SIOUX CITY, Iowa — The murder trial for Jordan Henry began Tuesday in Woodbury County District Court. Henry is charged in the death of Elizabeth Bockholt at the Wingate by Wyndham Hotel in Sioux City on January 24, 2019.
This is a bench trial, with Judge Steven Andreasen presiding, meaning there is no jury. 30-year-old Henry is accused of strangling 40-year-old Bockholt in the hotel room and then attempting to burn her body. He has been charged with 1st-degree murder and arson and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The first witness to take the stand was Sheri Jones, Henry’s aunt. Jones told the court she was the one who booked the hotel room for Henry after he had called her looking for a place to stay. He had been staying at the Warming Shelter. Jones said she and her husband didn’t want Henry staying in their home, saying he was paranoid and thinking people were watching him, which had worried them in the past. She said she had tried to get her nephew, Henry treatment saying under oath that “he has struggled for many years.”
The hotel reservation made by Jones was confirmed under oath by the assistant general manager of the hotel at that time.
Bockholt’s friend, Brenda Chaffin also took the stand early in the trial. Chaffin took Bockholt to the hotel around 9 a.m on January 24th. She and Bockholt went to room 102 where they met the defendant, Jordan Henry. Chaffin said she stayed for a few minutes before leaving. Bockholt remained there with Henry. Later that evening, Chaffin says she received a call from Phil Bockholt, Elizabeth’s brother, who says he had known Henry for years, saying Elizabeth had called him and says she was being held hostage in the hotel room.
Chaffin and P. Bockholt then went to the hotel to room 102 where Chaffin says Henry "opened the door, and it was solid black behind him and smoke came rolling out," P. Bockholt would later confirm these details. According to testimony from both Chaffin and P. Bockholt, Henry ran out of the hotel room as the fire alarm sounded. P. Bockholt says he went inside the room looking for his sister Elizabeth but couldn’t find her. “I jumped on one of the beds and tried to pick through where the fire was but the smoke had gotten so bad” P. Bockholt recalled on the stand before he said he had to leave the room due to the smoke. He described seeing heavy smoke and flames by the bed. The hotel room door locked behind him and he was unable to get it opened again. The front desk worker testified that the master key unlocked the door, but the door would not open.
In surveillance video entered into evidence from the front lobby of the hotel, you can hear a woman screaming, who Chaffin identified as herself, and then a man runs from the hotel as the fire alarm goes off. P. Bockholt says he and others tried to kick the hotel room door down to get back in but were only able to break the bottom portion of the door before emergency services arrived and they were told to leave.
Chaffin and P. Bockholt both recall seeing emergency personnel bring someone out on a stretcher from the room. P. Bockholt said identified the person on the stretcher as his sister, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Bockholt’s on and off again boyfriend, Staci Hansen also took the stand Tuesday, saying he had received a call from Bockholt asking to come pick her up at the Casey’s near the Wingate hotel around 5 p.m. the night of January 24th. When Hansen arrived, Bockholt was not there. He and Chaffin attempted to make contact with Bockholt, even calling the hotel to try and find her, with Hansen texting Chaffin at 9 p.m. that he was “about to call the law.” The 911 call for the fire was made at the front desk a short time later, at 9:23 p.m.
An emergency room doctor who was working the night Elizabeth Bockholt was brought in to the hospital said they had tried to revive Bockholt for 40 minutes but she was not breathing and had no heart activity.
Sioux City Fire Station 5 responded to the 911 call. Their station is located about a city block from the Wingate Hotel. Lt. Dennis Culbertson says he and another firefighter entered the room where they found some embers and smoke. They were able to put the fire out with their handheld water cannon. Lt. Culbertson also noted for the court that there was not a smoke detector where there should have been one.
Culbertson says the victim, Elizabeth Bockholt, was found between the two beds and under the bedding that had been torn from the beds. Culbertson said it appeared the bedding had been set on fire and embers were still burning when they made entry into the room. Another firefighter who responded to the call said the embers resembled a trash fire with possible pieces from a phone book. Rescue teams removed Bockholt from the room, but she was not breathing and had no pulse.
Devan Schipper, a firefighter and paramedic with Sioux City Fire Station 3, retrieved Bockholt’s body from the hotel and then transported her to the hospital. Schipper states he was unable to intubate Bockholt as her airway was shut too tight, this matches with what the ER doctor stated as well. Schipper had to find a different way to get oxygen into her airway. His team continued CPR, but she never regained a pulse. She was pronounced dead at the hospital
Also taking the stand Tuesday afternoon is Jordan Henry’s relatives who live a few blocks from the Wingate Hotel. They stated seeing a man outside their home in the early morning hours of January 25th. They called the authorities. A long call to 911 was played in the courtroom for the record, where the female witness is heard telling the dispatcher that there is a man banging on their door. Police arrested Henry in their backyard. Henry’s relatives discovered the next day that it had been Henry banging on their door.
After being placed under arrest, officers found a lighter on Henry’s person. They also found Henry’s wallet and gloves in his pockets.
After being taken to the Sioux City Police Department, Henry was booked and his clothes were seized. A hypodermic needle was found in his socks. Later, a warrant was approved for Henry’s blood.
Court ended for the day at 4:20 p.m. Trial proceedings will resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
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