On Jan. 25, 2024, news broke that Kenneth Smith had become the first person executed by nitrogen gas. Kenneth's execution happened in Alabama. Following the news that he had been killed, many wanted to better understand why Kenneth was on death row to begin with.
Kenneth was on death row for murdering Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett in 1988, but he was allegedly hired to commit the act by Elizabeth's husband. Naturally, then, that led many people to want to learn more about Charles Sennett, Sr., and why he had hired men to kill his wife.
Who was Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett's husband?
Elizabeth's husband was Charles Sennett, Sr., a pastor. Charles hired a man named Billy Gray Williams to have his wife killed, and Billy in turn hired Kenneth and John Forrest Parker to assist him in committing the crime.
Charles reportedly hired men to commit the act because he was having an affair. He was also facing mounting debt and wanted to collect the money from his wife's life insurance.
Charles was suspected of having a role in the killing almost immediately, in part because police reported that he had an odd reaction to the news that Elizabeth still had a pulse at the scene. She would later die after being taken to a hospital.
Charles was eventually brought in for questioning, and gave police the name of the killers. He then went to church, confessed to having had an affair, and died by suicide shortly thereafter.
The crime itself was supposed to look like a home invasion gone wrong, and the three men who had been involved in committing the crime were quickly arrested. Now, more than 35 years later, the last of them has died, and the story of Elizabeth's death is finally over.
Kenneth's execution was national news.
Although Elizabeth's case wasn't overly sensational, Kenneth's execution made the news because he was the first person to be executed via nitrogen poisoning, which is an entirely new method of execution. Kenneth survived the state's initial attempts to execute him via lethal injection in 2022. He was denied a last-minute appeal that would have stayed his execution.
Experts have said that killing via nitrogen gas could cause unnecessary pain, or even be described as torture. According to CNN, witnesses to Kenneth's execution say that he survived for more than 10 minutes after the gas was administered, and writhed against his restraints throughout the procedure. Smith's spiritual advisor described the execution as “the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen.”
In a statement, one of Elizabeth's son said that he was glad the execution was over, but that nothing that had happened in there could change what happened to his mother.
“Nothing happened here today that’s going to bring mom back. Nothing,” Mike Sennett said during a news conference. “We’re glad this day is over. All three of the people involved in this case years ago, we have forgiven them.”