|Born||Earl Conrad Bramblett
March 20, 1942
|Died||April 9, 2003
Greensville Correctional Center, Jarratt, Virginia
|Cause of death||Electric chair|
|Date||28 August 1994|
Earl Conrad Bramblett (March 20, 1942 – April 9, 2003) was an American mass murderer, convicted for the killing of 4 people in August 1994 in Vinton, Virginia. Bramblett shot and killed the Hodges family in their home before setting it on fire, and in 1997 was sentenced to death for the murders.
Hodges house fire
The bodies of the Hodges family were discovered on August 29, 1994, at their home in Vinton, Virginia, by firefighters after a fire had been reported at their residence. William Hodges (also known as Blaine), his daughters 11-year-old Winter and 3-year-old Anah had been shot, while his wife 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 committed by William, as he had been convicted of embezzling funds from his former employer, the US Postal Service, and was due to begin a jail sentence for the crime. However, the barrel from the revolver 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, a friend of the Hodges family who frequently stayed with them, was informed shortly after the discovery of the bodies that the family had died in a fire. Bramblett responded to the news saying "son of a bitch offed his family and killed himself", which indicated his knowledge of the family having been murdered by William. The investigators who informed Bramblett had been told only that the Hodges had died in a fire, and no other information had been released about the family's deaths.
As a result of his initial statements Bramblett became a suspect, with the subsequent investigation uncovering 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, which were of stick figures that represented the Hodges family and included arrows corresponding with the bullet wounds the family had received. Bramblett's sister provided police with a box he had left with her, which 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 child 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 another 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 Bramblett. 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) and after realizing his error attempted to blackout that entry on his time-card. In addition, two women testified that, in the 1970s, Bramblett had given them alcohol and molested them when they were eleven and fourteen years-old.
Arrest and conviction
Bramblett was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death on December 16, 1997 after the jury deliberated for one hour.
After a clemency petition to Governor of Virginia 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 murder of Hodges family at Greensville Correctional Center, Jarratt, Virginia, on April 9, 2003. He was sixty-one years old at the time of his death, choosing the electric chair over lethal injection as a form of protest, and 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."
Disappearances of Tammy Akers and Angela Rader
Bramblett is a suspect in the 1977 disappearances of Tammy Akers and Angela Rader, who were both 14-years old and worked for him at the time. Bramblett reportedly told friends that he wished he had not "hurt Tammy" three years after she went missing, though he was never charged in either Akers's or Rader's disappearances and their whereabouts are still unknown.
Bramblett's case was featured on the popular CourtTV crime show Forensic Files - Season 8, Episode 16: "Private Thoughts" and Discovery Channel's The New Detectives - Season 4, Episode 4: "Dead Wrong".
- Forensic Files - Season 8, Episode 16: "Private Thoughts" (22 minutes) Forensic Files - YouTube Channel
- The New Detectives - Season 4, Episode 4: "Dead Wrong" (53 minutes) FilmRise -YouTube Channel
- Bramblett v. Commonwealth of Virginia
- Bramblett v. Commonwealth of Virginia
- "Earl Conrad Bramblett #845". Retrieved 29 November 2014.
- Meaghan Elizabeth Good. "The Charley Project: Angela Mae Rader". Retrieved 29 November 2014.
- "Forensic Files Episode List - Forensic Files". Forensic Files. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
- "THE NEW DETECTIVES – Season 4 Ep 4 "Dead Wrong"". FilmRise. Retrieved 22 February 2017.