What Michigan State Police reports show — and hide — in Derrick Henagan disappearance

Where Secrets Go To Die podcast
Where Secrets Go To Die podcast

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To report the “Where Secrets Go to Die: The Disappearance of Derrick Henagan" podcast, the Free Press obtained and studied thousands of pages of documents.

Many came through requests made under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act. Others were pulled from places such as court files and online prison records. Still others were provided by people we interviewed. They shared their personal copies.

Among them were police reports, internal affairs investigations, search warrants, personnel files, autopsy reports, death certificates, interview transcripts, letters and emails.

Some of them were heavily redacted, making it difficult to decipher them, while others were untouched.

Many of them were routine, often redundant, but some were explosive and provided aha moments in the process of reporting this story.

Here’s a look at some of the more important ones.

More: Michigan State Police face suspicion for handling of cold case murder

Derrick Henagan's stormy romance with girlfriend Dyanna Maddox

Henagan’s relationship with his girlfriend, Dyanna Maddox, was only about six months before he disappeared, and it was tumultuous. At the time of his disappearance, he was 35. She was 34.

Maddox’s sister Christina Ott said the two were always fighting. Maddox’s adopted daughter Megan Maddox agreed.

In May 2008, the State Police responded to a report that Henagan might be assaulting Maddox. They took this report.

After both Henagan and Maddox denied any assault, no charges were filed.

One month later, the State Police returned to the house on another assault complaint. They filed this report.

The following day, Henagan and Maddox both told the police they had forgiven each other and didn’t want to press charges.

Regardless, one month later, Henagan was charged with domestic violence.

Trooper Moeggenborg, Dyanna Maddox and the missing person report

Monday, Aug. 4, 2008, was the last day anyone reported seeing Henagan alive. He’d spent the weekend down the road at the home of a neighbor, Denny Murdock, after a fight with Maddox. She has consistently denied any involvement in Henagan's disappearance. She told police some guns were missing from her home, adding that she suspected Henagan stole them.

Here’s the police report filed on her complaint, which includes a couple of noteworthy things:

  1. Maddox told police Henagan called her a couple days before trying to reconcile, but she wanted nothing more to do with him.

  2. The report puts Maddox’s brother B.J. Foster at the home that day. He also denies any involvement in Henagan’s disappearance. He would later fail a polygraph test related to it.

  3. The report was taken by Michigan State Police Trooper David Moeggenborg, who will become a key figure in this story.

Three days after that stolen guns report was filed, Maddox reported Henagan missing.

She also called Henagan’s ex-wife, Cheri Powell, who would describe that phone call to police years later.

Here’s how police documented Powell’s account of that phone call.

Her name is redacted in this report but the context along with comments made at a court hearing make it clear it’s her discussing Maddox.

Michigan State Police's early probe in the Henagan disappearance

Henagan was on bond for a traffic offense when he went missing. When he disappeared, a bail bondsman and a trooper came by the house looking for him. Henagan wasn’t there.

The bail bondsman later described that visit in this affidavit, which he signed about two and half years after Henagan disappeared.

Some of the early investigation focused on the neighbor, Murdock, 34 at the time. He was the neighbor with whom Henagan spent what’s recorded to be the last weekend of his life.

Murdock denied any involvement in Henagan’s disappearance. A man named Keith Avery, 20 at the time, who stayed with Murdock, was eyed closely by investigators after a couple who knew him told police he’d discussed disposing of Henagan’s body.

Whenever police questioned him, Avery also denied any involvement.

The prosecutor later charged Avery with perjury. Avery pleaded guilty to attempted perjury to settle his case.

Possible human remains arise in Henagan disappearance

Police weren’t the only ones investigating Henagan’s disappearance.

Henagan’s mom had connected with a retired state trooper, Michael Neiger. He’s an avid outdoorsman who helps families find missing loved ones in remote locations.

About nine months after Henagan disappeared, Neiger received permission to search the home that Henagan and Maddox shared. He brought a human remains detection dog team with him.

The dog indicated the possible presence of human remains. The dog’s handler filed this report after the search.

The lab issued this report, which concluded there was no presence of blood on a piece of carpet Neiger bagged and tagged at the home.

A local woman, Kathleen Woodley, owned that home when Henagan and Maddox lived there.

She would later tell police the condition she found it in when Maddox moved out. Here’s a report on her interview with police.

Henagan bounty hunter winds up in police report

It’s impossible to overstate the impact of bounty hunter Jody Newman on the Henagan investigation. She worked for the bond company that posted Henagan’s bond. When he turned up missing, she was tasked with finding him.

She conducted her own investigation and ran a Facebook page dedicated to the case that attracted more than 3,000 followers. Her fans say she has kept the case alive and pressed investigators to find answers, but her critics accuse her of spreading unconfirmed information.

At one point, Maddox’s daughter, Megan, accused Newman of harassment and filed this police report.

No charges were filed.

Derrick Henagan deemed dead

As the case wore on, Henagan’s family waited for answers. In June 2016, his ex-wife, Cheri Powell, petitioned the court in Newberry to declare Henagan legally dead so that she could collect Social Security benefits for her and Henagan’s son, Rayce. 

A State Police detective told the court that investigators believed that Henagan was killed and said they’d even used cadaver dogs to search for his body in a couple places that tipsters claimed he might be.

Here’s a transcript of the hearing where the court ruled he was, in fact, dead and ordered the medical examiner to issue a death certificate.

That hearing didn’t come until June 2016, almost eight years after Henagan disappeared.

Claims of blood, gunshots and a $100,000 deal in the Henagan case

State Police also interviewed a man named Lonny Cummings, who described several conversations he had with Maddox while visiting her brother-in-law. Maddox was living there at the time. In one conversation, summarized in this report, Maddox claimed to have paid $100,000 to dispose of Henagan’s body. She later acknowledged to police saying things like that, but insisted she was being sarcastic.

Police also interviewed Maddox’s daughter, Tarissa, who described hearing gunshots near the house the day that Henagan disappeared. She’s the only one who ever described hearing gunshots.

She also reported seeing her sister Megan go to a local market to buy bleach, though she later walked that back saying neither of them recall buying bleach.

Here’s the police report summarizing that interview. Her name is redacted in this version, but we’ve confirmed it’s her through other copies.

Another person interviewed was Maddox’s brother B.J., who told police Maddox had encouraged him to exercise his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Here’s the report where the investigator summarized the interview.

Maddox’s sisters also were interviewed.

Christina Ott described seeing blood on the floor of the garage at the home Maddox shared with Henagan, though she couldn’t pinpoint a date. Here’s a police report describing the interview with her. Her name is redacted here, but we’ve confirmed through an interview with her and other documents that this is her.

Michigan State Police probe Trooper Moeggenborg in domestic violence cases

We realized early on that Trooper David Moeggenborg would be an important part of this story so I wanted to know as much about him as I could, the good and the bad.

I asked for his personnel file from the State Police and any internal investigations into him.

They provided his personnel file, all 148 pages of it, which was mostly good stuff about him including a lifesaving award he was given for helping rescue a drunken driving suspect who attempted suicide.

But they didn’t send any internal investigations, which I had requested.

When I inquired about their omission, I was told that those are stored in a separate system from the personnel files and I would have to file a new request. So I did.

The response to that request included five files with a total of 407 pages. The size of it alone stunned me.

Some of it was so heavily redacted it was hard to decipher what he was accused of doing.

Here’s an example, of how much of the text was blacked out.

Under Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, government agencies are allowed to redact certain information from documents for reasons including privacy and safety concerns. However, redactions in many of these documents appear questionable.

If you read carefully, you’ll see that it’s an accusation of domestic violence, which we know was filed by Moeggenborg’s second wife, Renae Botbyl. Moeggenborg also is accused of making threats to the attorney who represented Renae in the divorce proceedings.

The prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, but the internal investigation sustained the accusations.

The records don’t show what, if any, discipline was imposed.

In a 2014 case, Moeggenborg was accused of stalking Renae.

The reports the state police provided were heavily redacted in that case as well, so it was hard to follow. But I received a mostly unredacted copy of the same report from the prosecutor’s office and it stunned me.

It included an email from an investigator at Children’s Protective Services. Most of her words were redacted in the report provided by the state police, but the clean copy showed her expressing fears that David Moeggenborg was not thinking rationally and she even made a bold accusation: “He feels he is untouchable as far as law enforcement and rules are concerned.”

That line jumped out at me, because it showed a third-party saying what family members had long claimed: David Moeggenborg felt that he possessed a get out of jail free card.

At one point, Botbyl was granted a personal protection order against Moeggenborg while the stalking allegation was being investigated. She was granted another one after moving to Kentucky, which included an order to seize his firearms.

That created an interesting dilemma when a local sheriff deputy had to confiscate Moeggenborg’s guns, including his State Police-issued service weapons.

As we would find out, Moeggenborg was investigated for child abuse, domestic violence, and stalking, but never charged.

In 2013, Luce County Prosecutor Josh Freed reviewed a child abuse case against Moeggenborg.

He said he considered the information in the case “troubling” but said there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant prosecution.

Two months later, Freed declined to charge Moeggenborg with violating a personal protection order for showing up at the church his family was attending. He called it a chance gathering and noted there was no verbal contact between Moeggenborg and his son.

Trooper Moeggenborg and the Henagan case 

Eventually, David Moeggenborg would be scrutinized in the disappearance of Derrick Henagan.

In late 2014, State Police would learn that Moeggenborg’s daughter Meghan claimed she accompanied her father on a walk in the woods and saw what she described as a graveyard.

Investigators would take months to pursue her claim, waiting until after Moeggenborg had died of cancer.

A few weeks after he passed, nine members of the State Police gathered on a conference call to discuss the case. They decided to change the case from a missing person to a homicide and they decided to search some properties for Henagan’s remains.

Reading through the reports, one really shocked me. It showed that one of those properties they searched with cadaver dogs was the home of David Moeggenborg.

Of all the police reports I obtained as part of this project, this one stunned me the most.

The Michigan State Police sent cadaver dogs to the home of their recently departed colleague to see whether they might find the remains of Derrick Henagan, who had been missing for almost seven years.

As that report shows, there’s no mention of Moeggenborg’s name tying it to that property. We had to cross reference the address to confirm it was his place.

They didn’t find anything during that search, but they’d be back.

Five months after they searched Moeggenborg’s property, they returned to check on a wood burner that disappeared from the house. The most interesting part of this report is a text exchange between a trooper and a sheriff’s deputy about searching the wood burner for bones.

Here’s the report.

Almost four years later, they would be back again after the new homeowner discovered an ax sealed behind some drywall in the basement of Moeggenborg’s home. Here is the report on the ax and the lab tests run on it.

Trooper grills Dyanna Maddox in Henagan case

Dyanna Maddox has consistently told police that she had nothing to do with Henagan’s disappearance. In 2016, a trooper grilled her with questions about it.

Her name is redacted in his report summarizing that interview. The context and video on freep.com confirm it is her.

Dyanna Maddox and Trooper David Moeggenborg

One interesting part of that report is the way it was redacted by Michigan State Police. The Free Press received it under two separate requests, filed a couple of years apart. The second request was seeking more recent records. However, the copies were redacted in slightly different ways.

When the copies are placed side-by-side, it shows Dyanna Maddox was asked whether she had a relationship with Trooper David Moeggenborg and that the redactions were made to obscure that.

Here is a side-by-side view of the pages. Slide the white button to see both.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: What police reports show and hide in Derrick Henagan disappearance