2 charged with capital murder in relation to house fire deaths; 1 suspect married to victim and co-suspect

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Madison County Sheriff’s Office says two people have been charged with capital murder in relation to a house fire Tuesday on St. Clair Lane, in northeast Madison County.  Four people were killed in the fire.

The fire happened at 215 St. Clair Lane, off Bell Factory & Winchester roads.

Rhonda Carlson (L) & Matthew Henderson (R) (Photos: Madison County Sheriff's Office)
Rhonda Carlson (L) & Christopher Matthew Henderson (R) (Photos: Madison County Sheriff’s Office)

The victims have been identified as Carol Jean Smallwood, Kristen Chambers Henderson, Clayton Chambers and Eli Sokolowski.  Clayton, Kristen’s son, was 8 years old.  Eli, her nephew, was 1.  Kristen was also nine months pregnant.

Investigators have charged Christopher Matthew Henderson and Rhonda Jean Carlson with capital murder.

Capt. Dave Jernigan said Kristen Chambers had a hearing in court last week on a protection from abuse order she had filed against Christopher Henderson.  During that court hearing, it was determined he was also married to Rhonda Carlson.

Marriage records show Carlson and Henderson were married on February 15, 2013.  Henderson and Kristen Chambers were married September 26, 2014.  She filed for divorce in June of this year.

Kristen Henderson lived in the home on St. Clair Lane with her parents, as well as Clayton, her son.  The home belongs to her parents.

Christopher Henderson’s residence is listed on Nassau Drive in Huntsville, and Rhonda Carlson lives on Wyandotte Drive.  Both are now in the Huntsville/Madison County Jail, being held without bond.

Where the investigation stands

Capt. Jernigan did not say how the four people died.  He said the investigation is still unfolding as autopsies are being performed on the victims.

He said it’s believed Christopher Henderson and Rhonda Carlson reacted to the court hearing by going to the residence and committing the act of violence.  Jernigan said there is video from a surveillance system set up at the home that shows both suspects at the house.

The state fire marshal and county fire marshal are trying to pinpoint where the fire started.

School plans vigil

Clayton Chambers attended Riverton Elementary School.  The school is planning a vigil at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“Our Riverton family is hurting. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and everyone impacted by this tragedy,” said Riverton Principal Jeff Malone. “Our first priority now is to take care of our kids, to make sure they and their parents know that we are here.”

Superintendent Matt Massey echoed the sentiment.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all friends and family, as well as [Clayton’s] classmates and teachers,” said Massey.  “As a result, we have brought in extra counselors to the school to help our students and faculty try to deal with this tragedy. They will remain a resource for these students and faculty as long as needed.”

Support from community

Family members have set up a gofundme account to help with funeral expenses and other needs.  By mid-afternoon, the funds had topped $4,000.


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