Hank Few case: Wrongful death lawsuit depositions reveal new details
10/09/2017 2:45 pm PDT
Crime Watch Daily sits down with a passionate mother on a mission, hell-bent on proving the deaths of her two children are not accidental -- but murder.
She's not a cop. This isn't an interrogation. But two of her children are dead, and she claims to know who's responsible.
Was it a toxic love triangle? A hired hit? Or, in spite of everything one grieving mother believes with all her heart, was there even a crime at all?
Lately, Transylvania County, North Carolina mom Donna Few has been asking a lot of questions. It's all part of her own years-long investigation that some say borders on obsessive. But perhaps that's understandable considering just how much she has lost.
"I might be able to get some peace now if this is done right," Donna Few tells Crime Watch Daily.
Mariah and Hank Few were the third and fourth of Donna's five kids. Three years apart in age, but in every other way as close as could be.
"We were really close growing up," said younger brother Dodgen Few. "Out of all of us, I would say they were definitely the closest."
Even well into their 20s, the two reportedly talked every day.
"They had a close relationship, I know Hank spent a lot of time with Mariah," said Hank's best friend Caleb Weingartz. "He was protective of his sister. He loved her and he wanted the best for her."
Then just a few months before Mariah's 30th birthday, a tragedy blew the family apart.
Donna still remembers the call she got that morning.
"'Donna, your daughter is dead and she's laying right there in the floor,'" Donna tells Crime Watch Daily. "It was horrible. I didn't know what to think."
The call was from a man named Teddy Snyder -- Mariah's live in boyfriend, and the father of her three children. He tells Donna, and later paramedics, that sometime during the night, Mariah had stopped breathing.
Teddy also tells the coroner that Mariah had a substance abuse problem, and that he thought she had been feeling suicidal. And whether it was accidental or intentional, toxicology reports later confirmed Mariah died from a drug overdose. One of Mariah's best friends, Lynn Adair, still has trouble talking about it.
"I asked Donna, I said 'Is it true?' And she said 'Yeah, Lynn she's killed herself,' and I said 'No, she didn't kill herself, I know better,'" said Lynn Adair.
A heartbreaking loss. But no one seemed to take it harder than Mariah's brother Hank Few. Apparently, after her death, Hank escaped into a drug-induced haze.
"He told me that he had been doing different things, things that I wouldn't be proud of him about," Adair tells Crime Watch Daily.
And with people Hank's mom alleges have a lot to answer for. At the time, Hank Few was reportedly crashing at the home of a man named Jason Johnson -- a man with a reputation.
"I think he was hanging out with the wrong people," said brother Deogen Few. "He wouldn't really bring me around them because they weren't exactly, you know, the best people to bring your little brother around."
Hank had been staying at Jason's place with his girlfriend, Kelsey "KK" Mason.
Then, October 9, 2012, the day before what would've been his sister's 30th birthday.
"Hank come seen me that morning and I hugged him, it was like hugging her, and he said 'I'll see you in the morning,' and I said I'll be waiting on you, Hank,'" said Lynn Adair.
Two days after that, just a few months after Donna got the awful call about her daughter's death, her phone rings again.
"She said 'Donna, Hank's missing,'" Donna Few tells Crime Watch Daily. "I said 'What do you mean he's missing?' She said 'He's been gone for two days, his phone is here, his dog's here.' I immediately started driving, and I called the sheriff's department on the way."
"We had received a call that Mr. Few was missing on a Thursday, and our patrol division responded," said Transylvania County Sheriff's Captain Jeremy Queen.
Donna Few is already there when deputies arrive, along with Jason Johnson, Kelsey Mason and several new faces. When deputies interview Hank's girlfriend Kelsey, she tells them that on the night Hank disappeared, the eve of Mariah's birthday, it was just the two of them at the trailer. She goes on to say Hank had been working in the yard when around 7:30 p.m., she saw him "sniffling and upset." She asked if he was OK, and without saying a word, wearing only a white tank-top and a pair of jeans, he walked off into the woods.
"It was our understanding that it wasn't necessarily unusual for Mr. Few to take off walking and be gone for even a couple of days at a time," Capt. Queen tells Crime Watch Daily. "What did seem to be unusual, especially to his mom, was he had left without his cellphone."
"There were two deputies," said Donna Few. "They interviewed everybody there and they felt like something was not right. So they called a search together."
Not long after that, Detective Jeremy Queen arrived on scene, and that's when, Donna says, the investigation took an abrupt shift in the wrong direction.
"They called a big search and they were all standing around waiting to be told where to go. At about 7:10 Jeremy Queen shows up on the scene and calls off the search," said Donna.
"A search was not called off, that's not true," said Capt. Queen. "It was up in the evening, pretty dark, couldn't see real well. After a couple hours or so of doing some searching, the decision was made to suspend the search until the morning, until daylight."
But Donna insists nothing much happened after that, and she believes there was one very specific reason why, something to do with one of those other faces at the house when she arrived, a man named Seth Queen, that she swears is part of a cover-up involving one of his relatives: lead investigator Jeremy Queen.
"Seth Queen, who was there, is his nephew," said Donna Few.
Hank Few is missing and his girlfriend says he walked off into the woods, depressed about the death of his sister. However, his mother is convinced things aren't what they seem.
First, there was the sudden overdose death of his sister Mariah. Then less than four months after that, on the eve of what would've been her 30th birthday, Hank Few was gone too, vanished from the home he was sharing with his girlfriend Kelsey Mason and a man named Jason Johnson.
"When I got there they told me and the law that Hank had gotten depressed about it being his sister's birthday and wandered off into the woods and never came back," said Donna Few.
But right away, Hank's mom Donna doesn't buy it. She says Hank never would've left his cellphone behind. And about that phone...
"Hank supposedly disappeared Tuesday at 7:30, and I was getting text messages from his phone at 11 o'clock at night," Donna Few tells Crime Watch Daily.
Donna says Kelsey Mason later admitted it was her pretending to be Hank, and in police reports so does another witness. But Donna also claims that authorities never followed up on that information.
Then again, there's a lot she says police didn't do, even accusing then-detective Jeremy Queen of calling off the search after discovering his own nephew, Seth Queen, at the house.
"There's something not right about it," said Donna.
But Jeremy Queen, who is now a captain with the Transylvania County, N.C. Sheriff's Office, remembers things a little different.
"I think she's confused," said Capt. Queen. "I didn't have a nephew there on scene, I had a, I think I had a first cousin that was there that I don't know very well, probably had less than 20 conversations with him in my entire life. He would not have anything to do with my decision to call off a search. I did not call off a search."
The truth, he says, is that after a cursory search that night, the effort was postponed until they could bring in additional resources.
Either way, Donna says she wasn't about to wait for that to happen, spending the next two days trudging through the woods on her own.
"Then we all started looking for Hank," said friend Lynn Adair. "Everybody started looking."
And on the second day of that search, less than a hundred yards away from Jason Johnson's trailer, a horror no mother should endure.
"I saw a pair of silk boxers by the creek that weren't there the day before, I started walking up into the laurel and I saw fresh footprints. I walked up about 20 more feet and I saw a foot, and then I turned around to I look back and there's Hank laying there," said Donna. "Dead."
Face down in a puddle of mud. Another member of the family lost.
"It brought my world down," said brother Dodgen Few. "You know, after Mariah passed I thought this is about as worse as it can get, and then the one person helping me cope with such things, he's gone too. Where do you go after that?"
"I screamed. And then I called the law," said Donna.
By then, Donna was already suspicious because of those fake texts from Kelsey. But when investigators, including Jeremy Queen, arrive...
"There were no signs of a struggle," said Capt. Queen. "No signs of trauma to Mr. Few's body."
And when authorities search Hank, they find a syringe hidden in his shoe, which would later test positive for methamphetamine.
"There was nothing about the crime scene that indicated that it was anything other than an accident," said Capt. Queen.
But Donna Few, who sat with Hank for hours while cops processed the scene, has a much different interpretation.
"I knew that Hank had been murdered," said Donna.
There was what she believed to be the odd positioning of Hank's left arm behind his back, as though he'd been held down. And then, there were his clothes: On the night Hank was reported missing, his girlfriend Kelsey told police he was wearing a white tank-top and blue jeans. When Donna found him, he was in a T-shirt, overalls, and something else:
"He had a hoodie on upside down and backwards and zipped up in the back and pulled to his elbows," said Donna.
"The way he was found and all that, it's just, it doesn't all sound too right," said Dodgen Few.
"Well if it was already zipped up, he could've put it on like it didn't have a zipper," said Capt. Jeremy Queen. "I can't tell you why people who are high do the things that they do."
And when it comes to Kelsey Mason's other inconsistencies?
"I don't think it's unusual for people to get a description wrong," said Capt. Queen. "If there had been trauma or if something suspicious surrounding it, that would have would have bothered me, but getting a detail in the description I don't think really changes the evidence and changes the facts of the case."
And he says those facts became even clearer when Hank Few's toxicology report came back months later showing his primary cause of death as methamphetamine toxicity.
"Based upon the evidence and the investigation that we completed, I don't think there was any foul play," said Capt. Queen.
Case closed, in the eyes of the law. Not even close, for Donna.
In the months after Hank Few's death, Donna Few starts her own investigation, chasing down rumors, questioning alleged witnesses and even uncovering what she claims amounts to multiple confessions.
Now, as part of a wrongful death lawsuit filed three years after Hank's demise, Donna claims she has more than enough evidence to prove her son was murdered, and she's about to reveal it all to Crime Watch Daily.
Donna Few has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against at least 10 suspected conspirators. Though all accused have denied her claims, Donna believes the case for murder starts with Hank's phone, the one he left behind with his girlfriend Kelsey "KK" Mason.
Records show that very shortly after Hank supposedly walked off without that phone, someone made a 46-minute phone call to a friend of Kelsey's named Scott Stepp.
As part of the discovery phase of Donna Few's civil suit, she deposed him just weeks ago.
"Kelsey called you from Hank's phone on 10/9 at 7:32 for 46 minutes, it says," Donna asks in a recorded deposition.
"No. She talked to me for five to 10 minutes," Stepp answers.
"Well you can't dispute a phone bill from Verizon," say Donna.
"Well I'm not disputing nothing. I'm not on trial here either," says sTepp.
A contentious beginning, but even though Stepp questions the length of the call, he does admit Kelsey rang that evening.
"She wanted me to come and get her that night," says Stepp. "And I said no. She just said she needed to get out of there, that Hank was doped up and he was running around crazy, and he was running through the woods."
"Do you think she was lying?"
"Well I didn't know what to think at the time," Stepp answers.
Either way, he insists he did not actually see Kelsey Mason that night.
But Donna has other witnesses who say they did. In a statement Donna says was given to her by a local store clerk, the woman writes that Kelsey, Jason Johnson and a third man named Chad Wood came into the store that night at around 8:30. They were, according to her, covered in mud and blood. Thirty minutes after that...
"She said the guy that lives behind the store came in and asked if she had a crowbar, because they've stuffed Hank Hew in the back of a trunk -- 'I want to open up the trunk and see if he's OK,'" said Donna.
That guy was Dean Allen Baytes.
"Do you remember telling her that you had been told that Hank was missing and someone told you that he was in the trunk of a car?" Donna asks Dean in a recorded deposition.
"The missing part, yes," says Dean.
Dean says he doesn't remember being told Hank was in that trunk, just that he was trying to help a friend get into his car.
"He was like 'Hey if anybody can help me find a crowbar let's go pop it open and see what we can find," Dean says.
"Did you believe that Hank was in the trunk of the car?"
"I honestly didn't know what to believe."
"Did somebody tell you that Hank was in the trunk of the car?"
"No," Dean replies.
But Donna claims to have multiple other statements alleging Hank's body was at one point in that trunk. She also says she urged investigators to have that car tested, but that they ignored her, and roughly two months after that, someone burned that car on Jason Johnson's property.
"Why do you think they burnt that car?" asks Donna in the recorded deposition.
"Probably to conceal evidence," says Dean. "I mean, why else would you burn a car?"
"Suspicious? Sure. I think it was suspicious," said Transylvania County Sheriff's Captain Jeremy Queen. "But that car had been searched previously. We examined the car, we examined the trunk, and there was no evidence of anyone's body being in the trunk. Why they burned that car after the fact, I will go back to what I said earlier, which was I can't speculate why drug abusers do what they do. I don't know."
But Donna Few says she does know, and that so do a whole lot of other people.
"There was a party after the night Hank disappeared at Jason Johnson's house," Donna tells Crime Watch Daily.
At that house were a lot of the people Donna now lists as defendants, including Jason, Kelsey, Chad Wood and a few others.
And then there was this man: not a defendant, but a witness: Justin Dulus Case. Not long after Hank Few's death, his friend J.D. Case sent Donna a letter about what he claims to have happened when he showed up looking for Hank that night. In the letter, Case says everyone seemed scared and "tweaked out of their mind."
Then he says he saw Hank's girlfriend Kelsey hitting on their friend Jason.
"Did you not find it strange that they'd be flirting when Hank was missing?" Donna asks Case in a recorded deposition.
"Well, I mean, yes," Case replies.
Was there a secret relationship between Kelsey and Jason -- and was it a reason to want Hank out of the way? That's what Case asserts in his letter, writing: "I really think that Jason killed Hank for KK. That's why they were together after Hank died."
And he says he came to that conclusion after overhearing Jason telling another partygoer: "You know what happened, and you know they will put me in prison for the rest of my life."
"At this point in my life, that's what I thought," says Case in the deposition.
"You thought that Jason killed him, that's what you said?"
"Yeah, you know -- " says Case.
But to Donna's surprise, even though Case laid it all out in his letter four years ago, now that time has passed he's suddenly changing his story.
"But at this point my life do I think I can say that? I don't," Case says in the deposition.
"But you heard Jason say, 'You know what happened and if they find out I'm going to spend the rest of my life in prison."
"I never heard him say that he killed Hank," Case answers.
"OK, so let's do this again so we're clear."
"I'm about to leave, Donna, straight up, now," Case says.
"You can't leave," says Donna.
"Yes I can," says Case. "Tell them to arrest me then."
"I'm almost finished, J.D.," says Donna in the deposition.
Donna gets J.D. Case to sit back down, but when she tries to question him about the letter one more time:
"'I will spend the rest of my life in prison.'"
"If that statement is made one more time I'm going to walk the [---] out of the [----] room," Case says.
"Yes or no?" says Donna.
"That's what was put, that's what was said," says Case.
And that's pretty much where Case leaves it. As for why his original statement wasn't taken seriously the first time around, Donna alleges police made their conclusion about her son the second they found that needle, and that in the several months it took for the toxicology report to confirm it, they refused to investigate anything that might prove otherwise.
"We did not put an investigation on hold based on waiting for a toxicology report," said Capt. Jeremy Queen.
But to that, Donna points to a recording made roughly a week after Hank's body was found, a phone call between someone at the sheriff's office, and the father of someone else at the party that night after Hank disappeared: Chad Wood's girlfriend Monica Hernandez. Monica Hernandez's father called detectives in a call that was recored.
Caller: "My daughter, she's got the whole family, grandma's in a panic that she's involved in the murder. And everybody just want me to touch base and see what's going on exactly."
Detective: "Right now we're waiting to see what went on up there. We don't know. You know, just waiting for the medical report and stuff to get back."
Caller: "Right now she's telling the family that Chad's the one that did it."
What happened after that call depends on whether you believe Donna, or lead investigator Jeremy Queen.
"Jeremy Queen went to talk to Monica and Chad and interviewed them both and did not ask them either one a question about it, and they had had that audio for a week," Donna tells Crime Watch Daily.
"That is not," said Capt. Queen. "We had talked to several people. Nobody was turned away, and their statements were viewed in the light of the evidence that we had."
Evidence that Queen adamantly contends shows no signs of foul play.
But Donna still has a lot more to reveal from what she says is a step-by-step account of how Hank Few was murdered, to the surprising person she accuses of being behind it all -- everything short of the murder weapon. And as of a few weeks ago, even that may be changing.
In the days after he went missing, Hank Few's phone was known to be with at least two people: Kelsey Mason and Hank's childhood friend Brooke Smith.
According to phone records, someone with that phone made what Donna believes to be a very telling call.
"At about noon the next day there's a phone call to Teddy," said Donna Few, Hank's mother.
As in Teddy Snyder, the live-in boyfriend of Hank's sister Mariah and the man who reported her death. So what does he have to do with this?
"According to several people that have written me, Teddy paid $6,000 to kill Hank because he was afraid of Hank," said Donna.
According to friends and family, in the weeks after Mariah died, Hank started asking Teddy a lot of questions.
"He was suspicious all the time that Teddy had killed Mariah by overdosing her," said Donna.
Reportedly, Hank even confronted Teddy about it, and the two got into a huge fight, one in which, according to rumors, Hank got Teddy to confess.
"He had described to me that he knew that Teddy had killed her," said Hank's best friend Caleb Weingartz.
And that was just a few weeks before Hank's death.
"The last text message that I sent Hank said: 'Hank, did Teddy really kill Mariah?'" said Donna.
To be clear: Mariah's death has never been investigated as suspicious. Teddy Snyder has never been charged with anything connected to her death. And as far as anyone knows, Hank Few never shared his story with authorities.
But in her wrongful death lawsuit, Donna says Hank's story is exactly what got him killed.
"They called Teddy hours after they murdered Hank. He paid him to kill him," said Donna.
And based on other the statements she's received, this is how Donna says it happened: After Teddy Snyder made the arrangements, Chad Wood and Jason Johnson lured Hank to a predetermined location far from Jason's trailer. After that...
"From what I've been told, Chad Wood hit Hank in the head with a tool and then Hank fell and started gurgling, and then Jason Johnson hit him in the back of the head," said Donna.
"I also heard that when they hit him over the head and knocked him out, he was still breathing and then shot him up with crystal meth," said Caleb.
Captain Jeremy Queen says he's heard those rumors too, but that the evidence just doesn't support them.
"The medical examiner specifically put in their report that there was no signs of trauma, and if there had been any type of head injuries whatsoever, that would have been noted," said Queen.
Still, Donna seems certain. She says autopsy photos actually do show an obvious head injury. And as outlined in her civil suit, she believes that after driving Hank around in that car that was later burned, Chad, Jason and at least six other people conspired to bury Hank Few alive.
"He had mud and water in his trachea in his autopsy," said Donna.
Later, after Donna began her own search, her lawsuit charges that the defendants dug up Hank's body, then moved it to where it was ultimately found. And in one of the most sinister claims of the alleged plot, Donna says Teddy Snyder specifically planned for Hank's murder to happen on Mariah's birthday.
"He was already heartbroken and so from what I understand they were supposed to have sent me a text saying 'Mom, I can't live anymore, I can't live without my sister,' but they forgot to do that. It was very premeditated," said Donna.
It's a compelling theory, and even Transylvania County Sheriff's Captain Jeremy Queen admits there are details he didn't know.
"I have not heard the story about being killed at a different location and then -- this is the first time I've actually heard that story," said Capt. Queen.
But he says it doesn't change the facts of the case, or his position. And as for those accusations of ignored evidence and shady family ties?
"The Transylvania County Sheriff's Office, the North Carolina S.B.I. and the North Carolina Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is in no way covering up the death of Mr. Hank Few," said Capt. Queen.
But Donna insists she's closer than ever to proving her case, and that she may have just acquired a key piece of evidence that ties everything together.
"Do you know Kelsey Mason?" Donna Few asks Scott Stepp in his recorded deposition.
"Yes, I do," says Stepp.
"Are you all friends?"
"We was friends," Stepp replies.
Remember that tool supposedly used to beat Hank? Donna heard a rumor it may have actually been an engine part called a camshaft.
"Shortly after Hank's disappearance, did Kelsey give you a camshaft?"
"Yes," says Stepp.
"I don't know. That's weird. It's weird you asked that," says Stepp.
"Let's talk about it."
"Let's talk about it," says Stepp. "Kelsey walked in just like this right here with the camshaft in her hand -- and I've got cold chills running over me right now."
Cold chills, for one, because he says he still has that camshaft.
"Describe her manner when she gave it to you."
"Well she just walked in with it holding it up like that like she didn't want no fingerprints on it," says Stepp. "That was the first obvious..."
"She might have been thinking she needed to get rid of some evidence."
"Maybe," says Stepp.
"Is that what you were thinking just now when you got cold chills, because I showed you that picture?"
"Yes," says Stepp. "Yes."
Donna Few tells Crime Watch Daily that since that interview, she has spoken to an attorney about getting that camshaft tested for evidence.
As for what Kelsey Mason has to say about it all, on the day she was supposed to be deposed by Donna, her lawyer showed up instead.
"I'm here and my client is not here and that's really all I can say," said Mason's lawyer Tony C. Dalton in a recorded deposition. "I have no explanation for why my client is not here today because I did in fact personally told her to appear at my office at 9 o'clock this morning."
While all of the defendants have reportedly denied any wrongdoing, to date Crime Watch Daily has only been able to reach family of the accused mastermind, Teddy Snyder. They declined any official statement other than to say that he's innocent.
So for now, that's where the case stands, and whether or not anyone believes Donna Few's pending lawsuit, the one fact no one can dispute is that a mother has lost two of her children, a family left broken.
"I miss Hank and Mariah both every day. Every day," said Dodgen Few. "Especially today. I've been thinking about both of them since I woke up. I'll never forget them."
"Everybody knows Hank was murdered," said Donna Few. "This is the biggest blessing I could ever have, is for the truth to get out, because his children aren't going to grow up thinking that he didn't love them enough to stay here and take care of them, and he just walked off in the woods and died. It's a tragedy all the way around."
In yet another tragic turn for the few family: Donna Few just called to tell us her youngest son Dodgen has died in a tragic car accident. Crime Watch Daily sends our deepest condolences and prayers to her and her loved ones at this most difficult time.