The Night of the Rodeo Expanded Fact List

Parts of this post were used in Aggravated.

In the chapter, The Night of the Rodeo, I included a Top Ten list of the most important facts in that chapter. That list began as roughly twenty-five facts before I whittled them down for the book. If some of these don’t make much sense, read the Night of the Rodeo chapter in Aggravated for context. The most important fact in the list isn’t included below, though. I’ll only cover it in the book.

  1. Fact: The rodeo took place over three evenings (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, July 24-26, 2003). It usually ended around 10:30 pm. Hanna agreed with that, but Rhonda testified that it finished at midnight or 12:30 am. They probably went on Friday the 25th because Steve wouldn’t have been visiting his sister-in-law in Driskill on a Thursday if he had to work on Friday; and they wouldn’t have been visiting on a Saturday because of church and family activities on Sunday.
  2. Fact: The temperature reached 100.4 on Friday (with a heat index of 104.9). The heat index from 10:30 to 11:30 at night was 89.4 at 10:30, and dropped to only 85.6 by 11:30. The heat index at 7:00 pm (about the time they would have arrived at the rodeo) was still 100 degrees. Despite this, Hanna said she was wearing double-layers of shirts because it was chilly at night.
  3. Fact: Darla dropped them off at the rodeo, and left to go do something else. Rhonda was hesitant to say that Darla dropped them off, though. She said “Darla dropped us off, I believe.” I speculated that it might have been because someone else (possibly a boyfriend) was with Darla at the time. According to a timeline established by Darla’s own testimony, her boyfriend at the time was likely Eddie Higham, a convicted sex offender who I believe lived with her for at least four months. Even though Darla claimed he didn’t live with him, there was a CPS complaint against Darla because of Eddie’s presence, and Eddie’s own sister said he did live with them.
  4. Fact: Steve did favors for Darla all the time. No one disputes this.
  5. Fact: Darla contacted Steve and asked him to give Hanna and Rhonda a ride home from the rodeo when they called him. According to Steve, it was because she said she was too drunk to go get them. Hanna said it was because Darla told her she was too tired or just didn’t want to. Maybe they were both right.
  6. Fact: All of the adults drank. Sometimes they apparently drank a lot. Everyone on Team Steve has said that Darla did drink beer, but mostly drank tequila, and that she would bring a bottle, along with limes and salt, and encourage everyone else to do shots with her. Hanna, on the other hand, said, “My mom drank, but never got drunk. I’ve never once seen my mom drunk.” Seriously, Hanna? Never once?
  7. Steve and Robin were both asked if they drank, but Darla wasn’t asked whether she did in either trial. Why is that?
  8. Fact: Hanna claimed that Robin and Steve “drank 24/7,” and said, “Robin would wake up with a beer in her hand, go to bed with a beer in her hand. She was drunk all the time.” Steve worked at several types of jobs over a few decades, but his work was well-respected by the people he worked for. Robin did complex engineering work for a cable manufacturing plant for 26 years. How did either of them do that if they were drunk all the time? The Sirois’ are the ones who admitted that they drank. Hanna was the one who denied that that her mother did. Methinks Hanna doth protest too much.
  9. Fact: Yes, Rhonda knew who Steve was. No, he didn’t (as Hanna may have insinuated) pick her and Rhonda up at Rhonda’s house several times and take her and Rhonda to his house. Rhonda has never been to Steve’s house. I think this was another attempt by Hanna to distort the issue.
  10. Fact (and some speculation): Yes, they stopped by a water tower. The girls both gave sworn testimony that made it seem like the tower was very far off in the wilderness somewhere (“he kept taking different turns,” “let’s take a detour,” I don’t know where it is,” “It’s kind of in a secluded place,” It’s “10 to 15 minutes” from the rodeo). Fifteen minutes (according to Google Maps) will get you 1.8 miles past Bloom by the same route Steve took (which would be 13 miles farther than the water tower). The tower isn’t out in the wilderness. It’s on FM 29, the road they were on, within 2,000 feet of two subdivisions. They didn’t take a bunch of different turns to get to the tower. They took one turn, from US 373 onto FM 29 (see the maps here). I think that Hanna’s and Rhonda’s claims of wandering around to reach it were told to deliberately distort the simple truth that all they were doing was getting a ride home.
  11. Fact (along with more speculation): A different route, staying on US 373 alone, from the rodeo grounds through Deep Springs to Alderson, is straighter and shorter than the route Steve took. According to Google Maps, though, it’s only one minute faster. Does Steve probably wish he had taken that straighter route instead of going by the tower, even though it’s more troublesome (through downtown, stop lights, etc.)? I’m sure he does, but FM 29 was a road Steve took as part of his job almost every day. He knew it well, and it probably felt shorter to him because of its familiarity. Did he plan to go that way to lure these two young girls to a secluded location for some nefarious purpose? No, but he saw the water tower in the distance shortly after he turned onto FM 29 (it’s visible seconds after you make the turn from 373), and it was one of the towers he was responsible for. If he was passing by, he usually stopped to check on it, especially in the summer. If there was nothing wrong with it, it could save him driving there all the way from the lake the next morning. Also, this was an obsolete tower, scheduled to be replaced. If any of them were expected to need attention, this was a likely candidate. He stopped because it was routine for him, but he asked them if they wanted to see it. If they had said “no,” he wouldn’t have stopped.
  12. Fact: Rhonda said she saw Steve put his hand on the small of Hanna’s back at the water tower. That’s entirely possible. Steve said there was a 12-inch lip at the door to the tower. It’s very likely that he would have touched her back in the process of pointing out the lip.
  13. Fact: It is understandable that Rhonda thought she saw Steve “put his hand on [Hanna’s] knee, and around her at times.” If Hanna was sitting in the middle (as everyone agrees she was) and wearing her seatbelt (which Steve would have insisted on), she couldn’t have put both legs to the left of the gearshift. Steve wouldn’t have been able to drive at all. She could have had both her legs to the right of the gearshift, crowding into Rhonda’s territory, but she wouldn’t have been able to do any of the things she claimed she did from that position. She also couldn’t have done any of it without being seen. Straddling the gearshift or not, her knee would still have been next to the gearshift (the one that Hanna said Steve’s right hand was on most of the time). As far as putting his arm “around her,” that could easily have happened when he backed the truck up at the water tower. He would likely have gripped the back of the seat. I do it every time I back my car up.
  14. Fact: Nothing inappropriate happened at the water tower. They went inside, Steve told them about the tower, then they left. Everyone said so.
  15. Fact: It was dark inside the truck, except when it wasn’t. The interior was slightly lit by the lights on the dashboard. If the truck had been driving in a completely deserted area, with no street lights, no other traffic around, and no buildings or other objects for the truck’s headlights to bounce light off of, it might have been fairly dark. However, in the 22.8 miles from the rodeo to Rhonda’s house, there were over 120 street lamps, light from some businesses and homes, possible light from other cars on the road, and maybe even a little from the moon. There were only two spots on the route where there were no street lamps. The first one was just a couple of minutes after they left the tower, and it was only three miles long. At 60-65 mph, they would have had under three minutes of darkness. Bloom, Texas, was the next spot on the road. It was lit by nearly 50 street lamps and lots of businesses and homes, plus an additional six street lamps after Bloom. Only 4.4 miles of the distance between Bloom and Alderson was unlit. US 373 is a wide, straight paved highway. At 65 mph, those 4.4 miles would have provided darkness for just a few minutes, even if no headlights pierced the darkness occasionally. Hanna did say, though, that the traffic was heavy that night. More traffic, more light.
  16. Fact: Rhonda said she kept glancing over at Hanna and Steve, but didn’t see anything happening. Hanna said she kept glancing at Rhonda to see if she was noticing anything. Both Rhonda and Hanna described many things they did see in the truck as they watched each other, which proves there was plenty of light to see by, but Rhonda still didn’t see anything bad.
  17. Fact: Hanna said that Steve kept glancing at Rhonda, but he can’t “glance” in that direction. Rhonda was sitting on the far right, and Steve has a glass right eye. To see Rhonda he would have to lean forward past Hanna, and turn his head and shoulders at least a quarter turn to the right, which is a lot more obvious than an occasional “glance,” not to mention difficult to do while you’re driving, supposedly being masturbated, and trying not to call attention to yourself.
  18. Fact: It is a fact that Hanna said she masturbated Steve all the way from the tower to Alderson (where he made her stop because there would be street lamps inside Alderson). It’s not true, but it’s a fact that she said it. See Fact #15 about how dark it was (or wasn’t) in the truck for one obvious reason why it didn’t happen. In Aggravated, see Hanna’s three different versions of what she said she did to Steve for even more reasons. It can’t be the truth if it changes every time.
  19. Fact: Rhonda said, that she “did not see Hanna doing anything” to Steve, even though Hanna’s claims were all about what she did to Steve, not the other way around. I just thought it needed repeating.
  20. Fact: Rhonda and Hanna told opposing stories about how they said goodbye once they arrived at Rhonda’s house. Hanna said they just said normal goodbyes (“hope you had fun,” etc.). Rhonda said they both got out of the truck and she was worried about Hanna, so she asked her if she would be okay.
  21. Fact: Rhonda (when asked about Hanna’s response in both trials) gave two different versions of it. In Trial #1 she said “She shook her head. Reluctantly, she shook her head.” In Trial #2 she said “She shook her head and said it was okay.” [#1] Hanna was silent. [#2] Hanna verbalized. Which was true? Was either?
  22. Fact: Hanna said she directed Steve to a paved county road inside the city limits, and Steve pulled off the road into a deep ditch that caused the truck to lean at a really big angle, but there is no such road. I’ve searched all the roads that enter Alderson, especially those on the northern side of town (the only two which could potentially qualify for being very close to Hanna’s house). I only found shallow depressions, no ditches.
  23. Additional Fact Related to #22: If “the truck was at a really steep angle,” they couldn’t possibly have done what Hanna claimed they did in the truck.
  24. The Most Important Fact is thoroughly covered in Aggravated, and makes it clear that the idea of Steve having Hanna perform any sexual acts on him (especially in a truck leaning at “a really big angle”) is absolutely preposterous.

Michael Sirois

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