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Was This a Freak Car Accident or Murder? The Case of Todd Kendhammer

Todd KendhammerPhoto byNikki Young/Canva

Do you remember that infamous scene from the movie Final Destination with the logs in the back of the truck that become loose, fall off the truck bed, and kill the person in the car driving behind it? It’s horrific — the stuff that nightmares are made of. The story of Todd Kendhammer begins with a total freak accident that is far too similar. At first, it appeared to be a total fluke, however, when investigators took a closer look, not everything was as it looked.

According to the story, Todd Kendhammer and his wife Barbara Kendhammer left their home on September 16th, 2016 in West Salem, Wisconsin. It was around 7:30 am in the morning and they were headed to pick up a truck . Todd was going to repair its windshield, which is something that he did for extra money on the side. While on a flat stretch of highway, they just so happened to be passing by a flatbed truck carrying 53-inch steel metal pipes, when suddenly one flew off the back, and went right into the passenger side of their vehicle, piercing through the windshield and killing Barbara. She was not impaled by the piece of flying debris, but she was hit in the head at a very high speed.

According to Todd, he tried pushing the pipe off his wife, which caused him to swerve the vehicle into the ditch. Then, he got out of the car, pulled his wife out of the passenger seat, and attempted to perform CPR before calling 911. But it was too late. Barbara never regained consciousness and was declared brain dead the next day, on September 17th.
The scene of the accidentPhoto

Of course, this is all according to Todd. Because when the ambulance and police would show up on the scene, what they found would paint a very different version of events.

Who is Todd and Barbara Kendhammer?

The couple had been married since 1991, so at the time of Barbara’s death they had been married for 25 years — actually, they had just recently had a big party to celebrate 25 years of marriage. That’s quite a substantial amount of time by any standards.

Todd was a former employee of Crown, Cork and Seal, which makes metal beverage and food cans, metal aerosol containers, metal closures, and specialty packing. He also worked on cars and built houses with Barbara for extra income. Barbara worked in the cafeteria at a local middle school part-time. The couple was still quite busy and active even into their late 40s. They had two children together and on the outside looking in, they appeared to be a very happy, loving, and close family. But of course, as we have seen time and again — you never really know what is going on within a marriage or inside a home.

The Scene of the Accident

Police and paramedics both arrived on the scene quickly. Barbara was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and a police officer offered to drive Todd to the hospital . He didn’t appear to have any severe injuries, just some cuts and scrapes on his hands mostly. In the police cruiser, Todd began to talk about what happened and it was all recorded to audio.
Todd at the scene of the accidentPhoto

According to the police report, the officer asked him to describe the truck that was carrying the pipes and Todd said it was a pick-up style cab and that it had a “makeshift” steel flatbed on it with stake pocket sides. He said it had 18 inches to 2-foot high metal sides on the truck and believed it to be around a 2000 model although he was unable to describe who might be the manufacturer. He said it was dark in color; he believed it to be either dark blue or dark green, but possibly black. He said it had no remarkable damage or signage on it and he could not describe the driver at all, not even if it was a male or female.

Todd said as the truck passed them on the highway, the pipe came straight off the back of the truck, did not strike the ground, and passed through the windshield, hitting his wife Barbara. Barbara immediately began flailing around and initially, Todd thought that maybe it was a bird that had flown into the windshield. Todd also mentioned that when he saw the object flying toward the vehicle he instinctively struck the windshield in an attempt to prevent the pipe from hitting his wife. But the pipe still went through the windshield and hit his wife. He tried to pull over as he also attempted to pull the pipe off his wife, but he must have accidentally hit the gear shifter and put the vehicle in reverse which caused him to go off the road and into the ditch.

Once in the ditch, he got out of the car and went over to the passenger side, and pulled the pipe out of the car from outside of his car, through the windshield. The police officer noted that this appeared to be consistent with the damage that he had noticed when he arrived on the scene of the accident.

After removing the pipe from his wife through the windshield, he went over to his wife and pulled her out of the vehicle. He began to perform CPR and about 3 to 5 minutes later he called 911.

When police arrived, Todd hung up with 911 and the first few emergency personnel at the scene noted that he looked unsteady and concerned. He was kneeling on the ground next to Barbara, who was heavily bleeding and unconscious. Her blood was also found on the rear tire of the vehicle and she did not have any glass on her. She was very badly injured. Todd, however, had only a few scratches on his chest and his knuckles were bleeding.

Barbara would die the following day from her injuries. Because of the nature of the accident, there was of course an investigation. Police wanted to find that transport truck where the pipes had fallen off of. If this had happened due to negligence then they wanted charges brought forward. And either way, the driver did not stop at the scene of the accident, which is a charge in and of itself.

Luckily there would be surveillance videos of the road where this happened from local businesses — however, police could not find this truck anywhere on the video. They were able to track down an eyewitness though — who said they saw the Kendhammer’s vehicle in the ditch — the passenger door was open but there was no one near the car. They also noted that the windshield was not broken . It was completely intact when they drove by the scene, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense.
The two impacts on the windshield.Photo

But what made even less sense was the injuries that Barabara had sustained. It became very clear to the doctors that worked on her that her injuries did not match the story they were given about being struck by a pipe. She had blunt force trauma to both her head and her neck, including three bone-deep cuts to the back of her head, a fracture to the back of her skull, a broken nose, bruises, and bleeding on the interior of her lips.

As for her neck ,  the fractures and bruising were not consistent with being hit by an object — rather were consistent with strangulation. She also had two torn fingernails and what looked like fingernail scratches on her neck. She did not have any glass on her at all — which would not make any sense if the pipe pierced the windshield before hitting her. It appeared as if Barbara had been brutally beaten. And if there was no glass on her or her clothing, she must have been taken out of the vehicle before the windshield of the car was smashed ,  which would match up with the eyewitness statement.

Police brought Todd Kendhammer into the police station for questioning because what he was saying happened just didn’t make sense compared to the crime. He repeated the same story as he had said right from the beginning — he was driving to go pick up a truck from a client because he was going to be fixing the windshield. On the way to pick up the truck is where the accident happened. But when police called the person Todd claimed to be picking the truck up from, he said that they had never made plans for him to pick up the truck on that morning.

Additionally , Barbara had to be at work at 8 am that morning and they were driving in the opposite direction of her workplace at around 7:30 am — if they were going to pick up the truck first from the town over, they would never have enough time to get Barbara to her workplace by her 8 am start time. Coworkers of Barbara stated that she was never late for a shift and if anything was always early. She had never missed a day of work.

Police tried many times to recreate the scene the way that Todd described it and they just couldn’t. It didn’t make sense. Barbara’s injuries didn’t match up with the story and they were not able to track down the supposed truck or driver.

On December 6, 2016, a little less than three months after the supposed accident, Todd Kendhammer was arrested and charged with 1st-degree intentional homicide. He was pulled over by two police cars while he was driving down the road, and according to the police the only statements he made while being arrested were, “What”? And “Oh My God, Oh My God”.

They believed that Todd had staged the murder of his wife to look like some sort of freak accident , but he had actually brutally beaten her to death after driving into the ditch. Then , he pulled her out of the car and punched the windshield to back up his story of the airborne pipe. And in court,  they had a ton of evidence to support this theory.

First, there were the injuries that the police had photographed on Todd when they first took him to the station to get his statement. He had blood all over his shirt, and when he took off his shirt he had scratches all over his neck and chest. When asked about it, he told police that he often worked with glass and would get cut up.
Todd’s knucklesPhoto

The court also heard about the inconsistencies at the scene of the crime. For example, the pipe that Todd had claimed had come through the windshield and hit his wife was examined. There was no blood whatsoever found on the pipe. They did however find some glass and believed that Todd may have used this after the fact to break through the windshield. But the pattern where the pieces of glass in the car shattered, indicated that there was no one in the passenger seat when the windshield was hit.

Additionally, the absence of glass fragments in the passenger side door pocket indicated to them that the passenger door was likely open at the time the windshield was impacted. It’s pretty amazing how they can determine this. But it also supports the eyewitness statement, which said when they drove by the car in the ditch, there was nothing sticking out of the windshield and it was completely intact. And that the passenger door was open.

As for Barbara — her injuries were consistent with a beating. The blood patterns found in the car indicated she was in the passenger seat when “force was applied,” and that she was bleeding for a “period of time” while in the seat.

The truck in question, where Todd indicated the pipe flew off of, was never found — despite the police reviewing a ton of video footage taken from businesses in the area. There was never any truck spotted that fit his description.

Of course, it all sounds convincing, but Todd’s defence team would present expert testimony from a glass expert, who would say:

“My opinion, to a reasonable scientifically and technical certainty was that the injuries and resulting death were caused by the penetration of the passenger windshield by a pipe, which struck the passenger in the vehicle,” said Biomechanics Expert Dr. Barry Bates. | Source: LawAndCrimeNetwork

Other witnesses were called to the stand that said there have been times that trucks drive through the area with scrap metal and Kendhammer’s story could be true, including a crime scene analyst named Alexander Jason, who claimed that pipes can do unpredictable things when falling off the back of a truck, including bouncing off the pavement and coming down on a car windshield from pretty high up.

In the end — the jury believed that Todd Kenhammer murdered his wife and then attempted to hide this fact with the story of the pipe, but the physical evidence made it clear what really had happened. He was convicted of 1st Degree Intentional Homicide in the death of his wife Barbara and sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of extended supervision after 30 years.

But that wasn’t the end of it. Todd appealed his conviction and had a hearing to see if he could receive a new trial. He claimed ineffective counsel   and he still claimed his innocence. That this was all some freak accident. He brought forward crime scene experts and glass experts who said that it is fully possible that Todd’s version of events did happen. However, the judge ruled that no trial will be ordered.

One has to wonder, is it possible that this was all some freak accident and that Todd is simply being used as a scapegoat because it’s not likely for this to have happened?

Let me know what you think!


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