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Hawaiian confesses to killing Pitt professor in 1996

5-22-2010 Hawaii:

A Hawaiian man has confessed to the 1996 suffocation death of a University of Pittsburgh linguistics professor from Beaver County, prosecutors in the island state said.

Jason Lee McCormick, 36, was arrested Thursday on a charge of second-degree murder for the Waikiki slaying of Robert T. Henderson, 51, of Chippewa.

Jim Fulton, executive assistant to Honolulu's prosecuting attorney, said McCormick confessed in a statement to Honolulu police. Deputy Honolulu Prosecutor Victoria Kapp said McCormick made the statement years after the murder, but she did not give details.

McCormick remained jailed Friday on $500,000 bond, awaiting arraignment. Fulton said that in Hawaii, the maximum penalty for a second-degree murder is life in prison with the possibility of parole.

Henderson was a guest lecturer at the University of Hawaii when his naked and decomposing body was found in a condominium he was staying in.

According to a grand jury indictment of McCormick, police believe Henderson was killed sometime between July 12 and 17, 1996. He was last seen leaving a hula lesson on the university campus July 12 and was found dead five days later.

At the time of the slaying, police said someone wrote a message on Henderson's buttocks suggesting he was a child molester. A pen was jammed into a leg. Police said later they did not find evidence to substantiate the molestation claim.

Michael Henderson, one of Henderson's two brothers, said in 1996 that he believed the message was a smokescreen — and that the true motive for the killing was robbery. He said two watches and a money clip that the family believed Robert Henderson took to Hawaii disappeared.

Fulton said the homicide suspect has a prior misdemeanor-theft conviction.

Fulton said Michael Henderson, of Annapolis, Md., testified Thursday in front of the grand jury that indicted McCormick. Fulton would not say what Henderson said.

Henderson issued a written statement on behalf of his brother's family, saying they were "relieved" when they heard about McCormick's arrest.

The statement said Robert Henderson "achieved so much during his short 51 years and would have contributed so much more if his life hadn't ended so senselessly."

In 2001, Pitt dedicated the Robert Henderson Language Media Center in the university's Cathedral of Learning. ..Source.. by Bill Vidonic, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW

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