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Lisa A. Hankins

Lisa A. "Nettie" Hankins


Gaston Reserve Officer Kills Estranged Wife

Police say Benjamin Hankins, 36, shot and killed his wife, Lisa A. Hankins, 32, Friday morning at his house in Harrison Township

MUNCIE (June 3, 2011) - Police say a reserve officer with the Gaston Police Department shot and killed his estranged wife Friday morning during a domestic dispute in his Harrison Township home.

The victim, Lisa A. "Nettie" Hankins, 32, was pronounced dead at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital. She suffered multiple gunshot wounds, Delaware County Coroner Scott Hahn said.

Her husband, Benjamin Allan Hankins, 36, called 911 at 7:44 a.m. to report his wife had been shot in his house, in the 5800 block of North Delaware County Road 600-W, just north of Bethel Avenue. He was taken into custody at the scene and has been preliminarily charged with murder, according to Capt. Richard Pickett with the Delaware County Sheriff's Office.

Lisa Hankins had filed for divorce last September, and the case was still pending at the time of her death, according to court records.

In a frantic call to 911 dispatchers, Benjamin Hankins reported his wife "pulled my gun on me. And then I shot back." (See update below).  Pickett on Friday night confirmed more than one weapon was found at the scene.

The police captain said the shooting occurred after Lisa Hankins had stopped at her husband's home so their two oldest children could catch the bus to Wes-Del Elementary School.  "It was during the time when kids were going to school and getting on the buses, and we're trying to find out all those details," Pickett said.

The couple's third child, who is 4, was apparently waiting outside in a car when her mother was shot.  "My wife and I were having an argument," Hankins said during one of three separate conversations with dispatchers.

Asked where his wife had been hit by gunfire, Hankins said there was a wound "right in the chest (and) there's one in the arm."  Hankins sounded panicked as a dispatcher repeatedly urged him to try to perform CPR on his wife, whom he indicated was not breathing.  "There's all kinds of blood," he said. "I... I... I can't."

Pickett said Lisa Hankins was still alive when police arrived at the scene. She was taken to the Muncie hospital, where doctors attempted a life-saving surgery, according to Coroner Hahn.

Pickett said Lisa and Benjamin Hankins were not living together at the time of the shooting. She is listed in court documents at a Muncie address.  Gaston police Cpl. James Dixon said Benjamin Hankins has been a reserve officer with his department for about three years. He declined further comment about the shooting, calling it an "open investigation."  "It's a sad day for us, it's a sad day for the family," Dixon said. "We knew their family well. They've come to all our events and things like that, so we need to let the investigation take its course."

According to Delaware Circuit Court 4 records, Lisa Hankins sued her husband for divorce last Sept. 13, saying her marriage had "suffered an irretrievable breakdown."  While the divorce suit was pending, Lisa Hankins was granted custody of the couple's three children, who range in age from 9 to 4. The couple reached an agreement in late October for Benjamin Hankins to continue to pay the family's baby-sitting expenses and "visitation shall be as the parties agree."

On Dec. 1, Benjamin Hankins requested a citation be issued against his estranged wife, claiming she "fails and refuses" to abide by that visitation agreement.  A Dec. 22 order by Delaware Circuit Court 4 Judge John Feick indicates that dispute involved the Thanksgiving holiday, and Feick specified, by the day and hour, where the children would be during the Christmas holidays.  A final hearing, at which the divorce presumably would have been granted, was set for Feb. 11, but Benjamin Hankins requested a continuance, reporting he had "just started a new job and is unable to miss work."

The hearing was reset for May 10. Lisa Hankins' attorney, Kristin Willadsen, requested a subpoena for Benjamin Hankins to provide documentation that his work schedule had in fact prevented him from attending the February hearing.  On May 10, however, both Lisa and Benjamin Hankins and their attorneys -- Willadsen and Jack Quirk, who represented Benjamin -- asked that the matter be "continued until further order."

Transcript of Hankin's 911 calls here.

UPDATE

MUNCIE -- A police report released Monday indicates the 4-year-old daughter of Lisa A. "Nettie" Hankins and her estranged husband, Benjamin Allan Hankins, listened in as her father shot and killed her mother Friday morning in his Harrison Township home.

A probable cause affidavit for Benjamin Hankins' arrest on preliminary murder charges reports the preschooler told an investigator with the Delaware County Sheriff's Office that she was outside when she overheard her father tell her mother to "lay down and die," to which her mother responded, "I'm sorry Ben, I'm sorry and I don't want to die."

The girl, who had reportedly seen Benjamin Hankins "come to the door with a gun behind his back," then listened as he shot her mother "several times" inside the house.  The document also contains several other previously unreleased details of the shooting, including Benjamin Hankins' recollection of the attack to investigators just hours after it occurred.

At 7:44 a.m. Friday, emergency dispatchers received a 911 call from Benjamin Hankins, who said he had shot his wife in his house in the 5800 block of North Delaware County Road 600-W, just north of Bethel Avenue.

When officers arrived, according to the report, they found Lisa Hankins, 32, lying on the floor in the kitchen. She was rushed to IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, where doctors attempted a life-saving surgery before her death, according to Delaware County Coroner Scott Hahn.  Hahn said Monday he was awaiting results of Lisa Hankins' autopsy.

According to the affidavit, Benjamin Hankins, 36, told investigators Friday he had recently separated from Lisa, his wife of 10 years. Lisa Hankins had filed for divorce last September, and the case was still pending at the time of her death, according to court records.

Benjamin Hankins said the shooting occurred after Lisa Hankins had stopped at her husband's home so their two oldest children, ages 9 and 8, could catch the bus to Wes-Del Elementary School. Their youngest child, a 4-year-old daughter, was reportedly left alone in the car when an argument broke out between her parents.

In a frantic call to 911 dispatchers, Benjamin Hankins, a reserve police officer with the Gaston Police Department and employee with the Indiana Department of Corrections, claimed he shot his wife in self-defense after Lisa Hankins "pulled my gun on me. And then I shot back."

Benjamin Hankins' statements to police, according to the report, do not indicate his reasoning behind the attack, however. Police on Friday did confirm more than one weapon was found at the scene.

During the argument, Benjamin Hankins told investigators, he "went into the living room and retrieved a gun from the couch" and then "pointed the gun at Mrs. Hankins and shot her several times." Benjamin Hankins said he shot at Lisa Hankins more than once, but was unsure exactly how many times bullets struck her.

The police report also indicates a recent history of threats, in the form of emails and text messages, from Benjamin Hankins to Lisa Hankins. Kurt Walthour, an investigator with the Delaware County Sheriff's Office, would not comment Monday on the content of those threats, citing the ongoing investigation.

Walthour did note Benjamin Hankins' demeanor in his interview with investigators on Friday following the shooting.  "(Benjamin Hankins) showed little emotion," Walthour said.

Zachary Craig, a deputy prosecutor with the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office, said Monday he expects formal murder charges against Benjamin Hankins to be filed Wednesday in Delaware Circuit Court 2.

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