[This was my first story for the Tribune on the lynching attempt nineteen days after Henderson was assaulted.I didnt own a car so I took the train to Lancaster and I walked and I walked and I walked.I walked from Ruth Coopers house to Alice Johnsons house to the Garden Court Apartments to the Wonder Bar to Mill Street to the Friendly Greek and back.I walked it over and over and over again.And very early on, I realized several key elements of the case from the crime scenes. I remember having a very heated phone conversation with Lancaster Captain of Detectives, Luther Henry, from the Tribune office as everyone listened and I told him that everyone most certainly did not use the word nigger.]
Police drag feet in Lancaster lynching case
By Becky Holzinger
(Special to the Tribune)
May 19, 1981
LANCASTER, PA. Police here have made no arrests in the vicious lynching attempt on 37-year-old Robert Henderson even though he described his assailants to detectives and police confirm that the three white men knew the area well.
Eighteen days after the attack, Captain of Detectives Luther Henry also stated that police have no strong suspects despite the fact that police have a detailed description of a van and three men.
Henry also said police have not made artists sketches of the assailants because, We did not feel it was appropriate in this case.
Henry still contended Thursday that the attack was not racially motivated although he did reveal that Henderson told police the men called him Nigger and made other racial slurs.
Robert Henderson Sr., father of the victim disagreed.
This is no more racial than anything else happening in the country.This has been going on for 200 years.We live with it everyday, he said.
Henderson said his son was walking on South Prince Street in Lancaster about when the van carrying three white males stopped to ask him for directions.He was then forced into the van at gunpoint and taken several blocks to Millers Junkyard where the first attack occurred.
It would sure seem that they knew where they were going, stated Henry.Its remote and the crane (on which they tried to impale Henderson) is way down in there.They knew exactly where it was.
The father said the men asked his son several times for his name and asked him if he knew someone else they named.Henderson stated that his son did not know the three men.
Henry believes the attack was planned in advance.According to police, the men had a tube of Jergens hand cream that they used to grease both the crane and later the seven inch vent pipe of the fuel tank on which he was impaled by his rectum.
Henry stated that both crime scenes were dusted for fingerprints but none were lifted.The police did recover the tube of hand cream, however, Henry stated that it was still in the crime lab and police did not know if there were fingerprints on it.
Henry said Thursday that police are not randomly stopping vans, but a description of the two-toned, dark colored van with a bubble window and occupants was given to all police officers.
Lancaster District Attorney Michael Ranck said he believes the police are actively investigating the case.He said, The police have not dropped every other responsibility to work on this.I do believe there has been an intense effort to solve this case.We arent closing the file on it.