A Spotsylvania County judge has sentenced a Newport News man to 58 years in prison for killing a stranger who gave him a ride and then stuffing his body in the trunk of the car, prosecutors said yesterday.
William O. Henderson, 26, was convicted in March of murder, carjacking and firearms charges in the May 2004 death of John Register, 21, of Spotsylvania. Register disappeared May 6 after he got off work at the Super 8 motel, and witnesses told police that he had offered to give a stranger a ride. His body was found two weeks later in the trunk of his car on a quiet Newport News street.
Register was married and had two young children.
Henderson told Newport News police that he shot Register by accident as Register was driving him to the home of Henderson's sister in Spotsylvania. While defense attorneys said the wound to the back of Register's head was an exit wound, prosecutors argued that it was the entrance wound, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Thomas Shaia said.
Shaia said Henderson had purchased a large amount of marijuana in the Spotsylvania area and "was afraid to take the bus home," so he wanted Register's car. Before Thursday's sentencing, defense attorneys told the judge that incarcerating Henderson would cost $491,000 a year because he is a hemophiliac.
Circuit Court Judge Herman A. Whisenant Jr. followed the jury's decision for Henderson. Under Virginia law, judges can accept or decrease a jury's sentence.