BRADENTON, Fla. – A 20-year-old man who has confessed to fatally bludgeoning four members of his family on Thanksgiving said he is severely mentally ill and can't explain why he did it.
"I have problems. I can't believe I did what I did," Richard E. Henderson Jr. told a Bradenton Herald reporter in telephone interviews from the county jail Thursday. "I want everyone to know I loved my family. I miss them and I love them."
Manatee County investigators said Henderson told them he sneaked up on his parents, younger brother and grandmother one by one and beat them with a 2 1/2-foot metal pipe on Thanksgiving night.
The bodies of the Hendersons — Richard Sr., 48; Jeaneane, 42, Jake, 11, and June, 82 — were found Sunday in separate rooms of their Myakka City home in eastern Manatee County. Richard Henderson Jr. was arrested walking along a busy road Sunday night.
According to a sheriff's office report, Henderson told investigators he killed his family "because they wouldn't let him leave." He said that he was not angry at his family and that after he had hit his brother, he had to kill everyone.
"Henderson planned to collect money to buy enough drugs or poison to kill himself," the report said.
What led to the incident, Henderson said in the interviews with the Herald, was his mental illness, not drugs.
"I've been bipolar since I was 13," he said. "I'm massive depressive. My parents were trying to get me help for a week or two before it happened."
Henderson said he has tried to commit suicide numerous times and has been prescribed many medications to combat the mental illness. But he said he stopped taking them when he was 18 because he didn't have insurance.
"I didn't want to take medicine," he said. "I didn't want people to think I was crazy. I should have got help. This should have never happened."
Henderson, who is charged with four counts of murder, is in the medical unit of the Manatee County jail under a doctor's care.
He had been in trouble before, including a weapons charge in 2001 stemming from a Columbine-style murder-suicide plan with a group of teens that was foiled by police.
"It's hard to explain my problems," he said. "I can't label them, but they get worse and worse. Three weeks ago I said, 'God, it can't get any worse.' I could slap myself for saying that because it did."
Henderson, who fathered a child at 15, insisted he was close to his family, which had been trying to help him get his life together.
"I loved them all," he said. "Me and my dad would have the hugest arguments and we'd be friends afterwards. My mom would yell at me but would tell me she loved me afterwards."
Regarding any punishment that may come for what he did, Henderson said: "I deserve it."
The Public Defender's Office, which is representing Henderson, declined to comment Friday.