Alabama jury says man convicted of murdering his wife, her unborn child and three others should be executed

Published 4:22 pm Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Jurors recommended the death penalty on Tuesday for a man convicted of killing his wife, her unborn child and three other people in 2015 in a scheme with another woman to whom he was married.

News outlets reported that the Madison County jury which convicted Christopher Henderson, 46, of multiple counts of capital murder last week voted 11-1 that he should die for the slayings. A judge will decide whether Henderson should be given the death penalty or sentenced to life without parole at a hearing set for Oct. 14.

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

Their bodies were found in a home that had been burned in August 2015 less than a week after Kristen Smallwood filed for a court order to keep Henderson away from the house. At the time, Henderson had married another woman, Rhonda Carlson, without divorcing Smallwood.

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

Defense attorney Bruce Gardner asked jurors to recommend a life sentence, arguing it wasn’t fair for Henderson to face execution but not Carlson. Outside of court, Gardner said he’d initially expected psychiatric evaluations to show Henderson to have mental problem based on the evidence, “but there weren’t any.”

“Right now he’s pretty stoic and accepting of 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 once you see what happened, it doesn’t bother anybody to do the work,” said Gann.

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