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  • Police say man tried to have Lyons killed

    By KELLY RYAN

    ©St. Petersburg Times, published August 22, 1997


    ST. PETERSBURG -- A 52-year-old man was arrested Thursday night and charged with paying a retiree he met at a doughnut shop $1,120 to shoot and kill the Rev. Henry Lyons, police said.

    During a lengthy interview with detectives before going to jail, Dale Lynn Hutchins did not tell police why he wanted Lyons dead, police spokesman Bill Doniel said.

    Witnesses at the doughnut shop said Hutchins made racist remarks to the would-be hit man: "I want you to hit somebody. I want you to kill that black son of a b----, Lyons. I want you to hit that goddamn, son of a b----, a------ black minister. I want him shot."

    The retiree first took the money, then returned it. He called police four days later at the urging of friends. The 59-year-old man, who was not identified by police, is not a professional hit man, police said.

    Lyons, president of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc., has been the focus of intense media scrutiny since his wife was accused last month of setting fire to the Tierra Verde home Lyons owns with another woman.

    The stories have detailed Lyons' extravagant lifestyle and questionable relationships he has with other women. Those stories appear to be what angered Hutchins, police said.

    "There's no indication he knew Lyons, other than what he had read in the newspaper or seen on television," Doniel said. "We certainly took this as a very serious threat."

    Police found Hutchins about 6:30 p.m. Thursday at a laundry on Dr. M.L. King (Ninth) Street N and took him into custody. As he was led to a waiting police cruiser, Hutchins refused to answer reporters' questions.

    Wearing a blue T-shirt, jeans and glasses, Hutchins appeared unshaken by the camera crews and photographers snapping his picture. Hutchins, of 1335 50th Ave. N, was taken to the Pinellas County Jail and charged with solicitation to commit murder.

    Hutchins did not answer many of the detectives' questions during a two-hour interview at police headquarters Thursday night. Police said they don't think he was involved in any white supremacy groups.

    Hutchins appeared to have worked alone, and police said they do not know whether he sought other hit men to kill Lyons. They also are not sure whether it was a spur-of-the-moment offer about 10 p.m. Aug. 12.

    That night, sitting in a doughnut shop at 5236 16th St. N, Hutchins approached the 59-year-old retiree he had met there before. Hutchins, who had a handgun with him, spoke of wanting Lyons dead but did not mention specifics about where or when the killing should happen.

    He handed the retiree the cash. Later, the retiree returned it. When he mentioned the offer to friends, they encouraged him to call police.

    On Aug. 16, he did. Police immediately contacted Lyons, who also was notified of the arrest Thursday night. Efforts to reach Lyons or one of his attorneys were unsuccessful.

    "He was obviously very concerned about it," Doniel said of Lyons. "He appeared to be very relieved."

    Hutchins' father, Richard, said his son rarely reads the newspaper. He said his son works at night as a security guard for a marina in Palm Harbor and did not often watch the television news.

    Records show Hutchins has a security guard license. Computerized court records show his only arrests in Pinellas County were in the late 1970s, for shoplifting and grand larceny.

    Hutchins, who lives with his parents, never spoke of Lyons or any animosity toward African-Americans, his father said. He expressed surprise that his son would have more than $1,000 in cash and said that his son recently sold a boat for $300, which was already spent. "I think he was just talking," the elder Hutchins said. "This is all very strange to me."

    Times researcher Kitty Bennett also contributed to this report.


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