The state of Alabama is preparing to execute Kenneth Eugene Smith on Thursday. If successful, it will be the first death by nitrogen hypoxia in the United States. While the case has gained national attention due to the unusual method of execution, the family of Smith’s victim just wants it to be over.
Charles “Chuck” Sennett, the son of Elizabeth Sennett, spoke with 1819 News just two days before the scheduled execution.
“We just want this to be over with and I am sure his family does, too,” said Sennett. “It’s been 35 years.”
Smith was one of three men convicted in the 1988 murder-for-hire plot of Elizabeth Sennett. Prosecutors said Sennett’s husband, Charles, hired Billy Williams to kill his wife. Williams recruited Smith and John Parker and paid them $1,000 each. Parker was put to death in 2010 and Williams, who was sentenced to life in prison, died behind bars.
The victim’s husband, also named Charles Sennett, quickly became a suspect and took his own life before any charges were filed.
Chuck Sennett was only 25 years old at the time of his parents’ deaths. Although he was away in the U.S. Navy then, he said he spoke with his mother nearly every day.
“She was a homemaker,” he remembered. “She never held a full-time job that I remember but she was a homemaker, housewife, mother, confidant, best friend, however, you want to think of your mother. She was a smart woman, a preacher’s wife, had good values. She had me and my brother towing the line. She wasn’t really strict but she taught us right from wrong. She was an all-American housewife.”
Growing up, Sennett said he never noticed any indication that there was trouble. However, his father did have a nervous breakdown when the kids were younger. The father was put on lithium to help keep him going. It was important for him to keep preaching, so he stayed on the medication and continued to preach, despite some who said he may not be able to preach again. But it was when he took himself off the drug that things took a turn.
“From what I understand, he had taken himself off that drug about a month or two before that happened and that’s when everything went to pot,” Sennett said.
When Sennett and his brother saw what happened to their mother, they knew she fought for her life.
“They stabbed her, I forget how many times, 10 or 15 times, in the neck and head,” Sennett said. “She had scars all over her upper body. Me and my brother went out there to the farm and had to have the carpet replaced, we cleaned the walls, the fireplace, everything. It was just bad. It was bad. And so, she apparently had put up a good fight. It was terrible. It was terrible.”
The state of Alabama attempted to put Smith to death by lethal injection in 2022, but it failed. Sennett said that’s because he dehydrated himself, so it would be difficult to find a vein. He plans to witness the execution this week and hopes it is successful.
“He’s [Smith] actually probably laughing, or has been, because he said he would get out of that first one and he did,” Sennett revealed. “So, this one better go through or we are going to have some serious problems.
Sennett said the system has worked against his family for over three decades.
“It’s been 35 years since all of this happened,” Sennet said. “Alabama’s judicial system sucks. They have the worst one in the union, I think. I don’t know how somebody could have so many appeals, especially after admitting what they’ve done. It’s pitiful. This should’ve been done 30 years ago.”
Sennett said if he could speak with his mom one last time, this is what he would say:
“I would tell her I love you and I miss her,” he said. “I think about her every day. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t thought of her or Dad. I have her picture in my mind, what she looked like and stuff. But then I also have a picture there of her laying in the casket.”
The execution by nitrogen hypoxia is set for Thursday at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.