The judge had a choice because Mr. Henderson was indicted before lawmakers took away the option for judges to override jurors’ sentencing recommendations in major cases.
In July, a jury found Mr. Henderson guilty of the shooting and stabbing death of his wife, Kristin Smallwood; unborn daughter; his eight-year-old son, Clayton Chambers; one-year-old nephew Eli Sokolowski; and his mother, Carol Jean Smallwood.
Kristin Smallwood’s sister, Kelly Smallwood Sokolowski, told the judge about the loss of her sister and son, Eli.
“My father passed away in September of last year and I had a dream and my father was holding Eli in that dream. I know I will see them again,” Sokolowski said.
Kristin Henderson’s brother, Keith Smallwood, said the victims were good people.
“These were people who were happy to be alive and part of a strong family where we loved each other, so it was tough. But … we were determined because we know where they are and smiling,” said Ms. Smallwood.
Their bodies were found in a burning house in August 2015, less than a week after Kristen Smallwood filed for a court order to keep Mr.
Mr. Henderson had married another woman, Rhonda Carlson, before divorcing Mrs. Smallwood.
Ms. Carlson admitted to helping plan the murders, but refused to participate in the murders.
He avoided a possible death sentence in a deal with prosecutors and testified that led to Henderson’s conviction.
Speaking in court, Christopher Henderson addressed relatives of the victims and his own.
“I want to offer my deepest apologies to the family,” Henderson said.
“This is something that should never have happened. I also want to apologize to my mother and my daughter.”