Thomas Kamp, 46; his girlfriend Hannah Johnson, 40; her son, Kade, 6, all of Midlothian went camping on 16 acres of land they owned near Palestine on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015.
They were joined by Kamp’s two sons, Nathan, 23, and Austin, 21, of California, and Hannah’s parents, Carl and Cynthia Johnson. The family was celebrating Nathan’s approaching birthday.
Kamp had purchased the land the group was camping on in August. He planned to use the unimproved property as a deer camp. It was located next to property owned by William Mitchell Hudson, 33.
Hudson was upset that family members had sold the property. The tract had been in the family since the 1800s. William wanted to buy the land, but he has unemployed and had no assets.
Cynthia and Carl were the first to arrive. The RV they were towing got stuck in sandy ground near the campsite. Hudson used a tractor to help move the stuck RV.
The couple offered to pay him, but he suggested they share a beer instead.
Several hours passed before Tom arrived. He was delayed at work and by the time he arrived, the group needed more firewood.
William, Tom, Nathan, Kade and Austin used Tom’s ATV to go into the forest to find wood.
When Cynthia, Hannah and Carl heard gunshots, their initial impression was that the group was hunting squirrels. Cynthia said the three of them eventually gave up on the men and started to eat their hamburgers and beans.
William Hudson returned alone on Tom’s ATV.
Hannah attempted to flee into the RV after yelling to her father.
William fired two shotgun blasts and ran out of ammunition.
One shot narrowly missed Hannah. The other hit Carl in the hip.
Hudson then began beating Carl when he collapsed on the steps of the RV.
Hannah was trapped inside with the door open.
Cynthia dropped to the ground in the dark. She heard her husband screaming for help.
Hudson then turned to her daughter, beating her until the walls, floor and ceiling of the RV were coated in blood.
The Johnsons, both retired university professors in Maine, had toured the country in the RV before making Texas their retirement home.
Cynthia Johnson hid in the woods until sunup, then she called 911.
Sheriff’s deputies found the bodies of a man and woman in a travel trailer next to Hudson’s home. They searched the area until about 1:15 p.m. when they found four males dead in a pond on Hudson’s property.
Cynthia Johnson later told investigators she heard gunshots, then Hudson returned to the campsite alone.
He chased her husband and daughter into a camper and shot them.
She managed to survive the horrific ordeal by hiding the woods for hours.
Officers responding to her 911 call found visible bloodstains on Hudson’s tractor. When they spotted Hudson inside his home, they could see through the door that he was covered in blood.
When they attempted to speak to him, he barricaded himself inside. He eventually surrendered.
Sheriff Greg Taylor said the entire episode traumatized officers.
“It’s like something you’d watch on Halloween night,” Taylor said to reporters for the Daily Mail Online.
Those who grew up alongside Hudson in tiny Palestine, Texas, don’t remember much about him other than he played on the high school basketball and tennis teams and enjoyed deer hunting with his father, according to the Palestine Herald newspaper.
Charlie Smith remembers Hudson — who went by his middle name Mitchell — as being “always pleasant.”
Smith also described Hudson’s mother as one of the sweetest people on earth.
Hudson had stopped by the liquor store Smith owns on the day of the murders. Employees reported he seemed to be in a good mood at the time.
Others described Hudson as a moody longer with a quick temper which got worse when he drank.
Hudson’s ex-wife Catrina said the couple married in 2004 and welcomed a daughter two years later. When they separated six weeks after the child was born, Catrina said Hudson posed a danger to her and the baby.
She obtained a protective order as she ended the marriage. It not only ordered Hudson to stay away from Catrina, her residence and workplace, it barred him from possession firearms or ammunition.
Catrina Hudson reported three domestic abuse incidents and told jurors she believed her ex-husband had a drinking problem and possibly took illegal drugs. DPS also suspended Hudson’s license to carry.
Two other former partners of Hudson testified about his violent behavior at the trial.
One of the women said Hudson put her in a headlock until she was able to put her keys between her fingers and punch him in the groin. That was just one of the 10 to 15 times he threatened her life during their relationship.
Another told of Hudson threatening to cut her brake lines in one instance, and throwing a knife at another time. All three women said Hudson told them if they called the police, he would shoot them when they arrived.
Prosecutors also played recordings of phone calls Hudson made while being held in the county jail prior to trial. During those calls, he made repeated threats toward jail staff.
In one call, Hudson complained to his mother about his classification as a high-risk inmate.
At another time, he told her he would beat up anyone they put in a cell with him.
Hudson’s mother, Crystal Hudson, testified that her relationship with her husband became strained over the years, adding that she had suffered physical and verbal abuse from her husband.
She also claimed her son changed considerably after a vehicle crash in August 2015, the Bryan-College Station Eagle reported.
About a month after the crash, he was hospitalized after a seizure. She also said Hudson had delusions that his girlfriend was trying to poison him, and that he believed people were watching him from outside his home.
Prosecutors countered by producing a timeline of Hudson’s violent episodes that happened prior to the wreck.
Just five days before the crash, Crystal spoke to deputies through the screen of her bathroom window. She claimed she didn’t know where her son was, but a shirt time later policed drew their weapons and ordered Hudson to drop his shotgun.
Crystal was also forced to get a new mobile phone because her son shot the previous one.
The day of the murders, Crystal said William through an ice pick at her feet. The weapon missed her, bounced off the bathroom tile and landed in the toilet. Hudson then walked out of the bathroom like nothing had happened.
Crystal got in her car and raced away from the home so fast that a highway patrolman pulled her over.
Crystal also discussed her son’s admission to a mental health facility while a high school student. He remained there for six weeks in April 2003.
At the conclusion of Crystal’s highly emotional testimony, the judge granted her request to make a short statement.
“I appreciate everybody’s patience with me today. Life gets confusing, and life is unfair, and I feel so bad, and I’ve prayed for the family who has lost their loved ones,” she said, crying. Multiple surviving members of the Johnson and Kamp families cried as Crystal asked them to pray for the Hudson family, too,” Crystal was quoted as saying in the Eagle.
The Anderson County Sherif’s Office arrested Hudson a week before the murders for assaulting a female clerk at a convenience store in Tennessee Colony.
Witnesses said Hudson got into a shoving match with another customer. A gun fell from Hudson’s clothing during the struggle. He then left the store while store employees called 911.
He was arrested a mile down U.S. 287 from the gas station. When the arresting officer checked Hudson’s truck he found two revolvers on the front seat.
Hudson’s work history includes stints as a maintenance worker at the Palestine school district’s bus barn and another job with a security company.
Most recently, Hudson did chores for his parents on the family property and ran errands. His father died of cancer in 2014
High school senior Jessica King lived next door to Hudson and she told investigators about hearing gunshots around the time of the murders. She had been outside checking on her pet pig in a backyard shed, but wasn’t alarmed by the sounds since it was hunting season.
She also heard a male voice screaming “Stop! Stop! Please stop!, then a few more shots and a truck driving away.
After purchasing the property, Kamp put up a gate with a chain lock that cut off Hudson’s access to the property. Several witnesses said Hudson spent a great deal of his time “wandering around” the property.
When the group arrived for their weekend visit, they discovered the lock had been cut.
Reporters with The Daily Mail also searched deed records and found that Hudson’s father never owned the land. The Woolverton and Hudson families had intermarried several times over the years — which created the perception that the Hudson’s owned the tract where they lived.
On the third day of the murder trial, jurors watched a video of his interrogation by Anderson County investigators.
Hudson told detectives that he went home and watched movies then went to bed after he helped the family with their stuck RV.
He claimed that the liked Cynthia and Carl Johnson, and when officers told him most of the family was dead, he said “What do I have to do with any of that?”
The ex-wife of one of the victims, Thomas Kamp, believes the sale of 16 acres by one of Hudson’s relatives prompted the murders.
The former owner, Bonnie Wolverton, said Hudson did express an interest in buying the land, but didn’t have the money.
Tom Hanson told reporters with Fox 4 he recently had cleared brush from the property and planned to cut another trail for them that would lead to a creek running through the property the family didn’t know about.
The trial was held in Brazos County, a little over 100 miles southwest of Anderson County, after the judge granted a change of venue motion.
Hudson’s defense team called witnesses who described Hudson’s mental health issues, including abuse by his father, struggles with substance abuse and head injuries from a car crash.
More than 50 people testified in the 11-day trial. More than 400 exhibits were introduced.
On the two-year anniversary of Hudson’s arrest, jurors delivered the punishment verdict after deliberating for less than an hour: death by lethal injection.
William Hudson is currently confined on death row here in Livingston. You can visit him if you want. Visit Tdcj.texas.gov for information on how to get on an inmate’s visitation list.
Death penalty costs
It’s cases like this that convince many people that the death penalty is necessary.
But is it?
Ignoring the moral question about whether it is ethical for the state to kill someone, there are plenty of criminal justice experts that point out the money spent on a single capital murder prosecution can be better spent on prevention efforts.
STUDIES: Death-Penalty Trials Contribute to Higher Taxes and Increased Property Crime in Texas
A study of tax rates and crime rates in Texas counties has found that death-penalty trials contribute to higher property tax rates and increased rates of property crime. Alex Lundberg (pictured), an assistant professor of Economics at West Virginia University, analyzed budgetary and crime rate data from Texas counties and found that counties responded to the high cost burden of capital trials by raising property taxes and reducing public safety expenditures.
As an example, he cites Jasper County, Texas, which “raised property taxes by eight percent to fund a joint trial for suspects in the 1998 murder of James Byrd. Another Texas county reduced public safety expenditure after voters rejected a property tax increase.” The reduction in public safety spending did not affect violent crime, Lundberg found, but “as counties reduce expenditures on public safety in the two years up to the conclusion of a capital trial, their property crime rate rises by an estimated 1.5%.”
Studies consistently show that death penalty trials are more expensive than non-capital trials in which defendants face a sentence of life without parole. Standard practice calls for two lawyers on each side, and competently litigated cases involve lengthy jury selection, multiple expert witnesses, and extensive investigation into the defendant’s background to discover and present mitigating evidence intended to persuade the jury to spare a defendant’s life. Lundberg’s data showed that Texas “counties bear an average of $1,400,000 in additional expenses coded as ‘judicial’ or ‘legal’ in the two years up to the conclusion of a trial (or $700,000 in a one-year window).” He examined county data because “[a] few activities, such as hearing automatic appeals, housing death row inmates, and, occasionally, assigning public defenders to indigent defendants, are covered by the state, but the bulk of the expense falls on the county in which a capital trial takes place.”
To cope with the high cost of death-penalty trials, “counties meet the cost of trial in two ways. The first is by increasing property taxes. The data show property tax rates increase by an average of 2% in years with a capital trial (as a percent of a percentage). When multiplied by the mean market value across counties, the increase yields an additional $660,000 in tax revenue. The second response is a drop in public safety expenditure. Court records do not provide trial start dates, but capital trials can take more than a year to complete. With the median length of time between the date of the offense and the conclusion of trial as an approximate guide, counties reduce public safety expenditures by $2,800,000 in the two years up to the conclusion of a capital trial (or $1,400,000 in a one-year window).”
$1.4 million equals 35 full-time deputies for a year in Polk County.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, there were 25 executions in 2018, and 42 defendants sentenced to death. Texas and Florida handed down seven death sentences each. California and Ohio had five apiece. No country imposed more than 2 death sentences … that’s the first time since 1972.
The 25 executions occurred in eight states, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas.
Texas accounted for 13.
Criminal justice reform candidates won the district attorney’s office in Bexar and Dallas Counties. In California, two district attorneys with the highest number of death sentences were ousted in the election.