14 year old Tina Resch was the centerpiece of one of the most controversial cases ever aired on NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries. What started as a demonic poltergeist hunt moved into an amazing scientific realm and ultimately ended in a shocking murder trial.
Tina’s supernatural story begins in March of 1984. She was not a typical teenager as her childhood saw her birth mother abandon her and that sent Tina to a foster home owned by Joan and John Resch. The Reschs had multiple other adopted children as well. Joan was a strict disciplinarian and insisted on Tina’s bed and clothes being folded and neat, if she found them in less than perfect condition, she would take all the clothes and toss them on the floor or strip the bed down to its linen and make Tina straighten everything back up again. Her bedroom was in the basement and Tina was often locked inside it by her “parents” in an effort to enforce the laws of the house. When verbal communication failed, Joan would order John to deliver a thrashing to Tina in an effort to make her conform.
One night, early that March, 14 year old Tina was again on the wrong side of her mother’s scorn and John was ordered to lay into Tina in hopes that she would learn. Tina had long since grown tired of being beaten on and her long rebellious streak kicked in as she ran from her adopted father from room to room and finally grabbed a butcher knife to defend herself. John stared at Tina in disappointment and ended the pursuit. As Tina went to bed that night, she noticed her clock’s hands were moving wildly. This would prove to be the start of a series of bizarre instances that played out over the next several months.
Lights started to turn themselves on and off. John assumed it was Tina pulling a prank but eventually the incidents occurred with Tina in eyeshot of others in the room and she was vindicated. Then blenders and other electrical devices started running…without being plugged in. An electrician was called, and the phenomenon happened in front of him as well. He couldn’t find any wiring issues. Then the furniture began to move on its own. Couches, chairs, lamps, plates and other objects would be shifted about in front of Tina and her siblings and parents. Only one incident from this period sounds like it was above and beyond strange, and that was the family’s claim that eggs metamorphosed through the refrigerator door and flung themselves across the kitchen.
A painting swung wildly on the wall and John took it off it’s wire to prevent it from breaking like other objects had when dropped by forces unseen. The painting proceeded to “crawl” after John as he left the room as it skidded toward him on the floor. Tina would develop a headache or stomachache often right before the incidents occurred. Partly because of this, her father continued to blame Tina despite not understanding exactly what was happening in his own house.
Two different priests were called in and both witnessed unexplained movements by objects in rooms that had no one in them. Neither could explain the events and they didn’t stay long and had no desire to return and explore this phenomenon further.
Word spread about this “poltergeist” activity and soon a reporter and a photographer from the local newspaper came to investigate. They too heard the sounds of objects moving in rooms where no one was in. Determined to photograph evidence of the strange things occurring, they stuck around and waited. It was soon obvious to them that somehow “the force” knew when a camera was manned as things would occur almost as soon as the photographer stepped away from his camera. The phone would fly, a couch would move, a blanket covered Tina’s head right in front of the newspapermen and so on. Finally the photographer thought he might be able to trick “the force” by keeping his finger on the shutter button and pretending to look away, keeping an eye out for movement in his peripheral vision. It was thru this method that a photo was taken that was to make Tina a national sensation.
The photographer was able to catch what appears to be the phone launching itself past Tina. When this image was published, the Associated Press picked up the story and it created a nationwide buzz that “another Amityville” was happening. Reporters piled into town and staked out the young girl. Her parents welcomed them into their home for what was supposed to be a brief interview session. The press however was hungry for a story and paraded around the house for hours awaiting “the force”. Finally a lamp tipped over and the press had their moment and were willing to leave. A news video came out soon after that showed Tina futzing around with the lamp and ultimately pulling it down herself. Now all the prior incidents didn’t matter, Tina was assumed a fraud and the story died down. Tina would later state that she only pulled the ruse because she wanted the press to leave and saw no other means of getting them out. This incident haunts the case to this day as any detractors can point to this and make the blanket statement that it was all a hoax.
One such detractor was magician James “The Amazing” Randi. He showed up to the house amidst the media circus and offered the family $10,000 if he witnessed a genuine paranormal incident. The family declined his wishes to enter the house, as they already had a media circus and they didn’t want to add a publicity-seeking spellbinder to the mix. Randi took this slight as proof that the family were charlatans and he denounced them in both TV interviews and in the written form. He took several pictures taken by reporters and used them out of context to “prove” Tina was faking it all along.
Tina’s story intrigued William Roll, who was a psychologist and parapsychologist for the nearby University of West Georgia. He befriended the Resch family and along with a partner was allowed to stay in the Resch home for several weeks and investigate Tina and the incidents. Objects continued to move around the house, but never when in a direct line of sight for the investigators. They were able to determine that Tina lived a stressful life and hypothesized that “the force” was not a ghost but in fact was psychokinetic energy that was coming unwillingly from Tina. They asked for and were granted permission to take Tina away for further study and treatment. John and Joan were at their wits end with all the hullabaloo and destruction that had overtaken their once quiet home and they agreed to the arrangement.
Roll and his colleagues heard from Tina about her Joan’s verbal abuse which included “You’re a whore just like your mother” “You behave so poorly, no wonder your mother didn’t want you,” and “I wish we had never adopted you”. Tina also had issues in school as she was forced by Joan to wear hand me down clothes that were much out of style, which led to mocking jeers. Her teacher also publicly exposed that Tina was on Ritalin for hyperactivity and that was further grounds for ridicule. Eventually the Resch’s took her out of public school and home schooled her. That didn’t appease Tina as now she had to spend even more time trapped in a home she was not happy in, with parents that she felt didn’t love her.
Adding to her trauma was that her adoptive brother Jack was sexually molesting her and her parents did not believe her claims. Also, a year before “the force” showed up, her best friend died in a car accident. The psychologists determined that Tina probably also suffered from a mild case of Tourette’s syndrome.
At the lab, objects once again moved themselves around, sometimes physically connecting with Tina. Once again “the force” wouldn’t materialize when a video camera was on. Incidents would occur almost as soon as the researchers shut the recorders off though. Tina was given psychokinetic tests but she could not will objects to move on her own volition. Instead it seemed that objects would often move when Tina was denied something or not focusing at all. They gave her hypnosis for therapy and the incidents died down soon after. The researchers final conclusion was that Tina had a disassociating personality and somehow all the pain and troubles in her world unwillingly manifested into the psychokinetic incidents that plagued her.
Tina returned home and faced the Resch’s scorn for how their lives had been turned upside down by her and “the force”. A year or so later the Resch’s sold their home and told Tina she was not welcome anymore. The court gave Tina the option to enter a juvenile detention center but she foolishly chose to marry her boyfriend James Bennett instead. A wife at 16, she was told by Bennett “You’re my property – do as I say or I’ll divorce you and send you to the detention center”. Bennett beat Tina often and she ran away to a woman’s shelter. Her father John died around this time, and her grandmother soon after. The grandmother left Tina $5,000, that Bennett quickly stole. Tina divorced him.
Tina became pregnant by another man soon after. In need of help and money married Larry Boyer, another man she had not known for long. Boyer was also abusive, and Tina had him arrested after she was beaten unconscious. She contacted the psychiatrist William Roll again and asked for help. Tina and her young daughter Amber were welcomed into his home and begin to learn proper parenting skills. She also enrolled in computer and nursing classes as her life began to turn around.
The following year, she met David Herrin, a divorced father of three. They seemed to get along very well. However Amber seemed to “fall” quite a bit when David was alone with her. The bruises could be explained away only so many times though. Finally in the Spring of 1992, David called Tina and told her he couldn’t seem to wake Amber up. When Tina got home, it was obvious another beating had occurred, but David told Tina that if she took Amber to the hospital, she would be taken away by child services. By the time Tina did take Amber to a doctor, she was too far gone from her injuries and died.
The police and medical officials examined Amber’s body and the long-term abuse was obvious. The police were further disturbed by a medical report that stated that Amber’s anus was enlarged unnaturally. Police interrogated David and he broke down and admitted to sodomizing the toddler on at least two occasions. The police found bloody tissues in David’s bathroom and a pair of Amber’s underwear with blood on it as well. All the blood was determined to be the little girl’s. Tina said David had told him that the blood came from her busted lip.
Both Tina and David were arrested for Amber’s murder, despite the fact that Tina wasn’t even around when the fatal injuries occurred. Tina’s story to the cops never wavered, David’s changed with the wind. He tried to pin the abuse on Tina. Tina was not allowed at her daughter’s funeral because she was an emotional wreck and the police hauled her away when she started to cry. The last time she saw her daughter was on the slab at the morgue. Tina wailed that Amber was cold and needed a blanket. She was allowed a goodbye kiss before being thrown back into prison.
It took over two and a half years for Tina to come to trial, her lawyer was court appointed and distracted by “higher level” cases. Tina spent months on end with no word from her legal counsel. William Roll once again entered her life to try and help her. He badgered Tina’s lawyer for answers and was shocked at how flippantly he was told that she was to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty. No other option was acceptable. Her lawyer wanted no trial. A list of witnesses were ignored. Evidence was compiled that would never see a jury. Roll had her take a lie detector test. She passed. Her lawyer didn’t care and set about to have Roll barred from the courthouse so he couldn’t influence Tina further. Tina pled guilty and was given life in prison plus twenty years.
David Herrin’s trial was a miscarriage of justice. Tina had already taken the rap for the murder of Amber, so prosecutors only charged him with cruelty to a child – this despite the fact that Herrin had admitted to hitting and sodomizing Amber numerous times. David had been fired from his job the day Amber received the beating that killed her, and even that circumstantial evidence did not compel the courts to try him for murder. David’s defense was to put Tina on trial all over again. A pornographic tape Tina had made with a local man for money was presented as evidence of her being an unfit mother. Part of the tape also showed Amber coming into the room and Tina taking her away, with sounds of slapping or spanking evident once they were out of the camera’s view. Tina testified against David but she chose to wear a sundress to the trial and that played into the image of her that Herrin was trying to paint. The jury didn’t see the black clothed heart broken mother that would be expected in such a case. The defamation of Tina could not overcome the overwhelming evidence however and David was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was paroled in 2011. His current residence is near Amber’s grave.
Tina remains in prison and will not be eligible for parole until 2015. Her mother Joan, now dead, never visited her. Her siblings want nothing to do with her. Even William Roll, the only person to ever seem to truly look out for Tina is now dead. She is truly alone in the world.
A Facebook page has been established to try and raise awareness of Tina’s plight and aid in her parole.
Much of this report was compiled from the excellent book by William Roll on this case: