Friday, June 11, 2010

Charles Sennett: Husband, Father, Preacher, Sociopath

Art by John Forrest Parker, executed yesterday for the murder of Elizabeth Sennett

Charles Sennett was many things to many people. When he met the future mother of his children, he portrayed himself as a grieving widower. To the Sheffield congregation where he served as pulpit minister, he appeared to be a man who loved the word of God. To congregant Doris Tidwell, he presented a man unhappy in his marriage to a profligate wife. To those who knew him away from Colbert County, he was a sometime high roller who spent money he didn't have. If he had lived long enough to be professionally evaluated for his crimes, he would have in all probability been diagnosed as a sociopath, a man who loved only himself and would stop at nothing to get what he thought he deserved in life.

Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett thought the man she married had tragically lost his first wife at a young age. After the brutal murder of the woman friends called Liz, many who knew the minister well announced their fears that the death of the first Mrs. Sennett was suspicious; however, with no living suspect, there was little or no investigation into the previous death.

Charles Sennett lived on a modest income from preaching, investments, and other endeavors, but he never had much money--at least for long. After the death of his heavily insured second wife, many speculated the good minister had a gambling problem, but as with suspicions concerning his first wife, these claims were never fully investigated.

Doris Tidwell knew her minister as someone who took both an emotional and physical interest in her, someone who seemed to need money through no fault of his own. When Sennett asked his lover for $3,000.00 to repay a bank loan, she gladly gave it to him. Instead the preacher contacted Billy Gray Williams, a black man who rented property from him. Williams later contended he didn't realize his landlord was seeking a hit man, but a Colbert County jury dismissed Williams' claims, convicting him of felony murder for his role in the slaying of Liz Sennett.

Williams, a Florence resident, then approached John Forrest Parker and Kenneth Eugene Smith, contracting with them to commit the crime for $1,000.00 each. The three defendants in the case were tried separately, but because of Williams' race, Parker had once contended that blacks were unfairly dismissed from the jury pool during his trial. This and other appeals were denied, and he died by lethal injection at 6:41 p.m. yesterday. Smith has not yet had an execution date scheduled, and Williams is serving a sentence of Life without the Possibility of Parole for his part in facilitating the murder.

What of Charles Sennett? Colbert County investigators informed the minister on the first day of the murder investigation that he was a suspect in his wife's death. One week later, Sennett was found dead at a relative's home, shot in the chest and ostensibly a suicide. Why ostensibly?

We have received communications that there were questions about his alleged suicide note and many believe a relative of Liz Sennett killed her husband in retribution. Do we believe it? Nothing can be ascertained at this late date, nor do we believe Charles Sennett's death should be further investigated; however, we have always found it odd that a true sociopath would take his own life. Now the pieces of the puzzle seem complete.


Westside Church of Christ where Charles Sennett served

We favor the death penalty only in the rare circumstance when the murderer would live a better life in prison than he would have in the free world. Obviously, this would be in only a handful of cases. We do understand how most families of victims desire retribution--they would not be human if they didn't.

It's not often that the families of the accused are even considered, but they suffer also. We have been in contact with the family of John Forrest Parker, a young man who lost his way and paid with his life. Our blog today is showcasing a work of art drawn by Parker within the past few weeks. It shows his state of mind at the end of his life on this plane. It also shows that with training he could have become an accomplished artist, could have contributed to society. Now all that is lost.

Our sincerest sympathies to both the Sennett and Parker families.