|Born||Earl Conrad Bramblett
March 20, 1942
|Died||April 9, 2003
Cause of death
Earl Conrad Bramblett (March 20, 1942 - April 9, 2003) was a man from Virginia who was convicted for the 1994 murders of the Hodges family (father William, mother Teresa, eleven-year-old Winter, and three-year-old Anah). He was sentenced to death for the murders and executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia in the electric chair in 2003.
Discovery of the victims
The bodies of the Hodges family were discovered on August 29, 1994 by firefighters after a fire at their residence in Vinton, Virginia had been reported. William (also known as Blaine), Winter, and Anah Hodges had been shot to death, and Teresa Hodges had been strangled and doused with the flammable liquid used to start the fire. Initially, authorities thought that the family died as a result of a murder-suicide, with William Hodges as the perpetrator. He had been convicted of embezzling funds from his former employer and was due to begin a jail sentence for the crime. However, the barrel from the gun found in William's hand had been removed after he was shot, and William's autopsy showed that he had died several hours before the other family members, ruling out the initial murder-suicide theory.
Earl Bramblett was a friend of the Hodges family, who frequently stayed with them. When he was informed shortly after the discovery of the bodies that the family had died in a fire, he responded that the "son of a bitch offed his family and killed himself". This indicated his knowledge of the family being murdered, when he had been told only that they had died in a fire; no other information had been released about their deaths.
As a result of his initial statements, Bramblett became a suspect; the subsequent investigation uncovered evidence pointing to him as the killer of the family. This evidence included a witness who had seen a vehicle similar to Bramblett's driving away from the Hodges home just prior to when the fire was reported. Other evidence included drawings that were found at Bramblett's place of employment. The drawings were of stick figures that represented the Hodges family and included arrows corresponding with the bullet wounds the family had received. A sister of Bramblett provided police with a box he had left with her; the box contained several audio tapes on which he spoke of his sexual attraction to eleven-year-old Winter Hodges, and of his belief that the family, including Winter, was conspiring to set him up for molestation charges. A DNA test on a pubic hair found in the bedroom where the girls were found was matched to Bramblett. A pair of jeans were found soaking at his place of employment (Discovered by an employee after noticing water leaking through the door) and were determined to contain stains of the same flammable liquid used to start the fire at the Hodges's home. The bullets used to kill the victims were determined to be of the same composition as bullets found in a vehicle belonging to Bramlett. In addition it was discovered that Bramblett punched his time-card at work 20 minutes after the fire was started. The drive time from the Hodges home to his job was 20 minutes. After realizing his error Bramblett attempted to blackout that entry on his time-card. Two women testified that, in the 1970s, Bramblett had given them alcohol and molested them when they were eleven and fourteen years old.
Bramblett is a suspect in the 1977 disappearances of Tammy Akers and Angela Rader, who were both fourteen and worked for Bramblett at the time. Bramblett reportedly told friends that he wished he hadn't "hurt Tammy" three years after she went missing. He was never charged in either Akers's or Rader's disappearances and their whereabouts are still unknown.
After a clemency petition to Virginia Governor Mark Warner had been rejected, as was an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Earl Bramblett was executed in the electric chair for the murders on April 9, 2003. He was sixty-one years old at the time of his death. He chose the electric chair over lethal injection as a form of protest. His final words were, "I didn't murder the Hodges family. I've never murdered anybody. I'm going to my death with a clear conscience. I am going to my death having had a great life because of my two great sons, Mike and Doug." A Department of Corrections official then turned a key switch in the wall behind the electric chair, activating the system. An executioner sitting behind a one-way glass immediately pressed a button labeled "execute" and 1,800 volts surged through Bramblett's body. The surge of current caused Bramblett's body to go rigid and threw him against the back of the oak electric chair. A puff of smoke rose from the electrode attached to his shaved right leg. After waiting five minutes, Dr. Alvin Harris, a corrections physician, walked into the death chamber and placed his stethoscope against Bramblett's chest and stated "This man has expired."