A 26-year-old Dalton woman was sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison for the murder of her father.
Hannah Celese Henderson entered a guilty plea before Superior Court Judge Jim Wilbanks in the slaying of George Henderson, on the evening of Oct. 13, 2018. Ms. Henderson pled guilty to felony murder predicated on family violence aggravated assault.
District Attorney Bert Poston said, "Felony murder exists when a person is killed as a result of an intentional violent felony, regardless of whether the defendant intended specifically to cause the death. The aggravated assault charge merged into the murder charge for sentencing purposes."
He said Ms.
Henderson will have to serve 30 years from the date of her arrest on Oct. 14, 2018 before becoming eligible for parole.
She was represented by Natalie Glaser, head of the Public Defender’s Office for Whitfield and Murray Counties.
DA Poston said, "The case was investigated by Detective Dwayne Holmes of the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office and received significant media attention because of claims that Ms. Henderson made on a recorded 911 telephone call that she had shot her father after walking into his bedroom and catching him touching her one-year-old son’s penis.
"Recorded 911 calls are generally released upon request even as they relate to ongoing investigations and can give false impression about a case before the rest of the investigative details become public. Detective Holmes investigation revealed that the allegation was most likely false although it becomes very difficult if not impossible to prove a negative – that is to prove that something did not happen.
"Investigators and prosecutors working on the case did not believe the allegations for a variety of reasons. The shooting took place on the other end of the house, nowhere near the bedroom where the touching was alleged to have occurred and the shooting occurred a good bit later in the evening than the alleged touching.
"During the investigation, the Defendant admitted that she had accused her father of molesting her son two days earlier without evidence and based on nothing more than a feeling. As she was questioned about what led up to the shooting, her version of events shifted towards self-defense and away from provocation as initially alleged.
"At her guilty plea, Ms. Henderson retracted the allegation, stating to Judge Wilbanks that 'it was a lie then and it is a lie now.' Ms. Henderson expressed remorse for her actions and stated that her father never did anything like that or anything at all to deserve what she did to him.
"Detective Holmes’ investigation further revealed that George Henderson was shot twice in the head and that the Defendant was standing behind her father both times. The first shot was to the back of the head near the base of the skull and was a contact wound. That is, the muzzle of the weapon, a Ruger LCP .380 caliber pistol, was directly touching the victim’s skin when the defendant pulled the trigger. The first shot passed below the victim’s skull and the bullet exited through his left cheek bone. Mr. Henderson was standing in the hallway facing towards the kitchen when shot and fell to the ground where a good bit of blood pooled before he was able to move again. The bullet was recovered near the doorway between the kitchen and living room.
"Somehow he managed to get into the kitchen and was standing at or leaning on the kitchen table when the Defendant shot him a second time. The Defendant again stood behind her father and this time reached around with her right hand and shot her father in the right temple area. The second shot was near contact, meaning that the muzzle of the gun was approximately 1-3 inches away from the victim’s temple when the trigger was pulled. The second shot went through the front part of George Henderson’s brain, killing him instantly. The bullet was recovered at autopsy.
"At sentencing, Ms. Henderson did not offer an explanation for why she had shot her father but stated that she was an addict and not a monster and that she understood the pain that she had caused to so many people and was sorry for what she had done.
"Ms. Henderson had a history of substance abuse problems although no significant criminal history. Her father had allowed her and her son to move in with him and was trying to help her when he died. In addition to providing her a place to live, he had provided her with a car and with a food truck so that she could earn an income. As part of the negotiated plea agreement, Ms. Henderson agreed to execute two legal documents. One to surrender her parental rights so that a member of the family could adopt her son and the second to waive any right she might have to inherit from her father’s estate. Georgia law would have prohibited such inheritance and her sentence will keep her in custody until her son is an adult but it is hoped that the legal documents will make it easier and faster to settle the estate and complete the adoption."