VISTA — The man accused of fatally shooting his wife last New Year’s Day at their Oceanside home while their children were inside will learn his fate at his murder trial that began Jan. 9.
The trial for Dontaye Henderson, 29, is expected to last two weeks as the prosecutor reveals a violent past history of the suspect, who was on parole at the time of the murder for spousal rape of a previous wife.
Tamara Henderson, 25, was shot in the chest on Jan. 1, 2011, at 2360 Paseo De Laura during the morning hours while she prepared her children for church services.
“I’m so sad,” Elsie Billops, the victim’s mother, said. “So sad. I will always miss my daughter, and I can’t change anything. I can just raise the kids and try to help them become great adults.”
Billups has been raising the Tamara Henderson’s two children, ages 2 and 6, since the holiday tragedy occurred.
She said this past New Year’s Day that the family just stayed home.
Billups and several family members sat in the front row of the courtroom as trial motions and the witness list was presented to Superior Court Judge Robert J. Kearney.
The defendant, who had married Tamara, an Army reservist, in 2009 and had an infant son with her, was also present in the room as he sat next to his attorney.
Dontaye Henderson doodled on lined paper as the defense objected to a motion by the prosecutor to allow autopsy photos of the victim, calling them “gruesome.”
After prosecuting attorney Keith Watanabe discussed the necessity for showing each photo of the deceased victim, such as the one that shows the actual bullet wound in the center of her chest, Kearney agreed that all of them but one could be presented. A total of 15 pictures will be shown to the jury.
Dontaye Henderson was arrested at a bus station in St. Louis, Mo., just days after his wife’s murder, and flown back to San Diego County to face charges including murder and kidnapping.
Since 2003, Dontaye Henderson had been in and out of prison for a spousal rape conviction of a former wife and then for parole violations.
On the day of Tamara Henderson’s murder, he was wearing a GPS ankle bracelet as a condition of his parole, which also stipulated he could not possess a gun, and police later found the cut-off tracker in a trash can at a nearby hotel.
The gun that was allegedly used in the murder was also recovered.
Authorities claim that afterward, Dontaye Henderson kidnapped a co-worker and her toddler child and forced the co-worker to drive him out of town.
A Jan. 1, 2011, text message later retrieved from a phone Dontaye Henderson used shows that within just a few hours of his wife’s death, a text was sent by him to a former girlfriend he dated eight years ago, that said, “I’ve left my wife for good. I’m flying out to see you.”
Those same court documents also reveal that on Dec. 28, 2010, that same former girlfriend had sent nude photos of herself to Dontaye Henderson.
In June 2011, a judged ruled Dontaye Henderson was competent to stand trial.
In August 2011, Dontaye Henderson caused a delay in his hearing after he intentionally rammed his head into a police car upon being transported to court, which caused an injury.
San Diego County Superior Judge Daniel Goldstein said that Dontaye Henderson’s conduct was likely intentional.
At the rescheduled hearing, Dontaye Henderson told the judge that he didn’t want to be present in the courtroom, so Judge K. Michael Kirkman allowed him to listen from a nearby cell.
At an October 2011 hearing, Dontaey Henderson was reported to have shouted odd answers at the judge and reportedly hid his face from the television cameras after an attorney entered his not guilty by reason of insanity plea.
But later that same month, Dontaye Henderson withdrew the plea and changed it to a standard not-guilty plea.
But the trial has begun, and a jury will decide if he committed first-degree murder, second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter, Watanabe said.
For the Billups family, the trial will mark the end to a year filled with court dates.