‘The sheriff’s press conference was not OK’

Kendra Boone

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Posted February 7, 2024 | By Jennifer Hunt Murty

The night before Kendra Boone, 33, allegedly stole a sheriff’s cruiser and led deputies on a high-speed chase that ended in a crash that left three people dead, including herself, Boone’s parents were so concerned about her mental health they reached out to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office for help but their daughter left before the deputies arrived.

The MCSO has declined to provide details to the “Gazette” about any contacts the agency had with Boone in the days leading up to the fatal crash on Feb. 1.

Kendra Boone’s older sister, Karisten Hinsinger, spoke with the “Gazette’’ in part to give the community more context about the tragedy, particularly the role of untreated mental health in her sister’s actions.

Hinsinger said her family is devastated, and she’s speaking out about the mental health issues she believes led to the tragedy because she believes her sister would want her to. “My sister, the one we all loved unconditionally, would not have ever wanted to hurt anyone,” she said. Speaking of the two others who died in the crash, between sobs Hinsinger said, “We feel so bad for the family who have lost people in the crash. We wish we could have prevented it.”

Hinsinger expressed sympathy for the difficult positions that law enforcement faces. However, Hinsinger said Boone’s children were distraught to watch on TV as Sheriff Billy Woods, during a press conference the day after the tragedy, referred to their mother as a “moron” and an “asshole” whom he does not care about.

Hinsinger called Woods’ profanity “unacceptable,’’ and chastised him for dismissing questions about policy and procedure. “Policies and procedures do matter,” she said.

“I do not believe she’d intentionally hurt anyone. Something else was wrong,” said Hinsinger.

According to the MCSO, around 2 p.m. Feb. 1 Boone allegedly tried to take a woman’s car keys at the Forest Plaza on East State Road 40. A deputy responded and told Boone to go to the rear of his cruiser, but instead she got in the passenger side, climbed into the driver’s seat and sped off. She made a series of erratic turns and hit speeds “well over 100 mph’’ as she eluded capture. Boone tried to pass a semi-trailer on the right shoulder and lost control of the cruiser, colliding with a pickup truck. Two of the occupants in the truck, a 73-year-old man and a 72-year-old woman, both from Waterloo, South Carolina, died; a male passenger was critically injured. The identities of those involved have not been released.

Hinsinger said she believes Boone stopped taking her medication in January because she became paranoid with illogical concerns. She hopes to obtain the medical examiner’s toxicology report to shed some light on what led to her sister’s actions.

Hinsinger said she’s speaking out to correct misinformation being said about her sister, including her past run-ins with law enforcement. At his press conference, Woods rolled out a lengthy list of Boone’s record, which he said included 13 felonies and nine misdemeanors in multiple counties. Woods did not provide the outcomes of those cases.

Some news outlets have reported that Boone was out of jail only a few weeks when she stole the deputy’s cruiser, but Hinsinger said her sister was released from jail in mid-October and was employed working for a call center. By Christmas, Boone was able to buy presents for her family.

Her birthday and her son’s birthday are both in October, Hinsinger said, so the family had a joint celebration.

Hinsinger said when Boone was well, she was very supportive of others. “She loved family,” she said. “We grew up in the church. She had a close relationship with God.”

The night before the tragedy, Boone sought refuge at Cedar Creek Baptist Church near her parents’ house, after she left their house.

“She didn’t know what to do or where to go,” recalled Juanita Kikendall, a parishioner of the church and resident of Marion County for more than 50 years.

It was chilly that evening, so Kikendall walked Boone into the church and discussed options for where Boone could stay. Kikendall said she talked to a sheriff’s deputy who attended the church also. The deputy explained that if Boone had a criminal history, she would not be allowed into the local shelters.

Kikendall said Boone then asked to be taken to the emergency room, where she would spend the night.

“My husband told her we’d take her to the emergency room, but first we’d stop by the house and get her something to eat,’’ Kikendall said. “After feeding her, we felt comfortable enough to let her stay the night at our house. She was tired and anxious but not high. We were not afraid of her. She reminded us of a scared kid.”

Boone showered after eating and preferred to sleep on the couch rather than in their guest bedroom. Before going to sleep, “We prayed with her to have peace and guidance,” recalled Kikendall.

When Kikendall awoke at 4 a.m., Boone was gone, taking with her the bag of clothes Kikendall had given her.

Hinsinger said her family is plagued with trying to understand what made her sister go from reasonable and calm to stealing and ultimately crashing the deputy’s car. She said she has struggled to understand her sister’s mental health and addiction issues, but since she did not experience them herself it was sometimes hard to relate.

“She would tell me, ‘You don’t understand,’ and I would acknowledge, ‘I know, and I’m sorry,” Hinsinger said.

Boone had three children, one is age 11 and does not live in Marion County; two others, ages 14 and 15, do live in Marion County. Boone’s 15-year-old daughter described her mother as a “warrior” a “human being” and a “loving person.”

“My mother was sweet but could also stand up for herself when she needed to. That was thing I admired the most about her. She was sweet to anyone who she met but she also knew how to stand up for herself when she needed to. She is sweet and salty. That’s one of the many things I like to think I inherited from her,” Boone’s 15-year-old daughter wrote the “Gazette.”

LaTara, a lifelong friend of Boone’s said, who asked that we not disclose her last name said of Boone, “I knew her on a level (other than) that of the sheriff or any other person who’s trying to portray her as a monster because of an addiction she couldn’t control. I don’t want people to know her based off her mistakes but based off the loving and caring person she was. If anyone really knew the actions behind addiction, they would know they are not their true selves because they are controlled by it.”

Sara Miller, a friend of the family for 38 years, described Boone as a “free spirit who made friends wherever she went.” Miller said Boone would often “come back to attend church with her family. She loved her family and friends with her whole heart.”

Miller said Boone was a good person and deserves to be remembered in a different light than how she is being described by the sheriff and in the media.

“We had many memorable times together, but my favorite moments with her were the times we would just drive in the car, singing all our favorite songs together. Music, our songs, will always remind me of her. She has a good soul. A soul I will very much miss,” Boone’s 15-year-old daughter said.

The couple who housed Boone the night before the incident said their hearts broke when they heard the news “because we thought she’d be back. She left her purse and a handwritten thank you note. I gave the note to her mother.”

Handwritten note Kendra Boone left for the good Samaritans who let her sleep at their house the night before she died.

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