| I M A G E S A N D R E L A T E D C O N T E N T |
Ex-minister admits abusing daughters
- A former Lincoln County minister whose three adult daughters said on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" last week that he abused them as children pleaded guilty Thursday to related charges and was sentenced to 36 years in prison.
His daughters howled and cried in the courtroom after their father was sentenced on six counts of taking indecent liberties with a minor.
Although they argued for him to get the maximum 60-year sentence, they said afterward they were happy with the punishment and could finally start to heal.
Ted Eugene Hendrix, 66, declined to comment as he was taken into custody after sentencing, rolling a green oxygen tank behind him. He was later taken to Raleigh for processing into the state prison system.
In March, Hendrix was charged with second-degree rape, incest, second-degree sexual offense and crime against nature. Prosecutors said the charges were based on events that one of the daughters said took place in 1982.
Hendrix's trial was scheduled to begin Monday in Yadkin County Superior Court, but was postponed because he was hospitalized after seeing his daughters on the national talk show.
Hendrix's attorney, Clark Fischer, said Hendrix admitted fondling his daughters but contends he never raped them. He would have fought the rape charge, Fischer said, but did not want to subject his daughters to a trial.
The lesser charges that Hendrix pleaded guilty to carry a maximum sentence of 60 years. A rape conviction could have meant a life sentence.
But Hendrix might not even serve the 36 years he received. Because the offenses occurred more than 20 years ago, his sentence could be reduced to 18 years with an opportunity for parole.
"But he's certainly not looking at getting out anytime soon," Fischer said.
Hendrix resigned his job as minister of Webbs Chapel Methodist Church in Denver. N.C., after his daughters confronted him in August 2003, accusing him of raping and fondling them as children.
A spokeswoman for `The Oprah Winfrey Show" said producers learned of the case while doing research and invited the women on the show. The spokeswoman said producers called Hendrix before the show aired but didn't hear back from him.
A crew from the Oprah show attended the hearing Thursday in Yadkinville, but would not comment.
Hendrix's three daughters testified in court Thursday, answering questions from the prosecutor and defense attorney to help Judge William Wood decide on a sentence.
Four men including two retired United Methodist preachers testified on Hendrix's behalf.
"My father lay my soul in strips," Amy Harrison, 39, said. "He took my 8-year-old body. ... I ask that you speak for the child I was and the woman I am."
Hendrix's two older daughters -- Cathy Hawks and Pam Harris -- each said on the stand that they remembered being touched inappropriately on a daily basis, but only had "a feeling" they were raped. They also asked for the maximum sentence.
"I believe he needs to face his earthly punishment before he faces his Judgment Day," Hawks said.
Harris was last to speak.
"Our father took our childhood, our innocence, our trust," she said. "He used the precious name of God in the most awful way."
Earl Cook, a retired minister from Morganton who has known Hendrix for 40 years, spoke in defense of his friend.
"You can't neglect the good that this man has done over the years," he said. "He's a broken man. He's a dying man because of these allegations."
Neither Hendrix nor his wife took the stand.
The judge said Hendrix committed "a horrible crime."
"The effect of what you have done is still present today," Wood said. Then he sentenced Hendrix to six years in prison for each count, to be served consecutively.
The Rev. George Thompson, superintendent of the United Methodist district in which Hendrix served, said Thursday from Charlotte that to his knowledge, Hendrix had never been accused of any wrongdoing by anyone in his congregations.
"I am saddened by the alienation and pain within the Hendrix family, the shock experienced by Ted Hendrix's former parishioners and the lingering wounds that will be likely carried into the future by these three daughters," Thompson said. -- STAFF WRITER KEN GARFIELD CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE.