June 18, 2014  7:58 pm EDT

John Ruthell Henry was executed shortly before 8 pm EDT, on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, by the state of Florida.  The execution took place at the Florida State Prison near Raiford, Florida.  John was 63 years of age.  He was executed for the murder of his wife, Susan Henry, and her 5-year-old son Eugene Christian in Pasco County and Hillsborough County, Florida, respectively, on December 22, 1985.  John spent the last 28 years of his life on Florida’s death row.


John is the third inmate executed within a 24 hour period, ending a nearly two month unofficial stop to executions, following the difficult execution of Oklahoma inmate Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014.  Marcus Wellons of Georgia was executed sometime after 11 pm EDT on June 17, 2014, and John Middleton of Missouri was executed shortly after 1 am EDT on June 18, 2014.


John did not have an easy upbringing. While his mother was pregnant with him, his father would often beat her, sometimes necessitating medical attention, according to his older sister. His mother also suffered from serious sickel cell anemia. Since he was an infant, John had severe asthma, which caused him to have trouble sleeping. This could have caused brain damage from prolonged oxygen deprivation. John also claimed that from the age of five, he sniffed gasoline, most intensively between the ages of nine and thirteen, which could have damaged brain tissue. At the age of 10, John fell off a trailer and hit his head, causing blurred vision for weeks, which could have been a sign of brain injury. John was in an automobile accident at the age of sixteen.


On December 22, 1985, John Henry went to the home of his estranged wife, Suzanne Henry, to discuss what to purchase Eugene, Suzanne's son from a previous relationship, for Christmas. At the time, John was living with another woman, Rosa Thomas. While John was at Suzanne's house, the two got into an argument over John's current living situation. Suzanne asked John to leave and, when he refused, she attacked him with a kitchen knife. John was cut three times on his left arm, causing him to "freak out." He took the knife and stabbed Suzanne. John covered her body with a rug before going into another room to get Eugene, who had been watching television.


Henry and Eugene drove to Plant City, Florida. Along the way, Henry stopped and bought beer. In Plant City they stopped to buy food for Eugene and cocaine for Henry. They drove around Plant City while Henry smoked cocaine, stopping to buy more at least three times, before they turned to drive back to Zephyrhills. Shortly thereafter, Henry thought he saw flashing lights behind his car, causing him to turn into an isolated area near a chicken farm because he thought the police were after him. The car became stuck in the mud, so the two walked away a short distance. Henry smoked his cocaine while holding Eugene. Approximately nine hours after he killed his wife, Henry stabbed Eugene to death. Henry later admitted that he contemplated killing himself, but was unable to do so. Henry walked back to Rosa's house and changed his clothes.


On December 23, 1985, the body of Suzanne Henry was found in her home. She had 13 stab wounds in her throat and had been left lying on the floor in the living room, with a rug thrown over her. Her son, 5-year-old Eugene Christian was missing.

Police uncovered enough evidence to arrest John Henry, the husband of Suzanne. He was found in a local hotel with Rosa. When asked about the missing child, Henry denied knowing Eugene's whereabouts. Eventually, Henry admitted to police that Eugene was in Plant City, Florida. When asked if he was still alive, Henry admitted the boy was dead and led police to his body. Eugene had been stabbed five times in the neck.


John Henry made a full confession for both murders and admitted that he did not know why he killed Suzanne and Eugene. John received two death sentences, one for each murder.


Ten years earlier, in 1975, when John was 24 years of age, he stabbed to death Patricia Roddy and was convicted of second-degree murder. He alleged he was under the influence of alcohol at the time of Patricia's death. John also had a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, and mental illness. He had been hospitalized at least once for attempted suicide. A psychiatrist who testified at his trial concluded that John was using drugs and alcohol as self-medication to prevent seeing hallucinations and hearing voices, which John claims started a young age.


Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Suzanne Henry and Eugene Christian. Please also pray for peace and healing for the family of Patricia Roddy.  Please pray for strength for the family of John.