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TEXARKANA, Arkansas — A man whose sexual assault charge led to the discovery of his longtime girlfriend's sister's skeletonized corpse has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies in Miller County.
Tony Ken Hooker, 64, pleaded guilty this week to sexual assault of a child, abuse of a corpse and abuse of an endangered or impaired person at a hearing before Circuit Judge Carlton Jones. Hooker was sentenced to maximum prison terms on each count including 20 years for sexual assault, 10 years for abuse of a corpse and 20 years for abuse of an endangered or impaired person.
As part of his plea agreement, all three sentences were ordered to run concurrently for a 20-year sentence, Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said. Hooker received credit for the 440 days he spent in jail while his cases were pending.
"But for the courage of a young lady in disclosing repeated sexual abuse at the hands of Tony Hooker, we would have never known about the horrific neglect and mistreatment of Ms. (Christy) Himes both prior to and subsequent to her death. Mr. Hooker's admission of guilt will bring closure to this young lady for the abuse she endured and closure to the remaining family in the death of their loved one," Mitchell said.
When Hooker was arrested in 2019 for molesting one of his girlfriend's relatives when she was a minor, family members pressed authorities to look into the welfare of 40-year-old Christy Himes, according to search warrant and probable cause affidavits. Christy Himes was intellectually disabled and had a history of seizures.
Christy Himes was the sister of Debbie Sue Himes, Hooker's partner of more than 20 years. Hooker, Debbie Himes and Christy Himes lived together in a house Hooker owned in the 1200 block of Martha Street.
When Hooker was arrested on the sexual assault charge in October 2019, a family member of Christy Himes called Adult Protective Services and asked them to perform a welfare check.
The woman who contacted Adult Protective Services reported that she was worried Debbie Himes, who is in a wheelchair because of stroke in November 2017, would not be able to adequately care for Christy Himes with Hooker in jail. One of Debbie Himes' daughters arrived at the house while an A.P.S. caseworker and a Texarkana, Ark., police officer were there to conduct the welfare check.
The daughter told them that she and her sisters were not close to their mother, Debbie Himes, and that she last saw Christy Himes around Thanksgiving 2015. She reported that sometime after Hooker's mother died in 2016, he, Debbie Himes and Christy Himes moved into the larger of two adjacent houses owned by Hooker in the 1200 block of Martha Street and that the smaller house had been vacant about three years.
When asked where she thought Christy Himes might be, the daughter allegedly replied, "dead or maybe sold as a sex slave."
When the caseworker and police officer made contact with Debbie Himes she allegedly told them Christy Himes was in Tyler, Texas, visiting another relative. The officials had already determined that Christy Himes was not with the relative in Tyler and when confronted with that knowledge, Debbie Himes allegedly claimed Christy Himes was in Alaska for the funeral of their father who'd died two weeks before. Investigators determined the father actually died in May, not in September, and that Christy Himes was not in Alaska.
Concern for Christy Himes' welfare increased with the disproved explanations allegedly provided by Debbie Himes and with Debbie Himes' refusal to allow the caseworker and police officer to enter the unoccupied house. Texarkana Arkansas Police Department Sgt. Paul Nall and others were called to the scene and search warrants were acquired for both of Hooker's houses.
"The smell inside the home was almost unbearable," the affidavit states.
Investigators and crime scene detectives noted the smaller home was filthy and filled with trash. A dog kennel full of animal waste sat on a table in the living room.
"There was a large amount of animal feces and urine on the floor, along with hay, deceased insects, mold, mildew, dog bones, dog food, animal hair, empty food containers, pieces of food, numerous empty two-liter (soda) bottles, an oxygen tank, an old fish tank, along with various other pieces of junk and garbage," the affidavit states.
When investigators opened the door to a bedroom, they immediately noticed a pile of bones protruding from a plastic garbage bag lying on an old metal-framed bed.
"On the bed were several obvious bones which appeared to have been chewed on by animals," the affidavit states. "The body was almost fully decomposed with only a small amount of skin and hair left on the skull."
When interviewed by detectives the same day the body was found, Debbie Himes allegedly told them Christy Himes died a few days after having a seizure but did not say when the death occurred. When asked why she didn't call 911 when her sister died, Debbie Himes allegedly told detectives she could not afford a funeral. When asked what she and Hooker had been doing with Christy Himes' federal disability payments, she allegedly said, "I used it to pay the bills."
Investigators interviewed Hooker while he was in custody on the sexual assault charge Oct. 7. Hooker told them Christy Himes died sometime after his mother died in June 2016 but before Debbie Himes suffered a stroke in November 2017. Hooker made no mention of Christy Himes suffering a seizure but did say he noticed Christy Himes appeared to weaken in the days before her death.
"He thought the dog might have been taking her food," the affidavit states.
Hooker told investigators it was him who stuffed Christy Himes into a garbage bag, taped it shut and placed it on her bed in the smaller Martha Street house where it remained for years. Hooker told investigators that he and Debbie Himes continued to reside in the house with the corpse until moving into the larger house after Debbie Himes suffered a stroke in November 2017.
Hooker said he came to think of the smaller of his two Martha Street properties as "Christy's tomb" and that he continued to use the clothes dryer in the bedroom with the decomposing body even after he and Debbie Himes moved to the larger house.
Charges of abuse of a corpse and abuse of an endangered or impaired person remain pending against Debbie Himes. She faces three to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000 if convicted of abuse of a corpse. If found guilty of abuse of an endangered or impaired person, Debbie Himes faces a fine up to $15,000 and five to 20 years in an Arkansas prison.
Debbie Himes, 57, is currently free on a $15,000 bond. Her case is scheduled for a jury trial in August before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom.