Milwaukee mother reveals key evidence of her son’s homicide

After her son was killed in April, Serena Thompson was devastated, but she was convinced that justice was on the way.

A suspect was arrested within 24 hours and investigators had two witnesses to work with. She thought the suspect was “going nowhere.”

But after a week, she began to hear – first from the vineyard and later from law enforcement – that the suspect had been released from prison. No charges had been laid.

Like other families in similar situations, Thompson struggled to find answers. She didn’t know if charges would be laid soon, later, or never.

Suddenly, justice for 28-year-old Vydale Thompson-Moody felt like it was fading away.

But Thompson refused to let that happen.

When told that witnesses to her son’s death were not cooperating, she began making phone calls and direct messages to them on social media, against the advice of some family members. She was determined to talk to them.

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“Vydale wanted me to persist,” said Thompson. “I will never give up on it.”

Thompson-Moody, who lived with a cognitive disability, was strangled on April 15 at a house on the 2800 block of West Wells Street in the Concordia neighborhood on the west side of Milwaukee. Three people who all knew Thompson-Moody were in the house when it happened.

Court records indicate that the suspect is Adam Hetke, 32, and indicate that Hetke identifies as female and prefers to be called “Morrigan”. Records indicate that Hetke has a history of sexual assault dating back to 2007 and frightened at least one witness.

When Hetke was released from prison, she bragged to witnesses that she killed Thompson-Moody and said God couldn’t bring him back, but she could, “because I’m the devil,” said court records.

Thompson’s efforts ultimately shook important evidence that led Hetke to be indicted, but not before she allegedly sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl with dementia in Waukesha.

“Since they let this person go and commit another crime, it hurt,” Thompson said. “It could have been avoided. “

“You couldn’t tell him his disability would stop him”

Vydale Thompson-Moody

Thompson learned that she would have to fight for her son on the day he was born.

Thompson-Moody was born with a series of health issues, including a missing chromosome that caused his cognitive impairment and a series of other conditions requiring a tracheostomy. Doctors said he was not likely to live beyond 3 years.

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But he lived far beyond that and worked hard to achieve lofty goals.

Thompson-Moody was a dedicated high school student but did not graduate. His mother said he was interested in working in child care or the restaurant industry, so he continued his education and earned a GED from Milwaukee Area Technical College last January.

Unbeknownst to his mother, Thompson-Moody had been accepted into the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She found a letter of acceptance after her death.

“I was so proud,” she said. “He didn’t like to take no for an answer. You couldn’t tell him that his disability would stop him. He just wanted to be recognized like any other human being.

Family members described Thompson-Moody as a social butterfly. He was active in Special Olympics and traveled around town by bus so much that many drivers knew him. He often acted as a peacemaker, taking after his grandfather, Thomas Lloyd, a pastor.

Serena Thompson poses for a portrait on Wednesday, August 4, 2021, at her home in Milwaukee.

It made him good company, but sometimes it worried his family too.

Thompson-Moody wasn’t always able to tell the difference between friend and foe. His father, Marshall Moody, was killed in a shootout in the northern part of Milwaukee in 2018. The money he left for his son made him a target for others, Thompson said.

“He’s never met a person he couldn’t be a friend with,” said Lloyd, his grandfather. “He was just friendly. He didn’t think people could hurt him. I’m sure people took advantage of him because of the way he was.

Homicide suspect freed

When police arrived at the West Wells Street house on April 15, they found Thompson-Moody on the ground with a 15-foot electrical cord under him and marks on his neck and forehead, according to the criminal complaint.

Hetke lived at the house with the two witnesses. One of them told police that Hetke had called Thompson-Moody the day before and asked him to come. After arriving, Hetke ordered Thompson-Moody to move out and intimidated him, according to the complaint.

Originally, a witness told police that Thompson-Moody got angry and tried to injure himself by wrapping a rope around his neck. The other three stepped in, although it appears Hetke tried to tighten the cord as she began to make statements about removing demons from Thompson-Moody’s body, according to the complaint.

It’s unclear exactly what happened next, but the same witness said everyone had finally fallen asleep and in the morning found Thompson-Moody unconscious.

It is not clear from the criminal complaint what information the second witness provided to the police at the time.

Hetke told police she tried to stop Thompson-Moody from injuring himself.

But Hetke was arrested on an interim charge of intentional first degree homicide. Thompson believed it was only a matter of time before charges were laid against his son’s death.

But after a week in the county jail, Hetke was released on administrative release, according to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office. This designation usually means that prosecutors are not yet ready to lay charges for a variety of reasons.

“It really bothered me,” Thompson said.

It was then that Thompson went to work on social media, hunting down his son’s friends and trying to get someone to talk. Hetke had been free for about a month when someone helped Thompson get in touch with the second witness, a female, who is only identified by a first name and initial in the criminal complaint.

The two connected over the phone one night at 2 a.m. in late May. Thompson recorded the conversation.

The woman said Hetke told her in advance that she wanted to kill Thompson-Moody for disrespect, according to the criminal complaint. She said Hetke wrapped the cord around her neck and the two witnesses pulled it out as Thompson-Moody tried to free himself from the cord.

The process repeated several times until everyone in the house fell asleep. The witness said she assumed Thompson-Moody returned home after falling asleep, but the next day she woke up to find him unconscious, according to the complaint.

Thompson forwarded the recording to the police, who then re-interviewed everyone. The two witnesses corroborated the information. They, along with a third person, also told officers that after being released from prison, Hetke returned home and admitted to intentionally killing Thompson-Moody.

But it still took prosecutors two months to file homicide charges. In the meantime, Hetke found herself in trouble again.

On July 6, Hetke met a 16-year-old girl with cognitive impairment outside a gas station in Waukesha. The two went to the girl’s home to watch TV, where Hetke threatened her with a knife and sexually assaulted her, according to a criminal complaint.

Hetke was charged three days later with first degree sexual assault with a dangerous weapon and second degree sexual assault on a mentally disabled person. She pleaded not guilty and has been in Waukesha County Jail ever since.

Hetke was not charged in the Thompson-Moody homicide until nearly two weeks after her imprisonment in Waukesha County.

When asked why it took two months for charges to be laid, Milwaukee County Deputy Chief District Attorney Kent Lovern said it was “important for us to receive additional information about to the investigation before laying criminal charges “.

Hetke has a preliminary hearing scheduled for Monday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court.

A family tries to heal

Thompson is delighted that Hetke will answer for her son’s death in court, saying “I will dance, I will celebrate” when the proceedings begin.

But the death of her son turned her life upside down in many ways. She said she had often been emotional in front of her youngest son, aged 16. She had a bad experience organizing her son’s funeral and it led to a falling out with her own father, Lloyd.

Lloyd himself had a hard time after losing his grandson, whom he helped raise. Thompson-Moody’s home on the northwest side of Milwaukee is on his way to a department store he visited often. Now he’s avoiding the area. It’s “too hurtful” to miss it, he said.

Lloyd said he wasn’t sure when he would speak to his daughter again. But he is grateful for the initiative she took.

“She rushed over and got this proof,” he said. “I’m proud she did this.”

Contact Elliot Hughes at [email protected] or 414-704-8958. Follow him on twitter @ elliothughes12.

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