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.

White testified that it is possible that when the bodies were autopsied, hemorrhages could have been created by the doctors. "It's easy to create artifact," he says. He also said that since the forensic pathologist wasn't working with a fresh corpse, what appeared to be hemorrhages could have been discoloration due to decomposition.

Since the Hiseys were both elderly smokers with a variety of heart and lung diseases, White testified that he believes they died of natural causes.

"If you hear hoofbeats in the corral, you don't go looking for zebras," White says. "They had plenty of natural diseases that people a lot younger than they are die from every day."

David spends his days in jail playing pinochle and talking to his parents.
Deron Neblett
David spends his days in jail playing pinochle and talking to his parents.
David spends his days in jail playing pinochle and talking to his parents.
Deron Neblett
David spends his days in jail playing pinochle and talking to his parents.

The prosecution agrees that the Hiseys were not an especially healthy couple, but Harvey says deaths caused by heart attacks or lung disease don't show signs of strangulation. Their necks would not have been broken, and the hemorrhages, if caused by natural decomposition, would not have been in matching patterns.

"You have glaring evidence of a strangulation. So what if they had all the rest of these other diseases? Strangulation is what killed them," Harvey says. "They weren't strangled, and then lingered for six months, and then died of a heart attack. That's totally, completely unreasonable."

Graves argued that since David moved his father's body after he died, it's possible that the neck snapped when he moved him. But Harvey says neck muscles get very stiff, and it's difficult to break these bones after death. Graves also pointed out that the adult diaper Sunnye was wearing was clean, and usually when people are strangled they lose control of their bowels.

The district attorney says there was only one autopsy, not three. When Harvey originally examined Sunnye, she was so mummified with dry, leathery skin, he had to soak her neck tissues overnight to rehydrate her body. Then, Harvey saw the hemorrhages. Both Ibrahim and Harvey say that the autopsy was amended a few weeks before the trial merely to correct a clerical error.

When showing the jury a book of David's financial records, Ibrahim noted that David wrote most of the checks to himself. A few checks were written to pay the cable and phone bills, but Ibrahim points out that there is no record of doctor bills, prescriptions filled or any evidence that David was caring for elderly individuals.

"He's despicable," Ibrahim says. "David Hisey is less than human. There is nothing about David Hisey or anything associated with David Hisey that didn't disgust me. How can you not be disgusted?"

David didn't testify. "We thought we had raised enough reasonable doubt," Graves says. "He figured, 'Why get in there and muck things up?' "

Ibrahim says he wants to ask David what he did with the money. He wants to know what David was thinking when he put his hands around his mother's neck and strangled her. He wants to know how it felt to eat dinners from Meals on Wheels that were meant for his parents, who lay dead in the next room. "I would've kept him on the stand for two days," Ibrahim says. "He's a lying son of a bitch. He would have been exposed as a lying son of a bitch."

After two weeks of testimony, the jury declared David guilty of the lesser, included charge of murder. "We had to fight for that," Graves says. "That's what made it less of a hollow victory." The jury sentenced him to 43 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

"Justice has been served," says David's half-sister, Cherrye.

The trial ended Friday afternoon. That weekend, one of the jurors visited David in the Galveston County Jail. He says she told him that she didn't believe he had killed his parents, but she had been pressured into voting guilty anyway. David says she told him that there had been a debate among the jurors about whether the doubt they had in their minds qualified as reasonable doubt. "They weren't all real sure," David says.

His lawyer has interviewed her and plans to file a motion for new trial based on possible jury misconduct. The grounds for a new trial aren't solid, Graves told David during a visit two weeks after the trial. "It's a little shaky at best," Graves told him.

If the motion is denied, Graves plans to appeal the case. He argues that the judge should have granted his motion for a change of venue; he says David didn't get a fair trial in Galveston because the case had received so much publicity. The Galveston Daily News reported that when the jury members were being selected, one man stood up and said that anyone who claimed not to have heard about David's case was lying. He wasn't selected.

Today David spends his days in jail playing pinochle and talking to his parents. He says it was his choice to carry out his parents' wishes -- he didn't have to. But he wanted to keep his word.

"I told them I wouldn't separate them. I didn't," he says. "I made a commitment to them."

He sometimes speaks about his parents in the present tense. He scrunches up his forehead, smiles and answers many questions with "I don't know" in a way that makes the response seem inappropriate or inaccurate. When asked about his parents, he often responds, "Well, you'll have to ask them."

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