Judge looking for year-end trial in New Market murder case that left 5 people dead

Christopher Henderson and Rhonda Carlson are charged with capital murder, in the Aug. 4. 2015 killings of five people in New Market.

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – A Huntsville man charged with killing 5 people, including his pregnant wife, could be headed to trial by the end of the year, a Madison County judge said today.

Christopher Henderson, 43, is charged with capital murder in the Aug. 4, 2015 killings of five people in New Market. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for Henderson and Rhonda Carlson, who is also charged in the case.

Circuit Judge Chris Comer said Thursday he wanted the case to go to trial before the year ends. Lawyers on both sides cited some scheduling conflicts into the fall. Comer said he’d issue an order with a number of prospective dates and the two sides could eventually reach agreement.

The prosecution said today they estimate Henderson’s case will take at least two weeks to try, given the number of victims and the fact that the home on St. Clair Lane was set on fire after the killings.

The case is also complicated by the relationship between Henderson and one of the victims, Kristen Henderson. Christopher Henderson was married to both Carlson and Kristen Henderson, who was 9 months pregnant at the time of the killings. She wasn’t aware that he was married to Carlson until about  a week before her death, when she sought a restraining order against him.

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;  and 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 the medical examiner said he may have died from smoke inhalation, after the house was set on fire.

The killings took place at Kristen Henderson’s parents’ house.

During Henderson’s preliminary hearing in September 2015, Madison County Sheriff’s Office investigator Eugene Nash testified 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.

Carlson is expected to be tried separately. No trial date has been set in her case, which is before Madison County Circuit Judge Claude Hundley.

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