This weekend, people from all over the United States will get a chance to help the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Department hunt for its No. 1 fugitive.
Investigators believe Vern Henry, 44, of Athol, gunned down his wife and daughter at the family home in August. He has been missing since.
But on Saturday, Henry’s face will flash across television screens as the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” attempts to help catch the fugitive.
“We need help finding him, quite frankly,” said sheriff’s Lt. Nile Shirley, head of investigations. “We only have so many eyes here in North Idaho. ‘America’s Most Wanted’ has eyes all over the U.S. and the other parts of the world.”
The program details the nefarious doings of wanted criminals each week. Viewers are then urged to call in if they have information on where the fugitives may be.
Henry lived in a house off U.S. 95 in Athol with his wife, Connie, 42, his daughter Heather, 18, and three younger children, ages 5-12. The couple’s oldest son, Justin, had moved away from home.
On Aug. 12, an argument erupted between Henry, his wife and their 18-year-old daughter at about 12:45 in the morning.
The other children were sleeping but the commotion woke the 12-year-old. Investigators believe that, during the argument, Henry got a gun and shot his wife and daughter, Heather, multiple times.
The 12-year-old child found his mother and sister lying on the living room floor and watched his father drive away in the family car, sheriff’s officials said.
“We don’t know what set him off,” Detective Jerry Wiedenhoff said Wednesday. However, the detective said the three may have been arguing about a male friend of Heather Henry’s.
The surviving children are now living with their older brother.
At first, investigators thought Henry, a backhoe operator and upholsterer, may have driven somewhere secluded and committed suicide. But, “We haven’t found his car and the hunters haven’t found him in the woods,” Wiedenhoff said.
Now, they believe he’s on the run.
Sheriff’s officials pitched their story to “America’s Most Wanted” in November. A TV crew then spent part of last week with detectives. The segment will air Saturday night at 9 p.m. on the Fox network.
“America’s Most Wanted” also will pay to bring detective Wiedenhoff to Washington, D.C., for the program. He will be available to answer tips from callers who see the program.
The program has developed a reputation among police as an effective tool for catching criminals. In November, the show helped catch its 435th fugitive - a triple-murder suspect. Twenty missing children also have been found thanks to calls by viewers.
“They have been very successful in catching criminals,” Shirley said. “We hope they can be as successful in helping us catch Vern Henry.”
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