IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa granted an early release from prison to a repeat offender just months before he allegedly kidnapped and killed a 10-year-old girl, according to parole documents released Tuesday.
The Iowa Board of Parole granted Henry Dinkins parole from a Davenport minimum-security residential facility in March 2020, determining 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," according to the parole order signed by the board's chair, Helen Miller, that The Associated Press obtained under the open records law.
Less than four months after his parole, Dinkins, a registered sex offender with a history of violent and reckless behavior, allegedly kidnapped Breasia Terrell from a Davenport apartment complex, shot her to death and hid her body in rural eastern Iowa.
At the time he was granted parole, Dinkins, 48, was awaiting trial on felony charges in Illinois of possession of methamphetamine and amphetamine with intent to deliver stemming from an April 2019 traffic stop. It’s unclear whether Iowa authorities took that into consideration.
Breasia was the half sister of Dinkins’ son, and investigators say both children were staying the night with him at an apartment where he was living with a girlfriend. The girl's July disappearance prompted a monthslong search that ended in March when two people fishing near DeWitt discovered her remains in a pond.
Dinkins is charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping, each of which carry a possible life term. A public defender representing him didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment. Dinkins is set to be arraigned next month.
Iowa Board of Parole records detail Dinkins’ criminal history and some leniency he received along the way, even as he committed crime after crime.
He had been in and out of prison and correctional programs since 1990, when he was convicted of third-degree sexual abuse of a child when he was 17 and required to register as a sex offender. He’d been arrested and cited dozens of times, on charges that include violating sex offender registry requirements, assault while displaying a dangerous weapon, domestic violence, drug possession, theft and eluding. A 2009 murder charge was dropped after police said he was a witness, not the killer.
His most recent return to prison stemmed from a March 2019 arrest, in which he was allegedly high on crack and crashed into a Davenport yard while trying to flee from police. It was at least his fifth arrest for operating while intoxicated since 2007. In 2014, officers used a stun gun and pepper spray to subdue him after he crashed his car while on cocaine. In 2011, he allegedly caused an accident involving multiple semi-trailers and cars when he drove the wrong way on Interstate 80 while intoxicated. In another incident that year, he drove 90 mph (145 kph) while high through a residential area where children were playing, with his SUV's engine later exploding.
Days after the March 2019 OWI, he was arrested while allegedly in possession of more than 900 grams of meth and 200 grams of amphetamine in Bureau County, Illinois. He was released from jail after posting a $100,000 bond.
Judge Joel Barrows sentenced Dinkins to up to five years in prison in October 2019 for the OWI and barred him from driving for six years. Records show Dinkins served 60 days before he was transferred to the minimum-security Davenport Residential Facility.
There, he completed a four-month substance abuse treatment program and “secured fulltime employment,” records show. A probation officer recommended he be released by April 6, 2020, then moved up his release date to March 19. Miller approved both requests, ending a sentence that had been projected to last until January 2022.
Waylyn McCulloh, director of the 7th Judicial District Department of Correctional Services in Davenport, said the handling of his sentence was “standard process” for repeat OWI offenders and that the coronavirus pandemic didn't appear to have an impact on the release decision. But he said the case was complicated by the Illinois charges, which have not yet been resolved.
Records show Dinkins appeared in an Illinois courtroom on July 8, 2020, for a conference ahead of a July 27 trial date. Breasia disappeared two days later.
“It’s a horrible situation and a horrific crime,” McCulloh said. “But of course we have to keep in mind that he has yet to be convicted.”