December 9, 2018

The Murders of Renae and Shannah Wicklund and Barbara Hendrickson


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.

Renae
Renae Wicklund proved to be an excellent witness.  She gave a thorough and detailed description of her attacker, including that she had detected a faint odor of alcohol on his breath.    Based on her description, the detectives quickly narrowed in on Charles Rodman Campbell, who had been in trouble most of his life.

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.

Shannah
Although she had provided a detailed description of Campbell, it would be March of 1976 before he was arrested and charged with one count of first degree assault with intent to kill and one count of sodomy.  Renae, along with Barbara Hendrickson, testified against Campbell during his trial.  He was found guilty of both the assault and sodomy charges and was sentenced to 30 years, with a 7 year minimum for his attack on Renae.  He plead guilty to his outstanding burglary charge and was given up to 15 years, with a 7 year minimum.  It seemed that Charles Campbell would not be free for a very long time.

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.

Barbara 
The terrible fate that befell her ex-husband left Renae with a constant sense of anxiety.  Her friends reported that she told them she lived in constant fear that something would, again, happen to her.

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 killer 
Campbell was officially sentenced to death in December 1984.  For the next decade, the man who had no regard for the lives of the people he had killed, who believed he had the right to do what he wanted, to whomever he wanted, fought to save his.  In Washington, inmates on death row have the right to choose their method of execution from either legal injection or hanging; if no choice is made, hanging is used.  Campbell refused to choose, stating that it was akin to suicide and went against his religion.  That set off debate over whether hanging, given Campbell's huge size, would be cruel and unusual punishment as decapitation could very well be the end result.

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
27.   Mike Lowry, then governor of Washington, was opposed to the death penalty but after hearing the details of Campbell's crimes, and meeting with the killer face to face, he refused to consider commuting his sentence to that of life imprisonment.  By that point, the remorseless Campbell had gone through some 15 attorneys and cost the state of Washington more than $775,000 in legal fees and care.

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
Family members of the victims had requested to view Campbell's execution but were denied.  However, Don Hendrickson, along with the son he had with Barbara', were there even though they couldn't see Campbell and Campbell couldn't see them.

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.

The fear Renae must have felt is unimaginable.  She had lived with this terror since 1974, worried that someone else may harm her or Shannah.  But she surely never expected to see Charles Campbell again; she thought he would be locked up for at least another 30 years.  Did she know immediately he was there to permanently silence her?   Did she think he would assault her once again and then leave?  We will never know.

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.


Barbara Hendrickson was interred in Lynwood, Washington.  Following her murder, Don Hendrickson became active in a victims' support group.  While there, he met Doreen Hanson, whose daughter Janna had been murdered in December of 1974.  The two married but would divorce only a few years later, as there was too much grief between the two of them.  According to Peggi Hendrickson, her father had begun drinking as a way of coping with his wife's murder and finding the bodies of the three victims and it was that drinking that led to his death.  Don died in January of 1999 and was interred next to Barbara.

Peggi Hendrickson's marriage ended in divorce, another ripple-effect casualty of murder.    

The little white house that Renae and Shannah lived, and died, in was reportedly torn down.  



4 comments:

  1. What a sad read! It amazes me how people are locked away for years for non-violent crimes while monsters like this one are returned to society to roam free--our justice system needs a good dose of common sense :(

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    1. It is a sad read, ApacheDug. However, Renae, Shannah, and Barbara did not die in vain since their deaths led to victims in Washington State being notified of their attacker's release from prison. We're so used to that being the norm nowadays it's hard to remember that wasn't always so.

      Very telling that even anti-death penalty activists didn't care to protest Campbell's execution.

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  2. Thank you for posting this, it's more than I ever knew about Campbell and the victims. I grew up in Snohomish, WA and was in the 9th grade when this happened and only a mile or so where I went to school. This took place in a small farming community and no one locked their doors and I believe the population in Snohomish at the time was about 2,000 people. I came home from school that day and the doors were locked and that was very unusual, my Mom let us in and said the doors were locked because a killer was on the loose. These horrific murders really shook up our small community and only being 14 at the time it was shocking. Little Shannah was the same age as my younger sister and I have never forgotten them. My Step Father got a job at Walla Walla and was working there when Charles Campbell was executed and he fought and cried like a baby. He got what was coming to him. Again, thanks for remembering them.

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Sheryl. Such horrible murders. Poor Renae was victimized by Campbell twice and she shouldn't have been. I try to think that she didn't die in vain; that her death has now lead to victims being notified when their attackers are up for parole.

      It sounded like Snohomish was a wonderful place to live then. If only we could all leave our doors unlocked with no fear.

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