The Gallaudet Murders
The Alleged Confession
Freshman Thomas Minch, eighteen, had come to Gallaudet from Greenland, New Hampshire, and he'd quickly befriended Eric. The son of two deaf parents, Minch had a brother and five cousins who were also deaf and he often inspired people with normal hearing to learn sign language. He had looked forward to attending Gallaudet and was shocked and grieved over Eric's murder. Minch had even helped with the memorial for Eric and had posted a dedication to him on his Web page. But then the police arrived on Tuesday to bring him in for questioning. Another student had told them about a fight between him and Eric not long before Eric was killed.
With the help of an interpreter, detectives asked Minch about his relationship with Eric. They came to the conclusion, based on forensic evidence and Minch's responses, that as a result of his disagreement with Eric, he had killed him. Minch admitted to arguing with Eric the day before he died and even to hitting him; as he said this the interview was curtailed. Minch was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. The other students, already reeling from the drama of Eric's death, could hardly believe this terrible news. They rallied a group to attend his hearing, and Minch's incredulous parents flew in as well. They insisted their son was not a murderer and refused to accept that he had confessed, as was rumored.
But at the arraignment, the U.S. Attorney's office dropped the charges against Minch, citing insufficient evidence. Thus, he had clearly not confessed, or he would not have been released. However, the decision not to charge him did not clear him. The detectives, who claimed Minch had admitted to the crime, believed they just had to work harder to get evidence against him. Minch remained their chief suspect
Seven detectives were assigned to continue the investigation, and Minch was suspended from the school. The provost made the announcement about his departure to an assembly of students, over protests that Minch's rights had been violated. But the provost insisted that the suspension was necessary for safety, both of the student body and of Minch himself. Reportedly, there had been threats against him from students who believed he had killed Eric. His dreams for a Gallaudet education were over.
The investigation intensified, but by Christmas the police had been unable to make a case and Eric Plunkett's murder went unsolved. It would heat up again after the new year began, as officials prepared for a grand jury hearing in February. Eric's parents flew in, as did Minch, his parents and his attorney. On February 2nd, Minch appeared before the grand jury to explain what he had said to the officers questioning him.
He also submitted a handwriting sample for the jury to examine. Since September his life had been hell, despite his denial that he had harmed his friend.
The next day, it would be clear to everyone that he was not guilty.