Henry Sawyer believed the knock on his Fort Worth apartment door around lunchtime on Aug. 28 was a delivery from Meals on Wheels.
But when Sawyer opened the door, an unknown woman forced her way inside, beating the 89-year-old man and stealing his cash and some groceries before fleeing.
Though Sawyer was able to tell police that day what had happened, his health took a turn for the worse while he was hospitalized. Five days later, he died at John Peter Smith Hospital from complications of blunt-force trauma to his head and chest.
A 32-year-old woman has been arrested in his death.
Kristin Minor was arrested Saturday on a capital murder warrant. She was in the Mansfield jail Wednesday with bail set at $750,000.
“He was a very giving man,” Sawyer’s oldest daughter, Pattie Griffin, said of her father. “Pretty much all this woman had to do was ask him. If she would have said, ‘I’m hungry,’ he would have let her in and fed her.”
A trusting man
Family members say Sawyer, born in Smithville in Central Texas, had lived most his life in Fort Worth.
He had worked for the city’s sanitation department in the 1960s and ’70s before becoming disabled, and lived alone at La Hacienda Apartments in the 4700 block of Norma Street, but was visited almost daily by his oldest daughter.
A father of four (a son preceded him in death), Sawyer had six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Despite Sawyer’s age, Griffin said her father remained active. He loved to take walks to the store or nearby burger joints. He caught the bus frequently to visit his 97-year-old sister.
And he loved to interact with people.
“I guess you could say he was a ladies’ man,” said Ruthie Michel, Sawyer’s youngest daughter. “He talked to a lot of the women around there. ... Some of them tried to take advantage of him. My dad was just too trusting about that.”
The alleged crime
On the day of the attack, Sawyer would tell police before his death, he had opened the door expecting the Meals on Wheels delivery driver.
Instead, a woman he did not know suddenly struck him in the chest and forced her way inside, according to an arrest warrant affidavit by robbery Detective J.W. Galloway.
She grabbed his arms, throwing him to the ground and causing his head to hit the ground with great force. She then rifled through the injured man’s pockets, stealing cash from his wallet, the affidavit states.
“The victim was unable to stand after being thrown to the ground but did see the suspect go into his kitchen and take groceries from the cabinets and refrigerator,” Galloway wrote.
The woman then fled carrying bags of items she had taken.
Sawyer “had tried to call 911, but the suspect had pulled the phone cord out of the wall,” Galloway said.
Sawyer was found bleeding and disoriented a short time later by the Meals on Wheels volunteer Irene Kofi.
In a statement released Thursday by Meals on Wheels, the organization said they were deeply saddened by what had occurred to their long-time client.
Sawyer, according to the statement, was screaming for help when Kofi arrived so she immediately called 911, followed by Meals on Wheels so that the man’s emergency contact could be called.
“He was so badly beaten. I stayed with him until help arrived,” said Kofi, who had grown close to Sawyer in the several years she had been delivering to him. “He was such a sweet man. I just can’t believe this happened to such a nice man.”
Sawyer described his attacker to police and his daughter as a heavyset black woman wearing dark clothing.
Turn for the worse
Sawyer, whose injuries included substantial bleeding of the brain, was initially clear-minded at John Peter Smith Hospital, Griffin said.
But within about four hours, her father’s health began going downhill.
“When they moved him from the ER to ICU, he was able to speak when they started wheeling him down,” Griffin said. “Before we could get to the elevators, he had lost his speech ... but he still had his mind.”
The next morning, a Saturday, Sawyer woke up, mumbling for coffee.
Griffin said she tried to give her father a drink but he couldn’t swallow it.
Griffin said every time she returned to the hospital from a quick trip home, she found her father “a little bit worse.”
“I would get down by his face and say, ‘Daddy, do you know who I am?’ I would say, ‘I love you.’ He would mumble, ‘I love you too.’ ”
On Sept. 2, surrounded by family members, including some of his great-grandchildren, Sawyer passed away.
“To go down in five days, it was a huge shock,” Griffin said. “It’s not real to me.”
A suspect emerges
On the day of the attack, a maintenance man told police that he had seen a woman matching the suspect’s description on the property earlier that day.
He told police the woman he saw had previously lived in apartment No. 106 before Sawyer moved in. A property manger was able to provide Galloway the former tenant’s name — Kristin Minor.
Though Sawyer was unable to view a photo lineup before his death, Galloway and assisting homicide detectives M. Anderson and J. Rhoden were able to retrieve surveillance video showing a woman wearing dark clothing leaving the area near Sawyer’s apartment.
In the video, the woman is carrying groceries and a large bottle of bleach. She looks around nervously as she uses a gate key to exit a back pedestrian gate, the affidavit states.
Griffin told investigators that among items missing from her dad’s apartment was a bottle of bleach she had just bought him.
Interview with suspect
Minor, whom witnesses would later identify as the woman seen in the video, was found by officers on Sept. 24 and agreed to be interviewed — the first of two interviews she would give.
She claimed she had occasionally visited Sawyer, whom she knew as Mr. Smiley, to play cards and get something to eat, the affidavit states.
But she insisted she had last visited the elderly man in early August and denied being at the apartment complex the day of the attack.
Minor also claimed that it was not her in the video, but another woman she knew. Witnesses, however, would later identify Minor as the woman in the video, the affidavit states.
The affidavit states that Minor later made changes to her story after being asked by police to give a DNA sample.
She made more changes, the affidavit states, after being told that a maintenance man had seen her at the complex the day of the attack. This time, she admitted she had been there that day, but claimed it was to buy dope from a different apartment, the affidavit states.
She was arrested after that second interview, police said.
Sawyer’s daughters expressed relief that an arrest has been made.
“I’d go to bed every night and pray to God that they would catch her,” Michel said. “I know the Bible preaches forgiveness, but I’m having a hard time with this one because it’s senseless. Anyone that would hurt an elderly person or child, it’s beyond me.”