HOT SPRINGS — A Malvern man who broke into his ex-wife’s home and stabbed her multiple times last year was convicted Thursday of attempted second-degree murder and aggravated residential burglary and sentenced to 108 years in prison after a two-day trial in Garland County Circuit Court.
The eight-man, four-woman jury deliberated for a little more than two hours before finding Tony Leon Henderson, 46, guilty of both charges. After a brief sentencing hearing, they deliberated for about 90 minutes before recommending a sentence of 68 years on the aggravated residential burglary and 40 years on the attempted murder, which will run consecutively.
Chief Deputy Prosecutor Joe Graham said that under sentencing guidelines Henderson could be eligible for parole in 27 years. He noted Henderson would be about 74 years old by then.
“It’s a good number,” he said. “We had argued for a life sentence because he has tried to kill her twice and he could get out and try again a third time.”
Henderson, who has remained in custody since his arrest the night of the attack Feb. 2, 2017, was convicted in 1996 for shooting the victim while they were married. He is also classified as a habitual offender with four other felony convictions, all in Hot Spring County, including false imprisonment and aggravated assault.
In his closing remarks, Graham said that Henderson, who testified Thursday, had admitted it was not his house and that his ex-wife had told him he was not welcome there. He also noted the evidence clearly showed a back bedroom window had been pried open to gain entry and her bedroom door had been kicked open.
“Regardless of how many times he may have been there in the past, he did not have permission to be there,” Graham said.
Graham said he believed Henderson broke into the house with the intent to kill his ex-wife, but it still qualified as aggravated residential burglary even if he only intended to scare her.
Noting earlier testimony that wet paper towels had been placed on the burners on the kitchen stove, Graham argued Henderson did that to start a fire after he killed her. “A good way to cover up evidence of a crime is to torch the place,” he said.
Graham said it was clear Henderson intended to kill her because he stabbed her six times, each time to the left side of her back or chest, close to her heart, and only her breast tissue saved her.
“He didn’t voluntarily stop stabbing her either. He had to be pulled off,” he said, noting earlier testimony that the victim’s son and nephew had grabbed Henderson so the victim could get away from him.
In his closing remarks, Henderson’s attorney, Clay Janske, reminded the jury of testimony from a nurse and doctors at National Park Medical Center, where the victim was taken after being stabbed, that her wounds only required two to three stitches each, calling them “puncture wounds.”
While she was stabbed “near some vital organs” they weren’t penetrated, Janske said, noting she was released later that same night and there was no evidence she had to go back to the doctor afterward.
Janske said there were inconsistencies in everyone’s testimony, noting the son had first said his father had only been to the house twice, then said five to six times while the victim had said he came by once or twice a week.
Janske argued Henderson “believed he was welcome at that house,” and had admitted he had been drinking that night and “wasn’t clear why they suddenly became hostile to him or why everything went haywire.”