|Note: Terri Hinson (O'Neal) died on
December 14, 2013 in Green Sea, South Carolina. She was 49 years
old. The cause of her death is unknown.
day her world changed
The fire erupted in Terri Hinson's
early one October morning in 1996. It killed her young son. Her
almost died. Then, in the midst of her grief, investigators charged her
with murder and arson, launching her on a quest for the truth. Her
told in eight parts, begins today.
investigation leads to her, but she knows it's a mistake
In its Oct. 21, 1996, edition, The
Reporter in Whiteville quoted Tabor City authorities as saying the
fire that killed a 17-month-old boy was an accident. Privately,
believed the fire was set, the child murdered and the suspect obvious.
Out on bond, her life highly restricted, Terri finds a new interest
Hours after Terri Hinson was charged
capital murder and arson, a judge appointed Whiteville lawyer T. Craig
Wright to represent her. In 25 years of practicing law, Wright had
two people facing the death penalty. He lost both cases.
On the Internet, Terri finally finds the help she seeks
Terri Hinson spent hours on the new
When she wasn't setting up programs t o help her fiance in his
company, she was searching the World Wide Web. She looked for
that might have put North Carolina's laws on line, but the General
weren't available over the Internet yet. death penalty. He lost both
Accused mother slowly builds defense, in part upon new friendship
In early January, as her mother lay
the hospital recover ing from a stroke, Terri Hinson Strickland got a
from her sister in Mississippi. Concerned about their mother, Ann
said she had telephoned Terri's lawyer and blessed him out for doing
about Terri's case. She warned T. Craig Wright that she would come to
County to picket the courthouse -- and she'd tip off the TV stations
expert's tests unlock the mystery of the fire's origin
Before the Texans traveled to North
the last weekend in M arch, Ken Gibson sent Terri Strickland e-mail to
say he and Gerald Hurst, his friend of more than 20 years, were just
folks, really. In fact, Gibson wrote, Hurst would probably be wearing
''uniform,'' but she shouldn't be concerned.
As the prosecutor watches, chemist confronts investigator
Terri Strickland sat up in bed,
Another nightmare. Even when good things were happening, she still had
nightmares of fire.
Terri is free and vindicated, but triumph is bittersweet
On the morning of April 17, Terri
answered the telephone and heard the voice of her lawyer, T. Craig
Well, Terri, it's like this, he said. They've dropped the charges.
is the product of dozens of interviews, hours of document review, four
trips to Columbus County, and one to Austin, Texas, over nine months.
Terri's poetic tribute to her son
posted on the SpiritLink web site in remembrance of his birthday.