OCEANSIDE — A parolee suspect who was on the run from police and wanted for the murder of his 25-year-old wife was arraigned in a Vista courtroom on Jan. 26, nearly a month after the homicide.
Dontaye Henderson was arrested at a bus station by police in St. Louis, Mo., on Jan. 4., and later flown in from Missouri to face the charges.
Dontaye Henderson, 28, is accused of a shooting his wife on New Year’s Day while he and his family were getting ready to attend church.
During the court proceedings, Dontaye Henderson pleaded not guilty to the charges, which included murder, possession of a firearm, two charges of cruelty to a child and kidnapping.
Superior Court Judge Marshall Hockett ordered him to remain in jail in lieu of $10 million bail.
Dontaye Henderson’s wife, Tamara Henderson, was found on her bed by Oceanside paramedics with a gunshot wound to her chest and in grave condition after they responded to an emergency call for help that he phoned in at 11:06 a.m. on Jan. 1 before he fled the scene.
A small photo of Dontaye Henderson was found on Tamara Henderson’s chest, and a larger, framed picture that may have been an engagement photo of the couple was found atop her groin, said Deputy District Attorney Keith Watanabe.
Tamara Henderson died from her injury a short time later at a local hospital.
She was an Army Reservist who had been scheduled to serve in Iraq before she found out she was pregnant with her son.
On the day of the shooting, the victim’s two small children, ages 6 and 15 months, were sitting next to the Christmas tree in the apartment when paramedics arrived, according to Watanabe, the prosecutor on the case.
The 6-year-old girl was Tamara Henderson’s child, and the 15-month-old boy was a son she and Dontaye Henderson had together. The couple had married in 2009.
When help arrived, the young girl told authorities “Daddy shot mommy and now mommy is dead,” Watanabe said to the court.
“He was a parolee and a registered sex offender,” he said.
Dontaye Henderson had served a prison sentence for forcible spousal rape, which he was convicted for in August 2003 after taking a plea bargain to the lower term of three years, according to records.
Watanabe said in that case that Dontaye Henderson had used an elaborate scheme to lure his wife at the time to a hotel room where she thought she was going to audition for a gospel singing performance when the rape occurred.
“She received an e-mail from a woman saying there was an audition at a hotel for a gospel singer,” he said to the court.
Court records show that after a psychological evaluation in 2003 it was determined that Dontaye Henderson “engaged in a complex plan in order to gain attention of his wife.”
The plan was called a “desperate act” by the evaluator, and Dontaye Henderson was given a score of 2 on the Static 99 test, which is a 10-item assessment test that measures the risk of adult sexual male perpetrators toward others.
The documents state that Dontaye Henderson scored in the medium-low risk category due to his young age (18 to 24.99) and also because he did not live with a partner for at least two years.
But Watanabe asked the court to fast-forward its attention to murder in this case, where the defendant’s wife became the defendant’s victim of a gunshot wound that led to the main vain and was ruled a homicide.
Along with finding the children alone at the scene with the gunshot victim, Watanabe said that officials also found a trash bag with holes cut out in positions that could fit a head and arms.
“It indicated there was a possibility the defendant wore the trash bag to avoid getting blood splatter on his clothing,” Watanabe said after court.
Records show that Dontaye Henderson was on parole at the time of the shooting and attached to a GPS ankle bracelet, which was cut off at about 11:20 that morning and located at a nearby hotel.
The kidnapping charge against Dontaye Henderson stems from him allegedly contacting a coworker from his job at the Dollar Tree, whom he demanded a ride from.
That fellow employee had her 2-year-old son with her at the time Henderson forced her to drive them to a hotel in El Centro before he let her go the next day.
That fellow employee went to the San Marcos Sheriff’s Department after she learned she was being sought by police who had obtained her cell phone records, according to a previous statement by police.
Watanabe said that authorities tracked Dontaye Henderson to a bus that was set for travel to Louisville, Ky.
He was arrested at a Greyhound station and told agents that he had shot his wife, Watanabe said.
He had possession of a loaded gun and packages of new socks and underwear.
He was still wearing the suit he had dressed in for church.
Tamara Henderson’s mother and 18-year-old sister stood silently outside the courthouse after Dontaye Henderson’s arraignment, and each held a corner of a poster board that had pictures of Tamara Henderson on it.
Although neither of them spoke, Watanabe said that Tamara Henderson had told her mother on the night before she died that she was afraid that “he would kill her in her sleep.”
Because Dontaye Henderson has a prior strike, if he is convicted he faces 96 years to life in prison, Watanabe said.