Fugitive found in underground bunker during Sperry search

GRAVES COUNTY, KY – Two discoveries are shown in video exclusive video obtained by WPSD. Detectives uncovered an underground bunker with a fugitive living inside while they were searching for a local missing mother. The Mayfield Messenger shared information with Local 6 about the second day of searches for Samantha Sperry. Interim Sheriff Jon Hayden sent a release about these new developments Tuesday night.

They arrested 41-year-old Earnest Dean Hendrickson Tuesday in that bunker in a wooded area southeast of Symsonia. Hayden says there is a familial tie between Earnest and Rhen Hendrickson, Sperry’s former boyfriend. Sheriff Hayden declined to clarify that for us. He also disappeared around the same time as Sperry in March 2018 but emerged days later at a home on Tim Road. The report from that day says Rhen Hendrickson was dehydrated and hypothermic. They took him to a hospital for treatment.

It’s also unclear if Earnest Hendrickson is involved in the Sperry case. Hayden says he was apparently in custody at the time of Sperry’s disappearance. Records show he was released on parole April 26, 2018. There was a parole violation warrant issued for his arrest on November 29th on several allegations:

Earnest Dean Hendrickson

  • Absconding parole supervision
  • Failure to complete substance abuse treatment
  • Continued use of methamphetamine, marijuana and alcohol
  • Failure to report to parole officer

Earnest Hendrickson has also spent time behind bars for charges in Graves, Lyon, McCracken and Marshall counties. They include:

  • Wanton endangerment
  • Making and possessing methamphetamine
  • Fleeing and evading police
  • Theft of anhydrous ammonia
  • Tampering with physical evidence
  • Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon

“We’ll make that determination at some point if this is relevant or not to the investigation but it is certainly unusual,” says Interim Graves County Sheriff Jon Hayden.

Intense video shows the moment Detective Brooke Nelms climbed down and found several items including a confederate flag and two-way radio.

“He has a relative that lives in very close in proximity where obviously if the police showed up, relatives in the residence not too far away would radio him and warn him,” Hayden said.

Detectives searched the Kaler bottoms area Monday and Tuesday. This is where Rhen Hendrickson’s father, Dusty Holder, said he last saw Sperry. Holder said the two became stranded in a swampy area after riding four-wheelers. He claims they stayed in the woods overnight and walked out the next morning in different directions on KY 131. You may remember deputies releasing a public statement after they spoke to Holder questioning his story.  Hayden also says investigators covered new ground this week including the woods near Symsonia where they found Earnest Hendrickson’s bunker.

Graves County Sheriff’s Detective Brooke Nelms says a drug dog found the entrance that was hidden by a fallen tree. That’s when Nelms crawled inside, discovering the hideout was no more than 10 feet high and reinforced with boards. She found candles, a two-way radio, bedding and other items inside. That’s when she spotted Earnest Hendrickson hiding underneath a mattress. Nelms shined a flashlight inside and started recording video on her phone. She ordered Hendrickson out at gunpoint and arrested him. Hayden says the hideout is not far from where Hendrickson has family living.

This discovery is part of why Hayden decided to have crews search again one year after Sperry’s disappearance. He told Local 6’s Bryce Mansfield earlier this week that he wants fresh eyes on the case. Hayden also invited members of several surrounding agencies to review the case. That includes Kentucky State Police, Mayfield Police Department, Graves, McCracken and Calloway County sheriff’s offices, local rescue squads, the Graves County Office of Emergency Management and Mayfield Fire and Emergency Medical Service. That’s when they decided to re-evaluate all of the evidence from the beginning. Members of the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and federal prosecutors are also involved. This group will meet routinely to assess the progress.

“This is a prime example of why it’s good to double check, triple check things that have been done in the past because everyone is human and we may miss something,” Hayden said.

We’ve reported on several previous searches for Sperry – many of them aided by volunteers on ATVs and horses. Hayden says he wants to thank everyone who helped back then and people who have allowed them on their property to search.

Hayden also spoke about a breakdown in communication with Sperry’s family. He says he wants to make sure that doesn’t happen going forward.

Hayden says it’s this is all a part of his team’s renewed effort to bring Sperry home and give her family the closure they need.

“We’re committed to try to get some answers about what happened to this young lady and we’re committed to try to bring—if at all possible—bring her home,”

The Graves County Sheriff’s Office has asked anyone who has any information on Samantha Sperry’s disappearance to call the sheriff’s office at 270-247-4501. A cash reward is available for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for her disappearance.