Alabama jury recommends death of man convicted of killing 5 people

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama (AP) – Jurors recommended the death penalty on Tuesday for a man convicted of murdering his wife, unborn child and three other people in 2015 in a scheme with another woman he was with married.

News organizations reported that the Madison County jury that convicted Christopher Henderson, 46, on multiple counts of capital murder last week, voted 11-1 to have him die for the murders. A judge will decide whether Henderson should be sentenced to death or life without parole at a hearing scheduled for October 14.

Henderson was convicted of the shooting and stabbing death of his wife Kristin Smallwood; his unborn daughter; her 8-year-old son, Clayton Chambers; her 1 year old nephew Eli Sokolowski; and his mother, Carol Jean Smallwood.

Their bodies were found in a house that was burnt down in August 2015, less than a week after Kristen Smallwood sought a court order to remove Henderson from the house. At the time, Henderson married another woman, Rhonda Carlson, without divorcing Smallwood.

Carlson, 47, admitted to helping plan the murders but denied participating in the murders. She avoided a potential death penalty in a deal with prosecutors and provided testimony that contributed to Henderson’s conviction.

Defense attorney Bruce Gardner asked jurors to recommend a life sentence, arguing that it was not fair that Henderson was executed, but not Carlson. Outside of court, Gardner said he initially expected psychiatric assessments to show Henderson had a mental problem based on the evidence, “but there wasn’t.”

“Right now he’s pretty stoic and comes to terms with what just happened,” Gardner said of Henderson.

Prosecutor Tim Gann said the outcome was worth the long wait for a guilty verdict. “Once you meet this family and see what happened, nobody bothers to do the job,” Gann said.

A hearing is scheduled later this month for Carlson, who is also charged with capital murder, but no trial date is set.


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