Posted on Mon, Mar. 15, 2004
Town in shock after girl's slaying
Seven-year-old raped, beaten before being put in well to drown
LEBANON - Noble County's sheriff of 32 years can't remember a crime more grisly than the deliberate drowning of a little girl stuffed alive in an abandoned well and covered with heavy rocks.
The death of 7-year-old Brittany Hendrickson last week would have shocked a much larger community. It has emotionally ravaged this Appalachian community of about 200 people in Monroe County, many of whom volunteered in the search for the missing girl,Noble County Sheriff Landon Smith said.
``Anybody you can talk to was in on the search,'' Smith told the Columbus Dispatch for a story Sunday. ``People missed work to help. They were dedicated. Now they're devastated.''
Just a mile from the girl's home, and across the county line, a volunteer pulled back a piece of tin covering the well on Wednesday and saw a floating pair of sneakers.
``The mother identified the shoe, and the case unfolded from there,'' Smith said.
A preliminary autopsy report said Brittany was raped, beaten and still alive when she was stuffed in the well. She drowned in 39 inches of water.
Fred Mundt, the live-in boyfriend of Brittany's mother, was charged Thursday with aggravated murder, with death penalty specifications. He also faces an alternate count that carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
He was jailed without bond and is to appear Friday in Noble County Court.
``You just can't hardly believe it,'' Dean Wells said Saturday, shaking his head.
Wells lives across the street from the dilapidated white house Mundt, 29, shared with Brittany's mother, Misty Hendrickson.
Authorities said the autopsy indicated a history of physical and sexual abuse. The Stark County coroner found the girl had been beaten severely all over her body, and her skull was broken on the right side.
Wells said he often saw Mundt yelling at Brittany and spanking her -- sometimes with her pants and underwear pulled down. He said he thought about calling authorities but decided against it because he didn't want to cause trouble for the family.
Misty Hendrickson reported her daughter missing Tuesday night, telling authorities she'd left her three children in Mundt's care for a few hours at their home while she went to play bingo, Smith said.
The other children, a 5-year-old and a 7-month-old infant, don't show any signs of abuse, Smith said.
Mundt has told investigators he was asleep when Brittany's mother left, and when he awoke, only the two younger children were in the house.