Kevin Babe “Cali” Henderson was sentenced Thursday to life without parole plus 55 years for the cold-blooded murder of Chad Herring, whom Henderson shot through the back of the head Nov. 12, 2014, in a car on St. Marys Road.
The alleged gangster, now 23 years old, is serving the extra time for shooting at two teenagers that same day, wounding one of them.
Local authorities said they will be relieved to get Henderson out of the Muscogee County Jail and into the state prison system, as his threatening other inmates here presents a security issue.
Jailed witnesses who testified against him had to be transferred to the Harris County jail for their safety. Also jailed were the two young men targeted in Henderson’s earlier shooting. They appeared terrified when they testified during his trial, each denying Henderson was the gunman.
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A grand jury indicted Henderson on allegations that while incarcerated, he committed crimes as a member of the Gangster Disciples, assaulting another inmate to extort money. Prosecutors said they will not pursue that case, now that he’s to be imprisoned for life.
‘So viciously taken’
Chad Herring’s mother Susan Herring was in court for Henderson’s sentencing, and had a victim’s advocate read a statement for her.
“One bullet to the back of the head took a son, grandson, brother and father,” the mother wrote. “Chad was not a perfect man; he made mistakes, but by no means did he deserve to have his life taken from him so tragically. Chad love his family, and never fell short of letting his family know that…. A parent should not bury their child; a 9-year-old shouldn’t have their biological father so viciously taken from him.”
Herring was 32 years old.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Don Kelly said the murder was particularly malicious in that Henderson shot Herring through the head while sitting behind him in a car, with no warning, no provocation and no apparent reason.
“Mr. Herring, the victim, believed that Mr. Henderson was his friend,” Kelly said after the sentencing. “There was no argument, no fight that occurred before this, so we have never known what the motive was.”
The shooting ended a long day during which Herring, Henderson and Herring’s friend Steve Phillips rode around town as Herring and Henderson drank. Herring had Phillips drive his girlfriend’s car, a Chevrolet Impala, so Herring wouldn’t have to drink and drive. Witnesses said Phillips regularly drove for Herring, for that reason.
Phillips had started the day driving another friend’s car as he and his buddy Joseph Bellinger went to a job orientation at a local foundry. Afterward they went to a home belonging to Bellinger’s mother, where Herring came to meet them, Phillips said.
Driving the Impala, Herring followed as Phillips returned the car he’d been using, then Phillips drove the Impala back to the home of Bellinger’s mother.
Henderson called and asked the men to pick him up on Steam Mill Road, after which they stopped by a liquor store to buy rum, then went to Herring’s home to drink, Phillips testified during Henderson’s trial.
The first shooting
They visited some other friends before Phillips’ girlfriend called and asked him to pick her up on Evergreen Street. She was getting into the car there about 7:30 p.m. when Henderson saw two teenagers walking by.
Henderson spoke to them, asking, “What’s cracking, cuz?” One of the teens replied, “What up, folk?”
Considering that response disrespectful in gang protocol, Henderson pulled out a gun and started firing at the two before climbing back into the Impala as Phillips sped away.
They stopped to buy cigarettes and beer, and then went to where Phillips lived with his parents on Middleton Place, off St. Marys Road. While they were there, Herring’s sister called and asked her brother to check on her home nearby, because the burglar alarm was going off. Herring and Henderson then left in the Impala to do that.
When they returned, Herring looked shaken, Phillips testified. “I have never seen Chad look like this,” he said, describing it as “fear” and the look of someone who’s about to cry.
Phillips volunteered to drive again as he, Herring and Henderson left his parents’ house around 10 p.m. Herring was beside him in the front passenger’s seat; Henderson sat in the back seat, directly behind Herring.
They headed down St. Marys Road to Buena Vista Road, where Phillips abruptly heard a gunshot, followed by a “glug-glug” sound like a milk jug emptying.
When he turned to Herring, he saw his friend sitting upright in the passenger’s seat with blood pouring out of his face, making the “glug-glug” sound, he said. He looked back at Henderson, who pointed the gun at him and told him to keep driving.
He drove to the dead end of Roosevelt Street near Brewer Elementary School and stopped, frozen. “Come on, brother, we got to go,” he said to Herring, whose body had slumped forward when Phillips hit the brakes.
His door opened, and there stood Henderson, who leaned in, put the car in park and pushed Herring upright, he said.
“I should kill you,” he said Herring told him.
“Do what you got to do,” he replied.
Instead they started walking toward an open lot, where Phillips ran as he called friends on his cell phone for a ride. Henderson caught up with him, asked whom he was calling, and demanded a ride, too, he said.
A friend picked them up, dropped Henderson off on Steam Mill Road and took Phillips home, where he told his girlfriend what had happened. Later Henderson came by and threatened to kill him and his family if he told anyone about the homicide, he said.
Around 11:45 p.m., a police officer working a burglary detail came across the Impala, its dome light still on. Inside was Herring’s body, blood still dripping from the face.
On Thursday, Judge Frank Jordan Jr. sentenced Henderson as a repeat offender, as Henderson killed Herring while on probation from a Sept. 10, 2014, conviction for aggravated assault.
The assault was in 2012, when Henderson at age 18 initially was accused of beating a 16-year-old homeless girl with a pistol and raping her on Dec. 23.
Charges of rape and aggravated sodomy later were dropped, and Henderson pleaded guilty to the assault charge after a new indictment accused him of beating the girl only with his fists. He was sentenced to seven years’ probation.
After his trial for Herring’s murder, a jury June 12 found Henderson guilty of all counts, including charges from the earlier assault on the two teenagers. Jordan sentenced him for murder, two counts of aggravated assault and three weapons violations. The judge gave him life without parole for murder, plus 20 years each on the assault charges and five years on each of the gun offenses.
Henderson will appeal, seeking a new trial, said defense attorney Nancy Miller. She said it was unfortunate her client was convicted of murder on “the word of someone who’s very compromised,” meaning Phillips, who has a criminal record and was just arrested this month on a gun charge.
The next step for authorities here is to get Henderson out of the county jail and into a state prison.
How long will that take?
“It usually takes somewhere in the neighborhood of four to six weeks,” Kelly said, “but it depends on the processing of the prison system.”
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