Preliminary hearing reveals grim details about New Market capital murder case

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The terribly grim details of a family killing that claimed the lives of five people, including an unborn child, were spelled out in court Tuesday during a preliminary hearing for Christopher Henderson.

Christopher Henderson is charged with capital murder in the Aug. 4 killing Kristen Henderson, his 9-months-pregnant wife, and their unborn child, along her 8-year-old son, her mother and her 1-year-old nephew.

They were all killed at the New Market home owned by Kristen Henderson’s parents. The house was set ablaze after the victims were either stabbed or shot.

The strangeness of the case is magnified by the fact that Christopher Henderson’s co-defendant in the killings is his other wife, Rhonda Carlson.

Madison County Sheriff’s Office investigator Eugene Nash testified today that surveillance video, given to investigators by the victims' families, shows Carlson entering the home on one occasion and later running near the house carrying a gas can and wearing gloves.

The video later shows Christopher Henderson and Carlson running out the front door, Nash testified.

Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard said, “It’s not often that you have video tape that’s surrounding an incident like this where you end up finding a bunch of victims in a house that has just been set on fire and you have the accused at the same time on video tape."

The case’s other victims include Jean Smallwood, Kristen Henderson’s mother; Henderson’s 8-year-old son Clayton Chambers, a student at Riverton Elementary School; 1-year-old Eli Sokolowski, Henderson’s nephew. Mrs. Smallwood was shot to death, investigators said. Henderson, her unborn child and 8-year-old Clayton were fatally stabbed.

One-year-old Eli Sokolowski was stabbed, but apparently died from smoke inhalation, the medical examiner determined.

Henderson did not make any formal statements to investigators. But Nash testified that while Henderson was being processed at the jail he told him, “I’m glad you caught me when you did, I could not have lived with myself with what I’ve done.”

Carlson, who has a hearing later this month, told investigators she never went beyond the foyer of the home. She said Henderson later told her he killed his mother-in-law, but otherwise didn’t discuss the case. She said he “sprinkled gasoline” inside the house and when the flames started, they ran out.

They were arrested later in Huntsville at a home owned by Christopher Henderson’s family. Investigators said they recovered a gas can, gloves, a .22 rifle, ammunition and a lock pick after searching the home and the Jeep they couple rode in.

Kristen Henderson had obtained a protection order about a week before the killings. At that time she learned of Henderson’s other wife. Investigators said she filed a bigamy complaint against Henderson with the Huntsville Police Department. He had filed to divorce her in mid-July.

The next step in the case is for the evidence to be presented to a grand jury. That could take several months, Broussard said.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for both defendants.

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