Earl Conrad Bramblett (March 20th, 1942 – April 9th, 2003) was an American mass murderer, convicted for the killing of four members of the Hodges family in August 1994 in Vinton, Virginia. Bramblett murdered each family member in their residence before setting it on fire, and in 1997 was sentenced to death for the murders.
Bramblett was executed by electric chair on April 9th, 2003.
At around 4:30 a.m. on August 29th, 1994, a passerby reported a fire at the Hodges residence in Vinton, Virginia. Firefighters and police found fire burning throughout the house. Gaining entry, authorities found 37-year-old Teresa Lynn Hodges' body on a couch, still burning — she had been strangled and doused with diesel fuel. On the second floor, they discovered William Blaine Hodges (aged 41) dead on a bed next to a .22 caliber gun with the barrel removed, shot through his left temple, but not burned. In a second bed they found daughters Winter (aged 11) and Anah (aged 3); both had been shot at close range, and Anah had sustained mild burns.
Further inspection of the Hodges house revealed purposefully-disconnected telephone lines and the presence of a petroleum-based accelerant in several areas.
Having found Blaine Hodges' body next to a gun, police at first theorized that Blaine had killed his family and then himself; Blaine, a former U.S. Postal Service employee, was about to serve six months in federal prison for embezzlement. Further investigation determined that the barrel of the murder weapon had been removed after Blaine had been killed, and that Blaine had been killed before the rest of his family.
Bramblett was a close friend of the Hodges family. Police requested an interview with Bramblett, during which they told him the family had died in a fire, without mentioning the evidence of violence. Bramblett displayed anger and stated that the "son of a bitch offed his family and killed himself", which indicated prior knowledge and immediately made him a prime suspect.
Soon police gathered additional incriminating evidence against Bramblett. A witness had seen a vehicle similar to Bramblett's driving past the Hodges home during the fire, without stopping. Drawings of stick figures with arrows that corresponded to the Hodges' bullet wounds were found at Bramblett's place of employment.
Bramblett's sister provided police with a box he had left with her, which contained several audiotapes on which he spoke of his sexual attraction to 11-year-old Winter Hodges, and of his belief that the family, including Winter, was conspiring to set him up for child molestation charges.
A DNA test on a pubic hair found in the bedroom where the girls were found was matched to Bramblett. A pair of jeans were found soaking at his place of employment, discovered by another employee after noticing water leaking through the door, and were determined to contain stains of the same flammable liquid used to start the fire at the Hodges's home. The bullets used to kill the victims were determined to be of the same composition as bullets found in a vehicle belonging to Bramblett.
It was discovered that Bramblett punched his time card at work 20 minutes after the fire was started (the drive time from the Hodges home to his job was 20 minutes) and, after realizing his error, attempted to black out the entry on his time-card.
In addition, two women testified that, in the 1970s, Bramblett had given them alcohol and molested them when they were eleven and fourteen years old.
Bramblett was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death on December 16th, 1997, after the jury deliberated for one hour.
After a clemency petition to Governor of Virginia Mark Warner was rejected, along with an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Earl Bramblett was executed in the electric chair for the murder of the Hodges family at Greensville Correctional Center, Jarratt, Virginia, on April 9th, 2003. He was sixty-one years old at the time of his death, choosing the electric chair over lethal injection as a form of protest. His final words were, "I didn't murder the Hodges family. I've never murdered anybody. I'm going to my death with a clear conscience. I am going to my death having had a great life because of my two great sons, Mike and Doug." His body was cremated after the electrocution