The lead suspect in the kidnapping and murder of a 10-year-old Iowa girl was released from prison ahead of schedule last spring.
Henry Earl Dinkins, 48, was charged earlier this month with killing Breasia Terrell. Authorities believe Dinkins fatally shot the child during an overnight stay at his apartment in July 2020. Dinkins was already in jail when the murder charges were filed. He was arrested in July 2020 for failure to register as a sex offender–the last time Terrell was seen alive.
Dinkins and his family members have insisted upon his innocence. Terrell was a technically distant relative of Dinkins (he is her half-brother’s father), but the two reportedly had a close relationship.
“I know Henry did not do it,” his sister Neda McQuay told local CBS affiliate WHBF. “I feel my brother is paying for somebody else’s crime.”
According to the Associated Press, Dinkins was released from a minimum-security prison facility in Davenport, Iowa in March 2020 after the Iowa Board of Parole determined he was “able and willing to fulfill the obligations of a law abiding citizen.”
“There is a reasonable probability that you can be released without detriment to the community or yourself,” Helen Miller, the board’s chair, wrote in the release order.
The board’s order also took stock of Dinkins prior criminal record.
A product of the criminal justice system, Dinkins has been in and out of incarceration since 1990 when he was convicted of sexual abuse of a child in the third degree. He was 17 at the time. That original conviction led to an adult whose life was pockmarked by over a dozen criminal charges; some serious, some minor. In 2009, Dinkins was also charged with murder–though police eventually dropped those charges after determining that he was actually a witness, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
Just over three months after his most recent release, Dinkins appeared in an Illinois court on charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The date of that appearance was July 8, 2020. Terrell went missing two days later.
The young girl’s disappearance set off a months-long search that only ended in late March 2021 when fishermen discovered human remains that were eventually determined to belong to Terrell.
“Words cannot describe the heartache and emptiness that we feel now that police have confirmed the remains located in DeWitt, Iowa, are Breasia,” the victim’s mother, Aishia Lankford, said by way of the National Center for Missing and Endangered Children. “Our love for Breasia has gotten us through the past nine months and will continue to see us through as we fight for justice.”
Earlier, Lankford appeared to implicate Dinkins in her daughter’s disappearance.
“I was with [Dinkins] and then I found out about him,” she told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. “He was weird. And then he went to prison. There have been a lot of rumors and a lot of things said on social media. Breasia was with her brother. And he was visiting his father. I never imagined I would be here talking about this.”
According to Lankford, Dinkins reached out to her to talk after Terrell went missing. She said she was initially reticent but eventually heard him out.
“I figured it might help the police,” she said. “I believe he knows something about what is happening with my daughter. I think my daughter is alive. And I think it’s just a matter of time before Dinkins is ready to crack and tell what he knows. That’s what I honestly believe.”
Dinkins was reportedly furious that Lankford floated his name.
“Why did you drag me into this?” Terrell’s mother said the defendant asked her when she finally agreed to talk.
Alberto Luperon contributed to this report.
[image via Davenport Police Department]
Have a tip we should know? [email protected]