Son rebuilds home in wake of deadly 'storm'
Denny Hale needs the community's help rebuilding his Hogback home after the violent death of his mother
HOGBACK — Denny Hale stood in the mid-morning sun Friday next to a pile of discarded siding as he slathered vibrant white paint on narrow pieces of wood. The wood will frame windows at his soon-to-be repaired home. The new siding, already on the house, is peach colored.
Last week friends tore the old turquoise-colored siding off the home where 41-year-old Kayleen Marks Hale, Denny’s mother, was bludgeoned to death in February.
Hale, 19, said he wanted a new color for the home — one that would represent the future for him and his brother, Christopher Hale. His five younger brothers and sisters — Kenny, Christina, Christine, Deana and Krystal — are staying either with a grandmother in Little Water or at a Chinle, Ariz., children's home.
"When that day came, that storm that happened at my house," he said, as he swung the brush, "it was a mess. That storm will stay with you. That storm rocked my boat. But I'm going to stay in it as long as possible."
Hale said his father’s fury caused that storm.
Dennison Hale, 42, was arrested last month and charged with first-degree murder in the Feb. 20 slaying of his wife at the Hogback residence, located off U.S. 64 near mile marker 28. Dennison Hale allegedly bludgeoned Kayleen Hale to death with a shovel during the early morning hours and then fled the residence on foot, according to a criminal complaint.
Denny Hale told investigators he tried to stop his father from leaving, but his father struck him in the face and kept running. The elder Hale was arrested two days later in Shiprock, according to FBI spokesman Frank Fisher.
Denny Hale is a soft-spoken and round-shouldered teenage boy. Like most teenagers, he tends to mumble. He clears irrigation ditches for the local chapter of the Youth Conservation Corps to pay the bills.
On Friday, Hale’s dog paced the property. She recently bore five fawn dogs in an abandoned truck. She peered apprehensively at the strangers in the yard, protective of her puppies in the cab of the truck.
“I can’t get away from this place,” Hale said.
He said his father was an abusive man who suffered from mental illness. The father destroyed the family's home and the nearby hogan on the night of the murder, according to Denny Hale. He smashed out windows, trashed the yard and burned the family's clothing.
Darrah Blackwater, 24, said she visited the family several days after the murder. She and Denny Hale met through the Youth Conservation Corps.
"I cried and cried and cried," she said. "That's when we decided he needed a new house."
Blackwater said she could not abide Denny Hale and his brother sleeping on mattresses in the wreckage of that violent day. So Blackwater and Anna Tyler — a volunteer at The Issachar Calling in Waterflow — purchased supplies and began to rebuild. The group has raised more than $900 since Wednesday through the "Denny's Place" GoFundMe page. Its progress is measured on a sister Facebook account.
But more work is needed at the home. The electrical wiring needs to be replaced, the kitchen fixtures are broken and the walls are bare.
Denny Hale said his memories of his mother are tied up in that house.
"When I am away, if I was away from my house, I imagine my mom is here," he said. "Waiting for me."
Denny Hale said his mother, who loved Navajo and Western dancing, taught him that every life is precious.
All mothers, according to Hale, are artists.
"They're artists because they make us better," Hale said. "She smoothed me out and took out my rough edges."
Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.