Man charged with 2015 murders of five people in New Market sentenced to death

Top Stories

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – After being convicted of 15 counts of capital murder, a Huntsville man has been sentenced to death.

Madison County Circuit Court Judge Chris Comer sentenced Christopher Henderson, 46, Thursday morning.

Henderson was convicted in July of killing five people at a New Market home in 2015 before setting it on fire.

The victims were identified as Henderson’s 9-months-pregnant wife Kristen Smallwood, her unborn baby Loryn Brooke Smallwood, her 8-year-old son Clayton Chambers, her one-year-old nephew Eli Sokolowski, and Kristen’s mother, Jean Smallwood.

Rhonda Carlson, Henderson’s first wife, whom he never divorced before marrying Kristen Smallwood, was arrested with Henderson and charged with capital murder.

Madison County Chief Deputy District Attorney Tim Gann called Kelly Smallwood Sokolowski, Eli Sokolowski’s mother and Smallwood’s sister, to address the court.

“I lost my mother, my best friend. I lost my sister Kristen, she loved her kids and she named the baby after me,” Sokolowski said. “My middle name. If Kristen loved you, you were loved fiercely.”

“We take the responsibility of when we take the death penalty very seriously,” Gann said. “Because of the facts that we’ve all heard it was an easy decision. No way to measure the pain he’s caused. Henderson is very much deserving of the death penalty.”

Defense Attorney Bruce Gardner reminded the court that the jury was not unanimous in its decision, with an 11-1 vote in favor of death for Henderson.

“Life is always the better choice,” said Gardner. “We ask that you impose life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”

Christopher Henderson then addressed the courtroom.

“I’d like to give my deepest apologies to the family,” Henderson stated. “This is an event that should’ve never happened. I’d also like to apologize to my mom and my daughter. I had papers written as I laid in bed with Covid for a month. This is something I had to say from the heart.”

After reading Henderson’s sentence, he added, “Mr. Henderson, may God have mercy on your soul, and may God provide some peace for the families involved.”

Rhonda Carlson testified against him as part of a deal to avoid the death penalty. She said he had practiced lock-picking and had purchased a .22 handgun as they plotted the killings.

The jury deliberated for nearly two days before finding Henderson guilty on all counts, including capital murder, arson, capital murder of a child, and capital murder in the course of committing another crime.

Because the case began in 2015, before Alabama ended judicial override, Comer could override the jury’s death penalty recommendation and sentence Henderson to life in prison instead of the death penalty.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Recent Columbus Forecast Updates

More 7 Day Forecast

Don't Miss