Preacher Murdered His Wife Because Divorce Was Considered Unacceptable In His Denomination – What Does This Say About Legalistic Christian Teachings On Divorce?
I watched a televised program about a preacher who hired two hit men to kill his wife of 20+ years, and one comment on this program that stood out to me was one that went something like this:
“He had his wife murdered because divorce was not acceptable in his denomination.”
This murder happened in the late 1980s.
The police detectives started suspecting the Church of Christ pastor, Charles Sennett (Senior), was behind the murder, one reason being, they discovered he was having an affair – and I believe he was having an affair with one of the women in his congregation (how much of this was 100% affair vs. a case of Clergy Sex Abuse I do not know, because the show did not go into great detail about this relationship).
As it turns out, the preacher lied to his mistress, Doris Tidwell.
Sennett lied and told Tidwell that he needed her to give him $3,000 for a legitimate reason (I think he may have told her he wanted to repay a loan) – but in reality, the preacher had to pay two hit men a few thousand to have them bump off his wife, who was about 45 years old at the time.
The mistress gave him the money – which he used to pay for the murder.
The preacher told the two hit men to go to his wife, that his wife should be there alone, and they were welcome to steal anything in his home that they wanted to.
The preacher, I guess, was hoping the police would assume that the case was a break-in, a burglary, that some men broke in to steal his stuff, and his wife just happened to be there, so they killed her.
The two hit men went to the home, knocked on the door or rang the doorbell, spoke with the wife at her front door, and she permitted them into the home. They then killed the wife by beating her to death.
At some point after this, when the police detectives were doing their investigation, Sennett reportedly killed himself.
Here are links about the case – and I have a few remarks about this story under all these links and excerpts:
Charles Sennett [Junior, son of Charles Sennett Sr.] said death is not easy for anybody, right or wrong.
His comments came Thursday just minutes after he witnessed the execution of John Forrest Parker, the man convicted in the 1988 murder-for-hire death of Sennett’s mother, a Colbert County minister’s wife.
Sennett and his brother, Michael, were at Holman Prison and watched Parker, 42, die from lethal injection.
Alabama corrections authorities said Parker was executed at 6:41 p.m. He is the first Shoals resident to die by lethal injection since it began in 1927.
Before the execution, Parker told the Sennett family he was sorry for what he did.
…Parker, a Florence resident at the time, was convicted of capital murder June 6, 1989.
…Elizabeth Sennett, 45, died March 18, 1988, at Helen Keller Hospital in Sheffield after she was brutally beaten and stabbed at her home on Coon Dog Cemetery Road in Colbert County.
Parker, along with Kenneth Eugene Smith and Bill Gray Williams, both also of Florence, are accused of being paid $1,000 each to kill Elizabeth Sennett.
Authorities say Sennett’s husband, who was a minister at Westside Church of Christ in Sheffield at the time, contracted Williams to kill his wife for $3,000. According to court documents, Williams paid Smith and Parker $1,000 each to commit the murder.
…A week after becoming a suspect in the case, the victim’s husband, also named Charles Sennett, shot and killed himself in his son’s backyard.
…Officials who investigated the murder said the underlying motive was that the husband was trying to get out of his marriage and that he was heavily in debt.
…Records indicate Parker and Smith are accused of hitting the victim with a galvanized pipe and then stabbing her while she pleaded with them not to hurt her.
Charles Sennett was many things to many people. When he met the future mother of his children, he portrayed himself as a grieving widower. To the Sheffield congregation where he served as pulpit minister, he appeared to be a man who loved the word of God.
To congregant Doris Tidwell, he presented a man unhappy in his marriage to a profligate wife.
To those who knew him away from Colbert County, he was a sometime high roller who spent money he didn’t have.
If he had lived long enough to be professionally evaluated for his crimes, he would have in all probability been diagnosed as a sociopath, a man who loved only himself and would stop at nothing to get what he thought he deserved in life.
…Doris Tidwell knew her minister as someone who took both an emotional and physical interest in her, someone who seemed to need money through no fault of his own.
When Sennett asked his lover for $3,000.00 to repay a bank loan, she gladly gave it to him. Instead the preacher contacted Billy Gray Williams, a black man who rented property from him.
Williams later contended he didn’t realize his landlord was seeking a hit man, but a Colbert County jury dismissed Williams’ claims, convicting him of felony murder for his role in the slaying of Liz Sennett.
—end of Snippets–
I have several points I’d like to raise about this news story, and I may blog on some of them in the future.
For now, I’d just like to tell you to remember for the purpose of future post(s) I may make that the husband in this news story, Sennett, was a Christian who worked as a preacher, and he had two sons and was married twice (his first wife supposedly died -some suspect he murdered her but framed it to look like a natural death – and he married the second woman, whom he later had murdered).
And for the purposes of this specific post, note that some Christians are so wrong and legalistic about the concept of divorce (i.e., they absolutely forbid it, and they shame and sit in judgment of anyone who divorces) that it played a role in why this man murdered his 45- year- old wife.
That again is according to the television program I watched – I’ve not been able to find any online information stating that, but it was brought up in the program that Sennett’s denomination, Church of Christ, was so adamantly opposed to divorce, Sennett chose to have his wife murdered rather than obtain a divorce!
My good lord, how deviant are the doctrines and biblical interpretations of some denominations, Christians, or churches, that they would induce people to take these steps, to make people feel so trapped, that they believe their only option is to take the life of someone, as though divorce is a more fatal mistake or flaw than murdering another person!
I don’t know about you, but if I’m in a marriage where someone is that incredibly unhappy being with me, I’d much rather they attempt some marriage counseling first, and if that doesn’t work, to go ahead and divorce me, rather than have them murder me, or hire someone else to murder me.
This is what the “permanence view of marriage” amounts to – teaching people who profess to be Christian that divorce is always wrong, no matter what (according to the television program), and it apparently played a part in why this poor woman was murdered.
Shame on any Christian, church, or denomination who teach these doctrines about marriage and divorce. It leads to a lot of unnecessary suffering, and in this particular case, murder.
Of course, that also plays out in other abusive marriages, where Christian men regularly verbally, physically, financially, or sexually abuse their wives, but the wives are told to stay in those marriages by their pastors or denominations, and some of those abused wives are literally beaten to death (or shot or stabbed to death) by those husbands.
Many Christians would rather uphold the institution of marriage than the well- being, safety, and happiness of one or both partners. They have truly turned the marital union into an Idol, something the God of the Bible never intended (Mark 2:27 – Matthew 19:8).
Marriage – and the “male headship” perspective held by Christian gender complementarians in regards to Christian marriage – should never take a priority over the safety and well-being of the people who comprise the union. To believe otherwise is absolutely perverse and can have deadly consequences.
As a never married woman, I have learned to tune out Christian advice on dating, because concerning marital advice, the average Christian – especially if they are complementarian – coach wives to stay in abusive marriages, no matter what.
Why would I, or should I, ever take dating advice from the very same people who think it’s ethical, fair, or wise to tell married women to stay in relationships where they may be beaten to death or shot or stabbed to death by their husbands?