AP Legal Affairs Writer
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio prisoner convicted of killing five people including a Bible studies teacher told a prison chaplain he was not suicidal before apparently hanging himself, records show.
Lawrence Michael Hensley had asked to see the chaplain to discuss whether his decision to turn down medical treatment for cancer was equivalent to committing suicide, according to prison documents obtained by The Associated Press through a records request.
The chaplain assured Hensley in the June 16 conversation at the state Supermax prison in Youngstown that his decision did not fit a Biblical definition of suicide, the records show.
The chaplain likened Hensley’s decision to actions taken “in which people knew that in the end death was the ultimate price.” He gave examples such as enlisting in the military or early Christians being burned to death or eaten by wild animals for proclaiming their faith.
The chaplain also asked if Hensley was thinking about taking his life.
“No Chap, you know better to think that or even to ask me a question like that,” Hensley said, according to a written statement by chaplain Michael Henson.
The chaplain also asked Hensley if he wanted to speak to anyone else, but the prisoner declined. The Department of Rehabilitation and Correction declined to make the chaplain available to the AP for comment.
Hensley, 46, was found hanging by a sheet tied to an air vent in his cell at the Ohio State Penitentiary on the morning of June 21, records show. A patrol report says a suicide note was found in the cell.
Hensley was sentenced to life after admitting he killed three teenage girls and then the teacher in 1999 in Shelby County, 40 miles north of Dayton, in a rampage that stunned the small community.
His guilty plea was part of a deal allowing him to avoid a possible death sentence.
Hensley admitted he killed his neighbor Sherry Kimbler, 16; her cousin Tosha Barrett, 16; and their friend Amy Mikesell, 14, in July 1999 at his house. The girls’ bodies were found after a woman who had been shot and wounded escaped from the house. Hensley then drove to the house of Bible studies teacher Brett Wildermuth, 37, and shot him in the back.
Hensley surrendered a few days later after taking three hostages at a gas station.
His former attorney said Hensley had studied Satanism and practiced rituals and that he had a sexual addiction. Hensley told family, friends and co-workers he was in a devil-worshipping cult and had sexual compulsions.
Hensley received an additional life sentence for strangling 24-year-old Brad Hamlin at the state prison in Toledo in 2012.
The prison system is conducting an investigation standard in such cases. Messages were left for Hensley’s attorneys in the 1999 and 2012 cases seeking comment on the documents.