Defendant gets 17-year sentence

FRONT ROYAL – Lakisha Henry urged mercy and leniency for her husband, the man who authorities say nearly stabbed her to death in a bloody roadside melee that brought several bystanders to her rescue.

Henry insisted that Ricky Brian Henry, 34, formerly of Rambo Court, had been a good husband and father until the months leading up to the stabbing on Aug. 14, 2012 at the Apple Mountain bus turnaround on Va. 79 just off of Interstate 66.

Her encounter with him that evening turned into a life and death struggle that ended with a helicopter airlifting her to Inova Fairfax Hospital where she was treated for injuries that, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Layton, included more than eight stab wounds to the neck.

Lakisha Henry told Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp that her children, ages 4 and 6, at the time of the incident, missed their father deeply since his arrest, despite having witnessed the stabbing.

“Basically it’s just not normal for him acting like that,” Lakisha Henry told Hupp. “He obviously has a disorder that needs to be treated.”

Lakisha Henry also testified that she admitted to Ricky Henry several months before the stabbing that she had developed romantic feelings for another man they both knew. She testified that Ricky Henry had later broken her leg when he fell on her during an argument they were having at their home.

Hupp sentenced Ricky Henry Tuesday to 17 years in prison, three years less than the maximum of 20 the defendant could have received under a plea agreement reached with Layton in May. Layton agreed to ask for a sentence of no more than 18 years, plus an additional two years for violating terms of a work release and home electronic monitoring program, both part of a jail sentence Ricky Henry was serving at the time of the stabbing.

Much of the four-hour sentencing hearing was taken up by lengthy testimony from Lakisha Henry and two other defense witnesses, all of whom spoke of Ricky Henry’s nearly lifelong struggle with mental illness that went undiagnosed until after the stabbing.

Eileen Ryan, Director of the Forensic Child Psychiatry Clinic at the Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy at the University of Virginia, said she examined Ricky Henry after his arrest and concluded he was suffering from bipolar disorder. Ryan said Henry had been misdiagnosed and received the wrong prescription for his illness at a mental health facility in the months preceding the stabbing. The incorrect prescription he received after the faulty diagnosis was one of several factors that contributed to Henry’s erratic behavior that culminated in the stabbing, Ryan said.

“In my opinion, the weeks leading up to the offense he committed were very important,” Ryan said. “His thinking was becoming more illogical, more irrational.”
But Ryan said she also concluded that Henry was not legally insane.

“I did not believe he met the standard for insanity,” Ryan said under questioning by defense attorney Ghislaine Storr Burks.

Winona Henry, Ricky Henry’s mother, described an exceedingly bright boy who was already showing signs of behavioral problems in early grade school. Winona Henry said she and other family members chalked up his bad behavior to run of the mill character defects.

“I did not have respect for the mental health community,” Winona Henry said.
Winona Henry said the stabbing and subsequent fallout changed her thinking about the value of mental health interventions.

“Since this event, I have educated myself greatly about bipolar disorder and depression,” Henry said.

Ricky Henry testified that he was “unsure how I became so removed from reality and who I am” on the day of the stabbing.

“I stand before you and accept full responsibility for my actions,” Henry told Hupp.

Hupp deliberated for more than a half hour before imposing the sentence.

Hupp said the testimony of Ryan and Winona Henry persuaded him that Ricky Henry’s violence stemmed at least in part from mental illness that had gone untreated since early childhood.

He also told Lakisha Henry he had “deep respect for your ability to forgive.”

“It tells me he has been a very good father,” Hupp said of Ricky Henry.

But Hupp said mental illness “does not rise to the level of an excuse,” and the crime was about more than just the relationship between Lakisha and Ricky Henry.

“It is a violent crime,” Hupp said. “It is a very serious crime, and society itself also has to be considered.”

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com