Uncovering clues in the shooting death of veteran Memphis police officer Sonya Henderson.
Memphis police officer Sonya Henderson died in her Cordova home two years ago from a gunshot wound to the chest at point-blank range.
According to the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office, the evidence shows she committed suicide.
But Henderson’s family believes she was murdered and claims the D.A.’s Office is overlooking important details to avoid prosecuting a higher ranking officer. Family members are suing that sergeant, saying she engineered their loved ones death.
Senior Assistant District Attorney Tom Henderson says he’s sensitive to the family’s grief, but judge the case by the evidence, and that evidence shows Officer Henderson committed suicide.
“She was under psychiatric treatment, she was supposed to be taking medicine, she sent a text message saying she quit her medicine, she has been researching suicide on her computer, and she was found dead of a single gunshot wound to the chest with her own pistol. She talked to her doctor about being suicidal,” said Henderson.
Henderson’s stepfather, Kenneth Polk, found her in her home on April 12, 2014, with a single gunshot wound to her chest. Her immediate family and former husband, also a police officer, remain convinced she was murdered.
“It bothers me. I don’t think she killed herself. I know she didn’t,” said Polk.
Polk went on to say, “In three days she was leaving for Las Vegas. She had already applied for a fingerprinting job with the Las Vegas Police Department, so she was already looking ahead.”
Claiborne Ferguson, a Memphis criminal defense attorney, does not represent the Henderson family but weighed in on the case.
“It is not implausible that this was a suicide. It could have been. But just to simply take the word of somebody else when there are all these other issues and evidence that could point to some other situation other than a suicide and whether or not it’s been investigated, until those are answered, you just don’t know,” said Ferguson.
In a wrongful death lawsuit, the family alleges Alpha Gale Hinds and Hinds’ sister “plotted to lure” Henderson and “shot her in the chest causing her death.” Hinds is a Memphis police sergeant who worked crime scene investigation. Hinds and her sister say they had nothing to do with Henderson’s death.
We also asked the District Attorney’s Office about the family’s complaint they were never interviewed by an investigator from MPD or the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation about their concerns.
“Since none of them were in town at the time, I suspect they didn’t think they knew anything about the crime.”
But Henderson’s stepfather found her body, and virtually all of her relatives claim they were in town and available to be interviewed. So we asked again.
“They had no idea the family had relevant evidence. And after talking with them, I don’t think they have any relevant evidence,” said Henderson.
“I think the family should have been interviewed. The first people you talk to are your friends and family. That is who you ask when you are dealing with somebody to determine whether or not they were suicidal,” explained Ferguson.
Relatives say no official ever showed them MPD’s crime investigation file.
“I think the family is asking the right questions. It sounds like there has been a decision made that this was a suicide, and once that decision was made, all other evidence to the contrary was excluded,” said Ferguson. And if not, then open up the file and show it to the family so the family can have some sense of peace.”
A sense of peace Henderson’s brother Otis says the family is missing.
“Waking up every day it is like a wait of nothing but pain and suffering. And every day that goes by we just hope and pray one day for justice,” said Henderson’s brother, Otis.
The criminal case is closed as a suicide for now, although death cases can be reopened at any time. The TBI file remains sealed by statutory law. But for the Hendersons, questions remain.