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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 21, 2010

Arrest made in '96 murder

By Jim Dooley
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Jason Lee McCormick

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Police last night arrested a 36-year-old man accused of murdering a visiting professor here in 1996.

Officers arrested Jason Lee McCormick at 8:10 p.m. in the central Honolulu area.

Earlier yesterday, a grand jury indicted McCormick for the death of Robert Henderson. Deputy prosecutor Victoria Kapp said McCormick confessed to the murder of Henderson, 51, whose body was found in an Ilikai hotel apartment on July 17, 1996.

Kapp said the confession was made "years later."

Kapp provided no other details.

At Kapp's request, Circuit Judge Richard Perkins set bail at $500,000 because of "the severity of the offense."

Henderson, a professor of linguistics at the University of Pittsburgh, was in Honolulu to attend a linguistics symposium and was last seen July 12, 1996, leaving the University of Hawai'i-Mānoa campus.

His decomposing body was found by Ilikai staff several days later. According to police reports at the time, writing scrawled on the body indicated that the killer thought Henderson molested children.

An autopsy report said Henderson died of asphyxiation.

The victim's brother, Michael Henderson, traveled to Hawai'i several times seeking the public's help in solving the crime.

Michael Henderson rejected the suggestion that his brother was a pedophile and said he believed the motive was robbery. "We can't find two of his jeweled watches that we think he took with him on his trip," he said in 1996. "We also can't account for a money clip he always carried with him."

Michael Henderson said in a statement yesterday that the family "is relieved to learn that a suspect in this crime has been apprehended," noting that Robert Henderson "achieved so much during his short 51 years and would have contributed so much more if his life hadn't ended so senselessly."

Kapp said McCormick has a prior misdemeanor theft conviction. "He is unemployed and has no local address. He also has family on the Mainland and poses a possible flight risk because of that," Kapp said.

McCormick is set to make his initial court appearance this morning.