Deputy Dunklin hugging Stacie

Location: Tyler, Texas
Date: April 16, 1989


Shortly before noon on Sunday, April 16, 1989 in Tyler, Texas, seven-year-old Stacie Henderson and her six-year-old friend, Josh Oliver, were walking down the road to return a video game to a neighbor. They were just a few hundred yards from Stacie's house when a car drove by them in the other way, turned around at the circle behind them, and pulled up beside them. Then the driver, an unfamiliar man, rolled down his window to question the kids about something. Afterwards, he told Stacie to move closer to the car, grabbed her, pulled her in, and took off. Josh, terrified that the man would kidnap him too, ran to Stacie's house and told her older sister, Dee, what had just happened. "It hit me really hard that Stacie had been kidnapped. After he got his breath back, he told us that it was a white man with bushy dark hair and that he was driving a large brown sedan - bigger than his mother's," said Dee. 

Immediately, Dee went to look for Stacie while their adoptive mother, Velma Henderson, went inside the house to call 911. Her call was taken by dispatcher Tammy Macklin. Smith County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Dunklin responded, but he was fifteen minutes away.

Dee headed to the Ulshes' house, where Stacie had been headed, to see if she was there. She wasn't, and that was when Dee knew it was no joke. Jack and Lois Ulsh immediately got in their car and went to the Hendersons' house, where Lois relayed the information to Macklin and called neighbors one by one, telling them what had happened, while Jack went to drive to nearby houses to gather up more neighbors. Dunklin arrived to ask Josh about the suspect, and he told him that it was a white man with bushy brown hair and a mustache, which he hadn't shaved for a few days. His hands and fingernails were really filthy with dirt and grease and he was wearing a blue shirt and blue jeans.  

Soon, as many as forty to fifty cars were on the road to look for the suspect's vehicle. Deputies Bobbie McGee and Alvina Brewer also responded, setting up a stake-out at a busy intersection, where they soon noticed a large brown sedan that matched the description of the suspect's vehicle. The suspect started a hot pursuit with Brewer and McGee chasing him, then slid his car into a ditch. Brewer and McGee screamed for him and Stacie to get out of the car, then pulled him out and arrested him. Soon, Stacie got out as well.

Dunklin heard on his radio that they had found the car. When they heard that the suspect was being arrested, Dee, Josh's mother, Lisa, and Dunklin drove to the location, telling each other that everything was fine, even though they knew this may not have been the case. Several other deputies also drove to the scene. Dunklin found Stacie in Brewer's car, gave her a hug, and cried along with her, then recognized the suspect as his former neighbor. He had a daughter Stacie's age, which effected him emotionally about the suspect being his former neighbor because he believed it could have been his daughter that was kidnapped instead of Stacie.

The suspect, Ben Lawrence, was discovered to be armed with a knife. Duct tape and a club were also found in his car. He subsequently was convicted of aggrevated kidnapping, and sentenced to life in prison. Stacie returned home to her family.

Nearly a year later, Stacie's life returned to normal. "She sleeps with me all the time," said Velma. Stacie didn't talk a lot about the kidnapping because it still upset her.