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Plea accepted, Rhonda Carlson sentenced to life without parole for brutal New Market murders

“To have that go on in our community, it is a big deal. It is something that’s horrific, it’s hard to even talk about,”
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 10:55 AM CDT

MADISON CO., Ala. (WAFF) - The co-defendant in one of Madison County’s most horrific murder cases will spend the rest of her life behind bars with no chance for parole. Rhonda Carlson avoids the death penalty with this plea deal after testifying against her ex-husband Christopher Henderson.

Henderson is the man convicted of murdering his other wife, Kristin Smallwood Henderson, and several family members in 2015, and was recently sentenced to death. Both Henderson and Carlson are guilty of heinously murdering the five victims, including two children and a full-term, unborn baby before setting the house on fire.

Evidence shows Henderson was the one who acted out the killings, but Carlson admitted to her part in planning the murders and helping Henderson.

“The amount of carnage that was involved in this case, the status of the victims, you’re talking about children, you’re talking about the unborn, and then you’re talking about a mother and a grandmother and the way that they were murdered...It’s really unspeakable. To have that go on in our community, it is a big deal. It is something that’s horrific, it’s hard to even talk about,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Gann.

Gann says prosecutors and the family of the victims can breathe a sigh of relief. Gann says Henderson and Carlson’s sentences are exactly what the state wanted.

“It’s a relief if nothing else. We’re very happy that it’s over for us, and we’re happy for the family that really they don’t have anything to worry about anymore. They’ll be processing this for the rest of their life, but as far as worrying about what’s gonna happen in court, that’s over now,” said Gann.

Carlson’s attorney Erin Atkins says the defense made arrangements with the state for a guilty plea, and Carlson has had a long time to process all of this.

“She’s been incarcerated since 2015 so, she’s had the ability to really process this over the course of the last six years. So, today is just the finality of this portion and then moving on to the next phase,” said Atkins.

That next phase is Carlson’s life sentence in Alabama’s prison for women with no chance of parole and no possibility of appeals. Gann says that this resolution for both Carlson and Henderson is the best they can do here on earth. The judge’s last words to Carlson were ‘May God have mercy on your soul,’

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