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Dad who beat infant to death and blamed her catastrophic injuries on family’s cat will spend less than a decade in prison

Kristopher Henderson

Kristopher Henderson (Blue Earth County Jail)

A Minnesota father will serve less than a decade behind bars for beating his infant daughter to death and blaming the baby’s injuries on one of the family’s cats.

Blue Earth County District Judge Gregory J. Anderson on Tuesday sentenced 41-year-old Kristopher Henderson to 15 years in prison after entering an Alford plea to one count of second-degree unintentional murder in the brutal slaying of 2-month-old Adaline Henderson, court documents reviewed by Law&Crime show.

An Alford plea is functionally equivalent to a guilty plea in that it results in a conviction, but it allows a defendant to maintain their claim of innocence while conceding that the state has sufficient evidence to convict them at trial.

Under Minnesota state law, Henderson — who was credited with 526 days already served — is only required to serve two-thirds of his sentence in prison, which amounts to about 8.5 years. The remainder of the sentence will be served on supervised release. As part of a plea deal, prosecutors dismissed several other felony charges against Henderson, including manslaughter, first-degree assault, and malicious punishment of a child.

According to a copy of the criminal complaint filed against Henderson, he and the child’s mother on the evening of Sept. 23 brought the baby to a local hospital with a series of horrific injuries, including two broken legs, multiple fractured ribs, and bleeding in the brain. Due to the severity of the infant’s injuries, medical personnel decided to transfer the child to the Mayo Clinic’s child facility in Rochester for more specialized treatment.

In an interview with investigators, the mother said that her daughter was fine before she left home for work earlier that day. She said she fed the child in the morning then put her back down to sleep and left.

The mother worked until approximately 6 p.m. but said that Henderson texted her at around 5 p.m. to inform her that he had caught the family’s 19-pound cat “laying on” their infant daughter. Henderson did not tell her to come home and check on the child.

Upon returning home, the mother said that her daughter’s eyes looked like they were “bulged out” of her head. The mother said she called her own mother and after discussing her daughter’s condition, decided to bring her to the emergency room. They arrived at the hospital at approximately 7 p.m.

Investigators then interviewed Henderson. Court documents stated that he initially told investigators that he had no idea how his daughter sustained her injuries. However, he then went on to claim that she was injured by the family’s cat.

Doctors who had treated the little girl told police that the infant’s injuries were consistent with “non-accidental trauma” and could not have been caused by a cat.

Court documents stated that hospital officials informed police the infant showed “little to no brain activity” after six days of treatment,  categorizing her chances for recovery as “grim,” which prompted “end of life conversations,” though the baby was ultimately pronounced dead on Nov. 3.

In a follow-up interview with detectives on Oct. 1, Henderson eventually admitted that he might have been “a little rough” with the infant when changing her diaper. He further admitted that on the day his daughter was hospitalized he had “cradled the child face down in his arms and struck her back more forcefully than usual for what he estimated was five minutes,” police wrote.

When asked if he struck his daughter with enough force to break her ribs, Henderson “said that he did,” the complaint states.

The Blue Earth County District Attorney’s Office did not immediately return Law&Crime’s request for comment on why they agreed to the Alford plea.

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.