DAVENPORT, Iowa --- Taking the stand Friday at his first-degree murder trial, Chad Welsh admitted he choked Angela Hennes on Jan. 3, 2007, and then described to the jury how he spent the next several days trying to dispose of her body.
Welsh said he didn’t intend to kill Hennes, a 41-year-old mother and friend to some, who he referred to as “just a prostitute.”
Welsh, who at the time was a 28-year-old car salesman from Burlington, used a dealership “demo car” to drive to Davenport on Jan. 3, 2007, after he got off work.
“I was going to make an evening of prostitutes,” Welsh testified in Scott County District Court, Davenport.
To get ready for his evening, he said he smoked two or three joints before he left work, calling marijuana his “spinach” that gave him energy, like “Popeye.” Then he made the 80-mile trek to the Quad-Cities.
He had been to Davenport before for prostitutes, even admitting he once hit a prostitute with a rubber mallet after they couldn’t agree on a price for her services. He also had prior encounters with Hennes, he said.
That night, Hennes was his second or third prostitute, he said, and he knew where to find her. He said he spotted her walking west on West 2nd Street, near Marquette Street. He picked her up in an alley behind a local tavern.
“Need a ride?” he testified asking her.
“No, I’m good,” he recalled Hennes saying.
“‘You remember me. Come on,’” he said he told her. He told the jury that he “talked her into it.”
Then he told her they needed to get out of the downtown area because of police and drove eight or 10 blocks to a street where there was little to no lighting. He doesn’t recall exactly where. Their encounter was just before midnight, he said.
“‘I got this urge to do something different, and I’m willing to pay more,’” he testified that he told her.
He wanted to put his hands on her neck. She was apprehensive, he said.
He had some prior experience with erotic asphyxiation, or “breath play.” His former girlfriend, Crystal Schreurs of Burlington, testified Friday that Welsh choked her during sex as far back as 2002.
But with Hennes he wanted to try something different.
“I wanted to actually control her breathing,” he said.
He admitted the breath play was for his benefit alone and he wanted to be in control.
Welsh described putting his thumbs over Hennes’ throat and wrapping his fingers around her neck, then putting “a little bit of pressure” on his grip.
She pinched him; that was supposed to signal him to stop, he said. He repositioned his hands and tried again, and again he applied pressure.
Welsh said he then asked Hennes to choke him, which caused him to lose consciousness.
He said he woke up with his head on her chest, but her chest wasn’t moving. Her eyes were staring off in the distance. He asked her something, but she didn’t respond, he said.
“I freaked out,” he testified. “This is not good. I’m in a company vehicle. I should not be here. This scene is not happening. I could lose my job, lose my house.”
He was sweating that night, he said, but on the stand, he showed no remorse for Hennes.
Welsh didn’t call 911. He didn’t take Hennes to a hospital.
According to his testimony, Welsh has a nursing degree, including CPR training, and he used to work in a nursing home in Burlington.
When he realized Hennes was dead, he said it was too late to apply CPR.
About 2 a.m. on Jan. 4, 2007, he said he took Hennes’ body back to his home in Burlington, unloaded it into a storage bin and kept it in his garage for two days, planning his next step. His two roommates apparently never stumbled upon the body.
“What did I get myself into?” he said he asked himself. “I was thinking about how could I cover this situation up.”
He said he grabbed some plastic ties in the basement and a gasoline can and transported Hennes’ body back to the Davenport area on Jan. 5, 2007.
He found a farm field outside the city limits. He said he tied the plastic ties around her neck; his defense previously said he was trying to cover his fingerprints. He doused her body with gasoline and lit a match, he said.
He drove back to Burlington, only to return to the farm field the next day, this time with his roommate’s car and a “larger gas can,” he said, adding he burned her body a second time. He wanted to destroy the evidence, such as his DNA that might be found on her body, he said.
A DNA match is what caused investigators to turn to Welsh years later, police have testified.
One of his defense attorneys, Derek Jones, asked him why he went through the ordeal of trying to destroy the body.
“I was afraid of this right here,” he said, referring to the trial.
He said for five years he’s tried to forget.
“You’re a good salesman, aren’t you?” Scott County Attorney Mike Walton asked Welsh. “This is a sales job today.”
Walton showed Welsh a plastic tie. Hennes’ body was found with a plastic tie around her neck. Plastic ties can only be removed by cutting.
“So you like to be in control,” Walton said. “If she didn’t agree, you tighten this and put her in compliance.” Welsh denied he used a plastic tie during the sexual encounter.
“Having a zip tie around a woman’s neck gives you a lot of control,” Walton told Welsh.
Then Walton asked if Hennes was still alive after Jan. 3, 2007, to which Welsh said no.
“She wasn’t in that tote in the garage, was she?” Walton asked. Welsh said she was in the storage bin.
“Was she actually dead when you set fire to her body?” Walton asked. Welsh said she was dead.
Welsh’s trial in Scott County District Court, Davenport, continues Monday.