Following the reversal of a Trinity County man’s murder conviction from 28 years ago, the main witness in the case has filed a claim against the county saying as a young, scared and confused boy he was coerced into his testimony.
Randolph Hogrefe, now 37, was only 9 years old when Gary “Hop” Summar was stabbed to death in Hawkins Bar in 1991 after rumors circulated around a campground that Summar had molested a child.
Hogrefe’s mother was one of eight persons arrested and tried in the case. Hogrefe testified as an eye-witness at the trials which ended with seven people convicted of involvement in the killing on counts ranging from robbery to conspiracy and murder.
The claim against Trinity County was filed on Hogrefe’s behalf by the Redding law firm Barr & Mudford. Plaintiffs are required to submit a claim prior to suing a government agency.
The claim follows the reversal in August of the murder conviction of one of the defendants, Robert Fenenbock, after the Innocence Project took up Fenenbock’s case. Trinity County District Attorney Donna Daly has said she might retry Fenenbock. She declined to comment on the Hogrefe claim, saying she didn’t wish to add to the publicity of the case.
In 1991, shortly after Summar was killed, Hogrefe and his siblings were taken into CPS custody and put in foster care.
In an attachment to the claim summarizing the events, Hogrefe’s attorneys state that the 9-year-old boy told investigators with the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office multiple times he didn’t see anything happen to Summar. The summary says a couple of weeks after the murder, Hogrefe was taken to the crime scene and told the defendants had admitted to the murder and had said the boy was there, in the back of a vehicle, when it happened.
Hogrefe’s attorneys state that as a child, he was repeatedly placed in stressful and inappropriate situations.
At one point Hogrefe’s CPS guardian asked him to “put the pieces together” like a detective would, resulting in the boy coming up a scenario he said was a guess. However, “eventually he began to believe the story he was force fed,” according to the summary.
In a taped therapy session before defendant Robert Fenenbock’s preliminary hearing, a therapist asked the boy if he was sure of who had stabbed Summar. When Hogrefe responded that he was not, the summary states, she told him in order to make sure Fenenbock stayed in jail, “you have to tell him that it happened. Not that I don’t know.”
The summary states that Hogrefe thought he had suppressed the memory of seeing the murder until this past March, when an attorney from the Innocence Project which was working with Fenenbock provided him with his original statements and transcripts.
The Hogrefe claim doesn’t give a specific dollar amount, stating that general damages are in excess of $10,000 and there are also medical damages.