Last Meals, Part Four

This is the fourth installment of the Last Meals series from Historydojo. Please find the third installment here. Start the series from the beginning by reading the first installment here.

Henry Dunn Jr
Henry Dunn, Jr.

Henry Dunn, Jr. is a sad story of a stupid idea gone terribly wrong. It would seem that Dunn was spending time with friends and got a bad idea, acted upon it and watched it go way, way too far.

He was a kid. He did something without much forethought. He paid for it with his life. He destroyed himself and an innocent stranger for nothing; for no real reason.

“In November 1993, Donald Aldrich, 29, Henry Dunn, then 19, and David McMillian, 17, drove to a city park that was known as a meeting place for homosexuals.”1

These three young men, with very little experience in the world and far less compassion for someone different from them, got the idea to attack  a gay man. Any gay man would do. This is such a terrible example of homophobia, a fear that sadly plagues the small minds of many small people.

donald aldrich
James Aldrich

At the park, Aldrich spotted Nicholus West, 23.

“Aldrich got out of the car and approached West, who was in his pickup. Aldrich pretended to be interested in West, and West invited Aldrich to join him.”1

The two drove together to a nearby parking lot. Dunn and McMillian followed in their car.

Then the plan went into action. It was designed to extract a twisted form of fun, by scaring a helpless stranger and brandishing power over someone powerless. In retrospect this seems like very little real fun, and more like sadistic and immature jollies.

“Once in the parking lot, the three men brandished weapons at West and forced him into their car. With Dunn holding a gun on West, McMillian drove them to a clay pit about ten miles outside of town. Aldrich drove West’s pickup.”1

This is when the plan goes off the rails. The victim is now definitely traumatized and fearing for his life. The boys are high on adrenaline and rage. The power over their victim has gone to their head and they are living out a fantasy of being someone with power, when in fact they are weak and small in reality.

“When they arrived, the trio walked West away from the road, into the pit. They made him remove his pants and shoes and stole his wallet.”1

Why steal the wallet? The answer is a simple as it is stupid. The crime is not planned, but spontaneous. Of course you take his wallet, as this is a crime of opportunity and personal enjoyment. It is living out a life not their own, as people they could never be. The crime is now gone too far to think that petty theft is even a thing to worry about.

“They then shot him 9 to 15 times and left his body in the pit, face down. They then left the scene, with Aldrich driving West’s truck and McMillian and Dunn in their car.”1

They boys are not criminal masterminds. The crime was pointless. The death of their victim, senseless.

West’s body was discovered by dirt bikers two days later.

henry dunn crime reportDunn was arrested in possession of West’s pickup. He gave a videotaped confession in which he admitted firing the first shot.

He said he fired his gun in the air, and the others began firing their guns at West. Dunn also said that he fired at West from four to six times and that one of his shots probably hit West in the head.

After his arrest, Aldrich told police that he and his accomplices went to the park on the night of West’s murder with the intention of finding homosexuals to assault.”

Before his execution, Dunn accused the system of killing an innocent man.

“When the officials of any state, such as the state of Texas, has so much confidence in their justice system, mistakes will be made, and innocent people will be executed,” he wrote. “Texas has executed innocent people, and tonight, Texas has shown just how broke and unfair its system is.”2

Dunn died claiming he was innocent, having nothing to do with the killing.

Executed February 6, 2003.

download.jpgHis last meal was a cheeseburger with extra cheese, pickles, onions, lettuce, and salad dressing, a tray of French fries, a bottle of ketchup, 25 breaded fried shrimp, four cans of pineapple juice, two banana splits, bottle of Hershey’s syrup, and one jar of apple butter jam.

Quite a load to end a life wasted in an act he may or may not have actually committed. It seems like a man eating his feelings before facing final judgement. If he was guilty, the shame and loss because of the stupidity would be hard to stomach. A large greasy sweet meal might make the shame easier to bear.

If he was innocent, the cruelty and injustice of the punishment would be impossible to face. This last taste of comfort food would release his mind from the agony of facing the wrong he was being put to.

Either way, this is a meal to forget. This is a meal not to feel any more. Fill up the stomach and the mind will shut down for even a brief while to digest. That short release from the mental punishment is what this meal seems to represent.

henry dunn

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  1. From Texas Execution Information Center
  2. From UPI
  3. Russ Kick, Book of Lists, 2004, The Disinformation Company, LTD.51hQs0lNEaL._SX401_BO1,204,203,200_

Author: historydojo

I’m a National Board Certified Teacher with nearly twenty years of experience teaching high school history. I blog about teaching, history, current events, the law and social justice.

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