Alabama executes man convicted of murder-for-hire in the death of preacher’s wife

The state of Alabama has set a date for the execution of Kenneth Eugene Smith, for his part in the 1988 murder-for-hire of a preacher's wife. Smith was sentenced by judicial override.

Alabama is about to execute a man who was convicted of the 1988 murder-for hire slaying of a preacher’s wife. However, a jury recommended that he be sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death.

On Thursday, Kenneth Eugene Smith (57), will be administered a lethal injection in a South Alabama prison. Prosecutors claimed that Smith was one of two men who were each paid $1,000 to murder Elizabeth Sennett for her husband. Sennett was in deep debt and wanted to collect insurance.

Elizabeth Sennett, a married woman, was found dead at their home in Alabama’s Colbert County on March 18, 1988. According to the coroner, the victim was stabbed eight times in her chest and once on each of her necks. Charles Sennett Sr., her husband and pastor of Westside Church of Christ, in Sheffield, committed suicide one week after the wife’s death. Court documents show that the murder investigation began to focus on him.

Smith’s last appeals focused on state’s problems with intravenous line access at the two lethal injections. The state had a midnight deadline and one execution was completed after a delay. Smith’s lawyers also pointed out that judges can no longer sentence inmates to death if they are recommended by a jury.


John Forrest Parker was the second man convicted of the murder. He was executed in 2010. “I’m sorry. I don’t expect you to ever forgive me. Before he was executed, Parker told the victims’ sons that he truly regretted his actions.

According to court documents, Smith stated to police that John and I had “agreed to do the crime” but that he took things from the house in order to make it appear like a burglary. According to court documents, Smith claimed that he had agreed to beat Elizabeth Sennett but did not intend on killing her.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Smith’s request for review of the constitutionality his death sentence.

Alabama Department of Corrections has provided this photo of Kenneth Eugene Smith. Smith was convicted of the 1988 murder-for hire slaying of a preacher’s wife. Smith, 57 years old, will receive a lethal injection in a South Alabama prison on November 17, 2022. (Alabama Department of Corrections via AP

Smith was first convicted in 1989. A jury voted 10-2 for a death sentence. The judge then imposed it. In 1992, Smith’s conviction was overturned by an appeal. In 1996, he was again tried and convicted. The jury recommended that Smith be sentenced to life by a unanimous vote of 11-1. However, a judge overruled the jury’s recommendation, and sentenced Smith the death penalty.

Alabama was the last state to end the practice of allowing judges to override the sentencing recommendations of death penalty juries in 2017. However, the change was not retroactive so it did not affect Smith and other death row inmates.

Alabama’s Equal Justice Initiative said Smith will be the first state prisoner to be executed by judicial override since the practice was stopped.


Smith filed a lawsuit against state to stop his execution due to problems with recent lethal injections. Smith’s lawyers cited the July execution of Joe Nathan James Jr. that an anti-death penalty group claimed had been canceled. These claims were denied by the state. Smith’s lawsuit was dismissed by a federal judge last month. However, the judge cautioned prison officials that they must follow established protocols when carrying out Thursday’s execution plan.

The state halted the execution of Alan Miller in September because he had difficulty getting to his veins. Miller stated in court that the prison staff had poked him with needles for more than an hour. At one point they even left him hanging vertically from a gurney, before declaring they would be stopping for the night. Officials at the prison said that they had to stop because there was a midnight deadline for executions.

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