"Kayla was sunshine in every person she knew," her mother said in a statement

By Harriet Sokmensuer
September 09, 2020 01:38 PM
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Kayla Hensley
Buncombe County Schools

A North Carolina teen has been sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to fatally stabbing his older sister.

On Tuesday, 17-year-old Claude Henderson II pleaded guilty to second- degree murder in the 2017 death of his older sister Kayla Dezaray Hensley, according to a release from the Buncombe County District Attorney's Office.

Hensley, 18, was found dead near a dumpster in a mobile park home in Buncombe County on Nov. 11, 2017. She was found with lacerations to her neck.

During an interview with authorities, her younger brother, then 14, confessed to killing her. Authorities established Hensley was killed inside her family home.

Henderson was initially charged with first-degree murder. However, a defense-initiated forensic psychiatric evaluation questioned whether he possessed the specific intent to premeditate and deliberate before the murder due to his youth and immaturity and other diagnostic factors, according to prosecutors.

The charge of first-degree murder requires the state to prove the element of specific intent to commit the crime with premeditation and deliberation beyond a reasonable doubt. Second-degree murder does not require proof of premeditation and deliberation.

During a search of Hensley's home, investigators seized three pocket knives and a box cutter, according to the Asheville Citizen Times. A canvas belt found around Hensley's neck was also filed as evidence.

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At the time of Hensley's death, her mother released a statement calling her her hero for all she overcame in her life.

"She was the best thing that ever happened to me and will be missed by so many," Susan Maltry told WLOS. "She is and will always be my hero. In 18 years she has [brought] me so much. Kayla was sunshine in every person she knew. And she didn’t know a stranger, she would talk up a storm to anyone. She has overcome many downfalls in life. She was born with CP and was told she would never walk, she walked. She was born deaf, and had cochlear implants and was able to hear. If anyone told her she couldn’t, she made sure to prove them wrong. She was an amazing girl! There’s nothing I could say to make people see how truly blessed I was to have her in my life. She was and always will be my hero."

Henderson was sentenced to 16 to 25 years in the North Carolina Department of Adult Corrections with credit for three years for time served since the 2017 killing.