Relative charged in death of 13-year-old

Iberia girl found stabbed on nearby farm

TUSCUMBIA — A 30-year-old unemployed Iberia man has been charged with stabbing his 13-year-old step niece, Macala Shelton, to death.

Steven Henderson was the brother of the girl’s stepfather. Both the girl and Henderson were living in the same home along with several other people including a group of children ranging in age from 2 to 13.

The girl’s mother is a soldier in the Army and is deployed in Afghanistan.

Henderson was charged with stabbing Shelton to death with a “large survival knife,” according to a probable cause statement filed in Miller County by the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

In the probable cause statement, the Highway Patrol said Henderson described the stabbing to law enforcement officers.

According to the probable cause statement, the killing took place about dawn June 22, the same day the girl was reported missing. A motive for the killing was not included in the probable statement.

Shelton had been reported missing from her home Saturday; her relatives told law enforcement she had gone to bed about 11:45 p.m. Friday. But she was not in her room when they went to wake her around 1 p.m. Saturday.

That same afternoon, the Highway Patrol issued an “endangered person advisory” and, along with Miller County Sheriff’s deputies and volunteers, began a search.

During a press conference Monday, Miller County Sheriff Bill Abbott said “they didn’t like the way Henderson was answering questions” when officers went to the girl’s home to question members of the “multiple families” that lived there.

“We learned that there was a vacant farm that was owned by a family friend where Henderson had been acting as a caretaker by doing things like mowing,” Abbott said. “While searching the wooded area of the farm, the body of the missing juvenile was located.”

Henderson was taken to the Miller County Sheriff’s Office for questioning and placed on a 24-hour investigative hold. It was while he was being questioned that he “provided a statement” admitting to the murder.

Citing the ongoing investigation, Abbott would not address a motive for the slaying. He did say, however, he was awaiting an autopsy report before addressing whether sexual assault was involved.

On Sunday, Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Howard filed charges of first-degree murder and armed criminal action against Henderson, who is being held in the Miller County Jail without bail.

Abbott said the girl’s mother had been notified of her death and “is on her way home from Afghanistan. I’ll meet with her tomorrow,” he said.

Howard said he has also spoken with the girl’s biological father who lives in a nearby county.

Abbott said the girl’s stepfather, 33-year-old Jerry L. Henderson II, was not a suspect in the murder; however, he was arrested on felony charges as a result of evidence uncovered during the murder investigation.

According to Abbott, Steven Henderson told investigators he had hidden the murder weapon in the home. When deputies, armed with a search warrant, returned to retrieve the weapon, they found “multiple firearms and several hundred pounds of ammunition in Jerry Henderson’s room.”

According to the probable cause statement filed by Miller County Detective Michael Rayhart, “officers located multiple firearms, including a large cache of ammunition in the bedroom belonging to Jerry L. Henderson II. Several of the firearms located in his bedroom were not locked up and were loaded and fully accessible. In excess of 20 firearms were found in his room, including several hundred pounds of ammunition and hundreds of assault rifle magazines.”

Jerry Henderson had been convicted on a charge of second-degree arson in 2005, according to the probable cause statement. He was arraigned in Miller County Circuit Court on a Class C Felony unlawful possession of a firearm. Bond was set at $500,000.

Abbott said deputies did not find any evidence of drug use in the home; however, the Department of Children and Family Services had been called there several times concerning the welfare of the children. He said all the children have now been removed from the residence.

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