The Dutiful Son

Galveston prosecutors say David Hisey stole more than $700,000 from his elderly parents, murdered them, then lived with their dead bodies. David says he did what his parents wanted.

David's half-sister, Cherrye Broussard, Sunnye's daughter from her previous marriage, hadn't visited Sunnye since she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Her husband later told detectives that Cherrye was battling breast cancer and it was too difficult for her to see her mother's mind crack.

"Cherrye called me and said, 'I'm not gonna take care of them. I'm not gonna let them drain my money,' " Dusti says. "She didn't have anything to do with them. Pop told me one time, 'I'm not leaving Cherrye anything. She won't come see her mother; she won't take care of us.' "

Since there was no one else to care for his parents, David says, he moved in. "I felt like he owed them that," Dusti says. When the home health-care worker retired, David took over full time. He changed his parents' diapers, bathed them, fed them, did laundry and kept the house clean.

Detective Alfred Paige says David kept his parents prisoner.
Deron Neblett
Detective Alfred Paige says David kept his parents prisoner.
Detective Alfred Paige says David kept his parents prisoner.
Deron Neblett
Detective Alfred Paige says David kept his parents prisoner.

The last time Dusti visited, in March three years ago, she says, the house was as spotless as Sunnye had always kept it. "Sunnye was still a vegetable, but she was a happy one," Dusti says. "She was smiling."

David says he had to grind his mother's food in a blender because she would forget to swallow and would choke. "If I put something in her mouth, she'd forget to chew the rest of it," David says. Sunnye spent her days in front of the television set. It didn't matter what channel it was on, David says, she just needed to hear a voice in the room. Otherwise she got scared.

Some days she didn't recognize David or his father. "She woke up in a strange place every day," David says. Eventually she stopped recognizing anyone, and people stopped visiting. "That hurt my dad," David says. "He couldn't figure out why her friends didn't come see her. He would ask me at night before bed, 'Why doesn't anyone come to see her? She had so many friends.' "

David says he looked into retirement homes, or Alzheimer's units, but he couldn't find a place on the island that would take both Sunnye, who was sick, and Hollis, who wasn't. Since his parents didn't want to be separated, he kept them at home. "They didn't want to be apart," David says. "Ever."

Neighbors say David was a devoted son and a helpful guy. Teri Kingsley, who lives directly across the street, says when a branch fell off her pine tree, David was the first to volunteer to help. Her rottweiler-Labrador, Bo, cried while Teri was at work, so David stood by the window and talked to him. David helped her carry groceries, and when she had car trouble, David fixed it.

He repaired many neighbors' cars, always working in his driveway so he could hear his parents if they needed him. "He was the nicest guy in the world," Teri says.

The night before David's daughter's wedding, July 17, 1999, David says he put his mother to bed as usual. In the morning, she was dead. David had promised to give his daughter away, but he didn't show up for the ceremony.

Hollis kept trying to wake Sunnye. He talked to her, read the newspaper to her, and for three nights slept in bed beside her. "He wouldn't recognize the fact that she was dead," David says. On the third day, David says, he closed the bedroom door and locked it. He says he wanted to call the authorities and have a funeral, but his father adamantly refused. Hollis insisted that he didn't want to be separated from Sunnye. "He wanted to stay with her," David says. "Keep her. I respected what he wanted to do."

David says Hollis stood by her door and spoke to her several times a day. As long as she was in the house, he was happy.

David relinquished his bedroom to his father and started sleeping on the couch. "There wasn't any other beds," he says. His mother's social security check was being directly deposited in the bank, and he spent it. At night, he handed strippers $100 bills. When a dancer tried to hit him up for money to buy a motorcycle, he paid $15,000 cash to buy her a car.

David regularly called friends and relatives, asking to borrow money. This was nothing new. But then he started having Hollis make requests. Hollis phoned his brother Doyle Hisey in Oklahoma and said he needed $1,000 because his money had been lost when a bank account closed. A couple of months later Hollis called asking for another grand. Then he called again asking for more.

Doyle Hisey knew his brother had worked into his eighties and had always saved, not spent, his money. He didn't understand why he needed money now. Doyle asked Hollis what was the matter. Why did he need more money when he had already sent some? Hollis said he didn't remember receiving any money.

The last time Hollis's old friend Frank visited the Hiseys, Hollis couldn't complete sentences or carry on a conversation. "When she died, he died too, really," David says. "He didn't have a reason to be around -- didn't want to be." Hollis didn't want to eat, get dressed or leave the house, David says. "It kept getting harder and harder," David says. "He kept getting worse and worse."

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