Jury recommends death penalty for Christopher Henderson

The jury will suggest whether Henderson lives, or dies
Published: Jul. 5, 2021 at 6:45 PM CDT
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - UPDATE (July 6 at 3:30 p.m.) - Christopher Henderson’s accomplice, Rhonda Carlson, has been scheduled to be in court next week.

According to Carlson’s attorneys, she is taking a plea deal. She is set for a status conference/arraignment on Thursday, July 15 at 1:30 p.m.

UPDATE (July 6 at 11 a.m.) - WAFF’s Madison Scarpino reports the jury has recommended the death penalty for Christopher Henderson.

Henderson will be held without bond until his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for October 14, 2021. The judge could break with the jury’s recommendation and decide to sentence Henderson to life in prison.

The jury convicted Henderson on more than a dozen capital murder charges last week. He was convicted of killing his pregnant wife, her mother, and two children. The same jury recommended the death penalty by a count of 11 to one on all of the charges.

We sat down with the family of the victims. Kristen Henderson’s brother, Keith Smallwood, tells us his family who were killed, were good people.

“These were people that were happy to be alive and part of a strong family that we all loved each other so it’s been hard but it’s also been - we’ve been resolute because we know where they are and we know they’re smiling,” said Smallwood.

Kristen’s sister, Kelly Smallwood Sokolowski, lost her own child to Henderson. That’s the 14-month-old victim Eli.

“Eli...the light of my life. My one and only child. But I did have a dream. My daddy passed away in September of last year and I had a dream and my daddy was holding Eli in that dream. I know that I will see them again that’s one thing that was taken away from me that I’m thankful for. I’m not scared of death anymore because I know what’s waiting on me,” said Sokolowski.

Smallwood shares what it was like facing Henderson in court.

“I don’t know whether he cares or whether it matters to him, probably not. But it does to me, to let him know I’m not going anywhere,” said Smallwood.

On Tuesday morning, the jury will continue to deliberate to suggest to Judge Comer whether Henderson serves life in prison or is sentenced to the death penalty. Six years after the heinous crime, Christopher Henderson was found guilty on all 15 counts of capital murder.

Tears streamed from the family of the victims as the verdict was read. Henderson killed his pregnant wife Kristen, her mom, her 8-year-old son, and 14-month-old nephew in their New Market home.

Not only was he found guilty of killing them, but he then poured gasoline and lit the house on fire.

“The facts of this case were tough from the outset, I’ve known that for the last six years,” said Henderson’s defense attorney Bruce Gardner.

Overwhelming evidence that led to this includes Henderson’s phone search history, body camera footage, and surveillance video that places Henderson and the other suspect in this case, Rhonda Carlson, at the crime scene. Carlson is Henderson’s other wife who played a key role in this case.

She accepted a plea deal from the state to testify against Henderson, taking the death penalty off the table for her. Carlson admitted to helping plan the murders but denies actual involvement in the killings. Her testimony ultimately helped lead to Henderson’s guilty conviction.

On Friday during the penalty phase, both sides presented testimony to impact Henderson’s sentence. The jury will suggest whether Henderson lives, or dies.

The state called up Kristen Henderson’s sister and the mother of the 1-year-old victim, Eli, who says her entire world has never been the same.

“This case deserves the death penalty without a doubt,” said prosecuting attorney Tim Gann.

Henderson’s defense team brought up his family, who spoke of the bond they shared him with.

“It’s just astonishing to me that in an American courtroom we’re still talking about killing people,” said Gardner.

The final decision will be up to the judge.

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