August 1, 2014 in City

Vigil after murder-suicide draws families of couple

By The Spokesman-Review
Tyler Tjomsland photoBuy this photo

Wendy Nielsen center, is comforted by friends and family as she embraces her fiance, Gary Kennison Jr., after her speech at a vigil for Kennison’s twin sister Sheena Henderson and husband Christopher Henderson on Thursday at Franklin Park in Spokane.
(Full-size photo)

To help the family

People interested in helping the Henderson children can donate to the Sheena Henderson Memorial Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank. Sheena’s father, Gary Kennison, said he has been told that someone claiming to be Sheena’s sister has been soliciting donations. Sheena did not have a sister, he said, and the family has not received any of the money collected.

A candlelight vigil held in Franklin Park Thursday was not only meant to honor murder victim Sheena Henderson, it was meant to honor her husband, Christopher Henderson, who shot her before killing himself.

Sheena’s father, Gary Kennison, said his son-in-law’s family is suffering, too.

“I hold a grudge for what he did, but against him and his family? Absolutely not,” Kennison said. “They’re victims, too.”

Sheena Henderson was killed July 8 at her workplace, the Rockwood Cancer Treatment Center inside the Deaconess Hospital complex. She is survived by two young children, two brothers and her parents. Kennison and his wife, Karri, are in the process of adopting their grandchildren.

Kennison said Rockwood, which organized the vigil, has been extremely supportive of the family.

“She was part of the Rockwood family,” he said. “They loved my daughter just as I did. I struggle with it every day.”

Sheena Henderson, who grew up in Everett, became a phlebotomist in spite of her fear of needles, Kennison said. She had a ready smile and was always willing to help people.

“She was just the most awesome person,” he said. “She had such a caring soul.”

Kennison said he wants to get a new law passed that if a person is believed to be a threat to themselves or others they must have a mandatory mental evaluation.

“An in-depth one, not one that lasts three hours and there’s no follow-up,” Kennison said.

Spokane Police Department Chaplain Ed Hoffman led the vigil, asking for prayers for the families of both Christopher and Sheena. The gathering was for remembrance and forgiveness, Hoffman said. It wasn’t about focusing on the day of the shooting.

“We’re not here to lay blame on anyone or point fingers,” he said. “We want to remember these individuals for all the days before. There’s two families that have been rocked by this.”

Heather Healy, director of nursing and urgent care at Rockwood, presented the family with a check for $1,700 for the children. The money was donated by Rockwood employees, Healy said.

“We just want to say we loved Sheena,” Healy said. Sheena was beloved by her patients. “She knew each and every one of them by name,” she said. “They will miss her and love her very much.”

Kennison thanked the more than 100 people who attended the vigil.

“She touched so many lives,” he said.

Friends, co-workers and family members spoke about both Hendersons. Staci Vail stepped in front of the crowd and slipped a soft hat off her bald head.

“I have cancer,” she said. “Sheena used to draw my blood. All I can say is that she made cancer better.”

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