and on her head in an eerie halo effect. Her throat had been slashed so viciously she likely would have died from blood less within a moment or two.
Don found Shannah's bedroom empty but any relief he may have felt was quickly dashed when he entered Renae's bedroom. Shannah, only 8 years old, had been killed as Barbara had. The wound to her throat was so severe, she was nearly decapitated. Her mother lay across the room, on the floor, nude and beaten. She too had suffered a fatal knife wound to the neck.
The Snohomish County deputies that responded to Don Hendrickson's 911 call, as well as the city of Clearview as a whole, were horrified. Brutal, gruesome killings were not the norm, and especially not to people like Renae and Shannah Wicklund and Barbara Hendrickson and not in the middle of a sunny Wednesday in April.
The investigators very quickly honed in on Charles Campbell. Neither of the Wicklunds nor Barbara Hendrickson had any enemies and certainly no one that would wish such violence upon them. Don Hendrickson informed authorities that the man who had attacked Renae back in 1974 was the only person he could think of that would do such a thing; Renae's other friends and neighbors recalled that she had been attacked eight years earlier and that she had lived in fear ever since.
The sheriff's office in Snohomish County was shocked when they discovered that not only had Charles Campbell been living in a work-release facility with little supervision located only two blocks from the county courthouse, and no more than a dozen miles from the Wicklund and Hendrickson residences, but the sheriff's office had not been notified that a convicted felon had been released to their jurisdiction.
On the evening of April 14, 1982 - - only hours after Renae, Shannah, and Barbara met violent
ends -- Charles Campbell returned to the halfway house clearly under the influence of alcohol. When tested, his blood alcohol was nearly three times the legal limit and he tested positive for morphine, codeine, quinine, methadone, and cocaine. As one of the ground rules for living in the residence was no alcohol or drug consumption, Campbell was carted back off to the Monroe Reformatory.
Having him returned to the facility made it easier for cops to arrest him for the murders, which they did on April 19. Although Renae's assault back in 1974 had created little news, her murder in 1982 did. Never a state known for its propensity for the death penalty, many residents in Clearview signed a petition at Rick's Clearview Foods, where both Renae and Barbara shopped, demanding that Campbell be given the death penalty if he were found guilty. People reportedly traveled from all over the state to Clearview to sign the petition.
In May of 1982, Charles Campbell entered a plea of innocent in the three charges of first degree murder leveled against him. His trial began in November. The case against him was rock-solid. A bloody hand print found in the Wicklund residence was identified as his. He had allegedly stolen some of Renae's jewelry from the home, which he then attempted to sell. His ex-wife told authorities that during the Christmas holiday of 1981, as well as the few months following, she had been repeatedly raped by Campbell. When she had gone to swear out a complaint against him, the authorities told her the case would be too weak to bring before a court. That had been in March of 1982, the month before the murders.
Perhaps most galling was the knowledge gleaned just before the trial about Campbell's prison record. Rather than the "good behavior" he had been cited with, and the three minor infractions the parole board had been informed of, this "model prisoner" had been anything but. In addition to the drug trafficking, he had also used drugs while incarcerated, had regularly gotten into beefs with other inmates, was known to carry a club under his clothing, had attempted to assault a female nurse when she refused him medication, had broken a lunch tray in two with his bare hands after cutting in the food line and had been cited multiple times for contraband. Smaller, weaker inmates were forced to sell drugs for Campbell and often raped by him. The guards at Monroe were known to be afraid of Campbell and had requested that he be transferred to the more secure state pen at Walla Walla. Apparently nothing came of this request.
He had begun seeing a drug and alcohol counselor in 1980, while still at Monroe. This female counselor had developed a close, personal relationship with Campbell that resulted in not only her quitting her job but becoming pregnant with Campbell's child.
The Washington State parole board discovered that, much to their horror, it was not only Charles Campbell's records they had not been provided with by Monroe. Literally hundreds of prisoners had been paroled without their prison behavior being properly evaluated.
Campbell requested a change of venue before his trial started, wanting to move the case out of state, as he believed he could not get a fair trial in Washington due to all the publicity. His request was denied.
Other than his desire for a change of venue, Campbell participated very little in his trial. He refused to entertain the idea of testifying in his own defense and would not talk about the murders. He did, however, according to Peggi Hendrickson, Don and Barbara's daughter, draw pictures of gravestones and hangman's nooses and hold them up so the galley could see them.
Neighbors of the Wicklunds and the Hendricksons testified that they remembered seeing the very tall man with a shock of red hair close to the Wicklund house on the day of the crimes. Campbell's girlfriend testified that the day after the killings, she had noticed one of her kitchen knives missing. She also said that he had "considerable resentment" toward Renae and had driven by her home several times while on work release.
The horrors inflicted on the victims was publicly heard for the first time. Jurors and spectators heard of Renae's broken jaw, broken nose, broken ribs and a body terribly bruised, on top of being raped with a blunt instrument, being strangled and having her throat cut. Shannah had lost so much blood from her wound, samples had to be collected from the floor. Barbara's throat wound was so deep, her carotid artery had been severed.
The defense called no witnesses and presented no evidence. They only characterized the case as a miscarriage of justice and stated their belief that the investigators had tunnel vision with the case and had not investigated anyone else after hearing Campbell's name.
His case went to the jury on November 26, 1982, the day after Thanksgiving. The jury needed only four hours to find him guilty. His detached and aloof demeanor, coupled with his absolute lack of remorse, helped to secure not only the conviction but the recommendation to fix the penalty at death. Campbell, during the penalty phase, had reportedly grinned at the jury while asking his attorney if they had to "go through all that crap again."
The following year, allegations were made against Monroe Reformatory counselor Roger Button that he covered up certain inmates' infractions in exchange for sex and drugs. Charles Campbell was reportedly one of those inmates who curried favor with Button. These favored inmates also reportedly collected debts for Button, protected those prisoners Button liked, and beat up those prisoners that Button did not like. Roger Button denied the allegations.
On April 14, 1994, 12 years to the day that he had killed Renae, Shannah, and Barbara, the state of Washington lifted its stay of execution on Campbell and set his execution for May
When time for his execution arrived, Campbell refused his last meal and would not get off the floor of his cell, necessitating the use of pepper spray. He would not walk to or stand on the execution platform and so had to be carried and then strapped to a board. He would not remain still so the noose and hood could be placed easily on his head. He died roughly within two minutes after the trap was opened and offered no final words. It has been reported in some outlets that the drop and/or Campbell's weight was misjudged, resulting in the prisoner nearly being decapitated. Campbell was only the second person in the United States to be executed by hanging since 1965, when the infamous Clutter family killers of "In Cold Blood" infamy were executed.
|New York Times, May 28, 1994|
After his execution and while cleaning out Campbell's holding cell, authorities found a four-inch piece of metal that Campbell had been sharpening into a knife.
Following his trial and before his execution, Campbell's ex-wife sued the State of Washington for negligence in allowing Campbell to roam freely and thus for him to rape her. Renae's mother and Don Hendrickson filed a lawsuit seeking damages for the same negligence that led to the deaths of Renae, Shannah, and Barbara. They were awarded $2.3 million in damages.
No one can say with absolute certainty what happened that April day in 1982 since none of his victims survived and Campbell chose never to speak of it. Investigators believe that Campbell entered the home and attacked Renae, beating and raping her, before killing her. When Shannah returned home from school, he dragged the child into the bedroom, forcing her to look at the remains of her mother, before he killed her as well. He then apparently sat the in kitchen and ate a sandwich. Either Renae may have told him about Shannah and Barbara expected at the home in an attempt to get him to leave, or he could have heard Barbara speaking to Shannah, or he just happened to be in the home when Barbara dropped by. It appeared that Barbara may have attempted to escape, based on the knocked over dinette chair, but Campbell caught her and dragged her to the hallway, where he killed her.
Renae Wicklund was a fighter. She fought to the death, as evidenced by her battered and bruised knuckles. She identified Charles Campbell after her assault and testified against him in court at a time when victims didn't always do that. She did the right thing and the State of Washington failed her miserably when they should have been protecting her.
After the slayings of Renae, Shannah, and Barbara, Washington enacted a law which would grant violent crime victims the right to know when their attackers are released. Renae's mother Hilda was a driving force behind the law and she became an advocate for victims' rights.
Renae and Shannah were laid to rest in Renae's home state of North Dakota. When Renae's mother Hilda passed away in October of 2005, she was laid to rest beside her daughter and granddaughter.
The little white house that Renae and Shannah lived, and died, in was reportedly torn down.