A husband accused of killing his wife the day before Thanksgiving had previous domestic violence cases dating back to 1998, court records show.
Stephon Henderson, a 59-year-old Lexington resident, is alleged to have shot and killed his wife, 47-year-old Talina Henderson, at their home on Bay Colony Lane Nov. 23.
Talina Henderson had filed for an emergency protection order just three days before she was fatally shot, according to court documents. She alleged her husband was armed and dangerous, and verbally and emotionally abusive. She claimed there were weapons in the home.
Talina Henderson was not the first woman to file for a protection order against Stephon Henderson. An emergency protection order was requested in 2014 when a victim alleged that Stephon Henderson had "hit (them) in the face open handed while they were (pinned) to the bed," according to court documents.
The order was granted by Timothy Philpot, a former Fayette County family court judge. Philpot ordered that Stephon Henderson be restrained from committing further acts of abuse or threats of abuse, and that he be restrained from disposing of, or damaging any property, according to court documents.
Prior to that, Stephon Henderson was found guilty of fourth-degree aggravated assault (spousal abuse), which is a misdemeanor, in June 1998. At that time, he was sentenced to 90 days in jail with 83 of those days suspended. Henderson also received a sentence of supervised probation for two years.
Stephon Henderson had also been previously convicted on felony drug charges and was not allowed to own a gun as a convicted felon, according to court records.
Talina Henderson did not receive an emergency protection order after Fayette Circuit Judge Traci Brislin found there was "no imminent threat" to issue one.
On Tuesday, an employee with Brislin's office told the Herald-Leader the judge had "no comment."
Police recommended that wife file EPO against her husband
Talina Henderson had filed for divorce on Nov. 21 - just a day after she filed for the protection order. In the order, she wrote that her husband had threatened her if she continued with the divorce. He also said he would "make up lies about her," according to Talina Henderson's petition for a protection order.
According to court documents, the couple had been staying in their residence together but were separated. He was on one side of the house and she was on the other.
On the day the petition was filed, she said he had barged into her room in a threatening manner and refused to allow her to have any space. She wrote in the petition that she was not allowed to close any doors.
"Tonight when he was threatening me, he was so close to me that I was afraid of being hit or hurt," Talina Henderson stated in her Nov. 20 petition. "I called the police and was recommended to file this EPO because as they were talking to him they could hear the anger that he had in his voice." Henderson filed her summons on Sunday, Nov. 20, and was killed three days later.
How the emergency protection order process works
Carl Devine, a Fayette County family court judge, said that if someone files for an EPO outside of a business day, an on-call judge will receive text and email notifications to notify them of the filing. If the judge doesn't respond within 30 minutes, the notification is sent to additional judges. If no one responds, the domestic violence court clerk calls the judges.
When reviewing a petition for an emergency protection order, judges base their decision off of Kentucky Revised Statute 403.720 to determine if there is an immediate threat of abuse or domestic violence.
Petitions for emergency protection orders don't include documentation of previous criminal or domestic violence history, Devine said. Petitioners aren't always aware they can include information on past acts of aggression to add context.
"We don't get any history between these parties, or either party as individuals," he said. "We don't have anything else to go on besides what is in that petition. ... We will not have the information they have an EPO history or domestic violence history.
"It is very important that the person in the position of filing know to be as comprehensive about the background and what has transpired that has caused them to be in fear."
He said it is especially important for victims to note in the petition if a weapon has been used or threatened.
"If there is a weapon involved, or has been involved, or a threat of a use of firearm that they put it in the petition because that is going to make a difference - in my view - of what is really going on here," Devine said.
During normal business hours throughout the week, a victim advocate is present at the courthouse to help petitioners fill out their narrative, and can advise them on what to include. However, on weekends, there is no advocate available at the courthouse. Devine said implementing an on-call victim advocate could be an area where the system could be improved.
Devine stressed that all family court judges are dedicated to the safety of the public.
"Not one of the (family court judges) is not dedicated to making sure that they do absolutely everything that they can to protect people and children," he said. "Any representation and thought process otherwise is a complete misnomer."
The judge can decide to grant an immediate order to separate the parties if they believe there is an immediate threat. The case can then go to a hearing.
At the hearing, the judge can determine if a domestic violence order is necessary. In order to receive a domestic violence order, proof of a relationship and circumstances of immediate danger must be established.
If an emergency protection order is not granted, then a summons is served to the alleged perpetrator which notifies them of their need to appear in court.
'Imperative to wrap victims ... in options'
Darlene Thomas, director of the Greenhouse17 Domestic Violence Shelter, said protective orders can be effective tools, but she said victims of domestic violence should have more advocacy and awareness readily available to them regarding their options outside of the criminal justice system.
"The police were correct in referring her to seek a protective order," Thomas said. "They can be and are effective for many victims, however protective orders should be a part of a safety plan. I don't know if she was referred to other services or agencies, but I believe it is imperative to wrap victims who seek protection in options, choices through thorough safety planning."
Thomas stressed the importance of advocacy, and more education for victims to know what information should be put in emergency protection orders so it has a better chance of being granted.
"Victims often don't (understand) what to put in the order such as past threats and abuse, reasons they are afraid, (batterer's) criminal history, if (batterers) have weapons," she said. "That all establishes a pattern of behavior which is what a judge looks for."
Like the case of Talina Henderson, Thomas said the most dangerous time for domestic violence survivors is during a period of separation - when victims are close to leaving, or right after they have left.
Thomas said she hopes there can be a way to learn from the tragedy of Talina Henderson's death and make improvements in the system.
"Let's use this as a way to bring about questions that are necessary to improve our system," Thomas said. "I don't want a system where we point fingers but a system where we learn from that and improve our responses."
Both Devine and Thomas said more education was needed to help the public understand how to reduce domestic violent incidents.
"We have to do better on this and if we don't address the issues of domestic violence on a fundamental basis and try to educate people early - even in school systems - if we don't get this early, domestic violence will overload the court system because of the sheer amount of instances this is happening," Devine said.
The Fayette County Sheriff's Office did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, you can contact the 24-hour crisis hotline at 800-544-2022.