Estranged husband, previous wife arrested in deaths of family members

Published: Aug. 5, 2015 at 6:37 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2015 at 8:04 PM CDT
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Christopher Henderson (Source: Madison County Jail)
Christopher Henderson (Source: Madison County Jail)
Rhonda Jean Carlson (Source: Madison County Jail)
Rhonda Jean Carlson (Source: Madison County Jail)

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - An 8 and 1-year-old child, a pregnant mother and a grandmother were confirmed killed as investigators announced two arrests in their deaths. As investigators continue to work the case, court documents filed days before the killings reveal the suspect and one of the victims were involved in a divorce.

According to investigators, Christopher Matthew Henderson, 40, and Rhonda Jean Carlson, 42 are charged with capital murder and arson. Court documents revealed that Christopher Henderson and Carlson were married, even though Christopher and one of the victims were also married.

Deputies say there is home surveillance footage that puts both Christopher Henderson and Carlson at the home around the time of the killings. The pair are being held in the Madison County Jail on no bond.

Four bodies were found in the charred remains of a home on St. Clair Lane after firefighters spent hours dousing a powerful blaze Tuesday.

Officials also released the names of the two adults and two children, whose bodies were found inside the home:

  • Carol Jean Smallwood, 67, Kristen's mother
  • Kristen Henderson, 35, 9 months pregnant
  • Clayton Chambers, 8 years old, Kristen's son
  • Eli Sokolowski, 1 year old, Kristen's nephew

The district attorney will determine how many additional counts of capital murder to charge the pair with, including whether to charge them for the death of the unborn child.

We spoke with Kristen Henderson's best friend, who expressed shock something so horrifying would happen to someone who was always willing to help.

"She was just a really caring person," said Christy Elzer. "She helped me with my girls a couple years after my loss. She was always the go-to, the person you could go for help - and she always did."

Court documents show Kristen Henderson and Christopher Henderson were undergoing divorce and custody proceedings. Christopher filed for divorce on July 14. According to divorce paperwork, the couple was living in a home with Kristen's parents, sister, brother-in-law and two children. The complaint goes on to say that Christopher was forced to leave the residence.

In the divorce filing, Christopher said he was the biological father of Kristen's unborn child, which was due Sept. 2. Christopher said Kristen told him he would not be allowed to be at the child's birth nor allowed any contact with the child after the birth.

Court documents indicate Christopher Henderson was petitioning a judge for intervention with contact related to the child.

READ MORE: Divorce Complaint Filed by Christopher Henderson (PDF)

A judge signed off on a restraining order against Christopher Henderson, which was served at a south Huntsville apartment on Thursday. According to court documents, Kristen Henderson alleged Christopher struck her during an argument on June 23 at Madison Square Mall, which was the grounds for the restraining order.

He has lied about everything since we met and if he's willing to hit me once, then he might hit me again - Kristen Henderson in a petition for protection against Christopher Henderson filed July 29

On Friday, Kristen Henderson filed paperwork to dismiss Christopher's divorce petition. Court paperwork says that Kristen found that Christopher married Rhonda Jean Carlson, 42, in Madison County in February 2013 - 19 months before Kristen and Christopher were married in Fayetteville, TN in Sept. 26, 2014. Kristen and Christopher later moved to Michigan, before moving back to Madison County. Court documents state there is no public record of divorce between Christopher Henderson and Carlson. Christopher's previous marriage to Carlson would render his marriage to Kristen void, so Kristen said that there was no need for a divorce.

READ MORE: Motion to Dismiss Divorce Complaint filed by Kristen Henderson (PDF)

In an application for a protective order against Christopher, Kristen Henderson wrote the following:

"He has lied about everything since we met and if he's willing to hit me once, then he might hit me again."

In June, court paperwork says that Christopher Henderson abandoned Kristen at Walmart on South Memorial Parkway, before video surveillance captured him getting into a vehicle with another woman.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for the family to raise money for funeral expenses.

There will be vigil Wednesday night at Riverton Elementary School at 8 p.m. where Clayton Chambers went to school. Counselors were at the school throughout the day Wednesday.

Madison County Schools Superintendent Matt Massey released statement on the deaths Wednesday afternoon:

"We have received confirmation from the Madison County Sheriff's Office that one of our students at Riverton Elementary died in a horrible tragedy Tuesday afternoon. Our thoughts and prayers are with all friends and family, as well as his classmates and teachers.

Riverton Elementary Principal Jeff Malone also released a statement:

Our Riverton family is hurting. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and everyone impacted by this tragedy. Our first priority now is to take care of our kids, to make sure they and their parents know that we are here and that we have counselors available to talk to them and help them as they go through the grieving process."

An attorney with the firm that was handling Kristen Henderson's divorce proceedings said the family is not making any public statements at this time.

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