How Kenneth Hunt was convicted of 3rd-degree burglary and received a death sentence by his wife and her boyfriend
Kenneth Hunt was no stranger to incarceration. He had spent half of his 27 years behind bars. Doing time was not a problem for him. He was just a very bad thief. Stealing at an early age he had become numb to stealing and doing time. His brother said he was always upbeat behind bars, never down or discouraged. He would look towards his next release date, but he never could stay free for long. Many years in the reform schools did not deter him from stealing. At eighteen he received a ten-year prison sentence for burglary. After serving six years hard labor he was released again. His brother asked him, what is the best way to survive in prison? Kenneth laughed and said, you bounce a few off the wall, always stand up for yourself, convicts only understand strength, remember being behind bars is all about routine. But in 1975 when he was released again he had no idea how his life would change.
His release date had come again. With no education, Kenneth Hunt returned to hard labor outside the prison as a carpenter. His first wife had divorced him when he entered prison. He understood that it was hard for a young girl to wait years for him to get released, so he gave her the divorce she wanted. It did not take long before Kenneth was involved with another woman outside the prison, but at least for now he was free. This time it was his best friend’s ex-wife. His friends warned him and said she was poison and wicked and he would regret the day he hooked his wagon to hers. She had two children by her first husband, but Kenneth loved kids so he didn’t mind the children. Her first husband and Kenneth had grown up together. But some said she was still in love with him. They said she is marrying you just to make her ex-husband angry. Kenneth was a risk taker and he went against everyone’s advice.
A ready-made family with a low paying job was strike one against him. Again, before long, Kenneth thought stealing was the only way to survive poverty. It did not take long before he was caught again. In January of 1977, Kenneth was convicted once more. This time it was for a six to ten years sentence on a third-degree burglary charge.
When Kenneth went to prison, his wife immediately started seeing someone else. That man was as bad as her. Her girlfriend who was dating an ex-con was giving her advice on how to get a divorce from Kenneth. But Kenneth Hunt refused to give her the divorce she wanted.
His hope was that the relationship with the man wouldn’t last, and she would come and visit him in prison. Having someone to visit you makes time go by faster. But the man she was involved with was morally wrong, he would not have that. He had friends on the inside of the prison and they all knew what an Institutional Conviction was. He was going to do anything he could to get her divorced, so he could marry her.
They agreed that if they could start the rumor in prison through his connections on the inside that Kenneth was a [pervert of some kind] either they could get him killed or he would kill himself. That was their plan. That is what they called on the inside as an Institutional Conviction. This kind of accusation is what every prisoner fears. It was murder by words. It is hard for anyone behind bars to defend themselves in that situation. If you don’t have money to hire a crew on the inside or a good lawyer on the outside it is a hopeless defense. He had neither.
Kenneth Hunt soon knew he wouldn’t stand a chance against their accusations. She was a wicked wife, someone he knew he had to deal with any way he could. He asked to see his younger brother at the prison. He asked him to go by and bring her to visitation room the next Sunday. He said to tell her he wanted to talk to her about the divorce. He told his brother he would kill her for what she had done. He said everything had been worked out. He would have a shank on him and he would kill her fast and swift when his brother went to the restroom. Kenneth’s desperation had escalated to thoughts of murder in an effort to defend himself. He felt this was his only avenue. But his brother said NO! He couldn’t have anything to do with murder. He said he had a young wife and child that depended on him. His brother got up and left the prison never to return. The next time he would see Kenneth would be in a funeral home.
Five months later
The day his father came to his younger brother’s home and told him about Kenneth’s alleged suicide was a sad day for the family. His mother told him he had given up on his brother. He never told them about Kenneth’s intentions and why he stopped going to see him in prison. The day after his death they went to the prison to get Kenneth’s belongings. His father and brother had talked to the other men that were in the six-man cell with his brother. They all said it was the lie his wife and her boyfriend started that caused him to do what he did. One man wasn’t sure he had committed suicide because his hands had been tied so tight behind his back. A guard that knew his father gave him three names of convicts to have questioned about the alleged suicide, but no investigation was ever pursued because the Chaplain said he knew of Kenneth’s depression and had talked to him about the accusations his wife had made. He said it wasn’t the first time he had seen such sinister methods of a wife wanting a divorce from a convict, so the investigation was ended by the family. The Investigator said,” the probability of murder or suicide was 50 / 50 and there were no answers but the obvious. He was in prison and his wife wanted him dead. His wife and her boyfriend had played a murderous plot to end his life for ill-gotten gain. They were successful.”
As the father and his brother went through Kenneth’s belongings and they saw the pictures and letters she had sent him of her laying on the bed. Telling him to eat his heart out and how she was giving it to someone else. It was hard to see what he had gone through. Everyone has a breaking point. To this day, they still have the pictures and letters she sent as proof of her vicious evilness. It was total mental torcher from a modern-day Delilah.
She had sent people ahead to the funeral home to tell everyone how she would be there shortly to see him lying in state. His brother had warned them that the family did not want her or her friends there. They told her what the brother had said, so she never came to the funeral home. That was proof to everyone she had lied. What person would come visit someone guilty of what she had accused him of? For years and years, she and her husband continue to spread the lie. In the bars and through the neighborhood community, from county to county they looked for pity for themselves. All they could find were like thinking foolish people like themselves, ready to persecute the innocent for their own gain to cancel out their guilt. Kenneth was not around to defend himself so they had their way. They were always trying to convince anyone weak enough to believe their poisonous lies about him. Always reminding anyone of the past lies they told but never seeing their own future destination. His brother Stephen had said,” it must be the only way they can live with themselves for such a terrible deed.”
Kenneth Hunt had always managed to keep his self-respect and his dignity in prison. One must disregard the rumors, by the wicked two in this case because their words were filled with poisonous lies that caused his death. His brother Stephen had always hoped that Kenneth in his desperation had found Christ in the final hours and that maybe those three men had murdered him. He said,” he could live with his murder better than him committing suicide because of the lies they told on him. He said we will never know the truth in this life.”
His brother also said,” he still struggles with his decision about not bringing her to prison that Sunday.” Though he knows he made the right decision. Every day for 20 years it has been on his mind. He says he is glad he doesn’t have that decision to make again because in his weakness the outcome might be different; after seeing the damage the lies have done. He asks for GOD’s help every day to forgive them, but the pain is still there and every once in a while one of those that were convinced of the lies reminds him of their damage to Kenneth’s memory. Stephen said,” The past is always a shadow behind you, some people like to put the past in front of you.”
This is a sad but true story of a young man whose hope for a better life ended too soon. This is to let everyone reading this know, any mistake in judgment, any conviction could be your last. It can come from any person or decision you make. When you live a life of crime you put yourself in a dangerous situation. If you’re in prison most of your friends will abandon you, and even some members of your family will turn their backs on you. Some of your very best friends and your immediate family might stick by your side at first. In time most of them will even fall by the wayside in the coming years, as you rot away in prison with no hope. Hopelessness is crushing, just is the case for the damned lost souls in hell.
Kenneth Hunt was raised in a good home. His father was a highly decorated WWII U.S. Army Veteran that fought in some bloody battles of the Philippine Islands during the Pacific War. Kenneth had good examples to choose from. Sadly he chose to do things his way. It was very costly in the end. He was arrested for burglary, he was tried burglary, and he was sentenced for burglary. No other charges were ever brought against him in his entire life, but stealing. He died because of the false witness against him.
The parents died of heart-break in the coming years because of these circumstances. The brothers and sister retreated to their own families for many, many years.
I hope you see this story and it discourages you from a life of crime and bad decisions.
Submitted by Stephen Hunt
By Rev. Carlos Wan Rodrigues, Longview, Texas
Where Kenneth dies July 7, 1977
This death notice was taken out of the local Tennessean newspaper July 9, 1977. The truth bleeds through here in “Thought Suicide “.
Stephen, his brother noted:
“My memories of Kenneth are of someone whom I sat across from for many years, talking to him in a visitation room or in the picnic area at the prison. I watched how he loved his nephew and nieces and how he loved his family. I don’t believe Kenneth could have had children due to a serious accident as a child. But, I saw the love he had for his brothers and sisters children. You can live with a broken heart. You can live with a broken relationship. But you can’t live with a broken spirit. The spirit comes from GOD to every person. Lots of people leave this life because someone has killed their spirit. It’s said you don’t need a reason to kill yourself; you need a reason not to. The spirit reminds you not to. Someone is guilty of killing the spirit of this young man who made bad decisions. It doesn’t take a great understanding of the human psyche to see that. We can put another person through a living hell by our actions. Actions we will answer to someday. Kenneth was guilty of stealing and falling in love with the wrong person and nothing else. One way or another lies sent him to his death.”
Editor’s note: Our condolences go to Kenneth’s friends and family. Even though this occurred many years ago, the pain and wondering of what could’ve been different doesn’t ever totally go away. At times, things that happened a long time ago could still hurt as much as they did at the time it happened. We hope that those times of pain and wondering what-if, have lessened over the years.