Sisters Carry Painful Memories of Father's Death
April 27, 1991
Their eyes fill with tears when they remember that Friday night.
It was 23 years ago, but the three sisters still recall it in detail.
Ebony Henderson was 10 years old and begged her father to stay home with her that night. She even tried following him out the door several times, but each time he hurried her back inside.
He told her to lock the door, not open it for anyone and to go to bed.
He’d be back, he told her.
Sometime later, his step-daughter Diane Booker, who was 22 at the time, saw the 34-year-old at the convenience store where she worked off Tenth Street.
They talked and made plans to meet for drinks when she finished work in a few hours. He bought a long-neck bottle of Budweiser, and she watched him walk out the door.
That was the last time any of his seven children and step-children saw him alive.
Lakeland police found Fredrick “Skip” Henderson dead from a single gunshot wound to his back shortly after midnight on April 27, 1991, in the yard of a house at 1224 N. Virginia Ave.
After more than two decades of investigating, police have yet to figure out who killed him.
And Detective Brad Grice said he hopes the community will help give Henderson’s family some answers.
“There’s certainly more witnesses out there,” Grice said. “We’d love to have that right person who actually witnessed it come forward.”
As part of a continuing series in partnership with the Lakeland Police Department, The Ledger is profiling many of the department’s 37 cold cases and unsolved homicides.
The detectives hope that with a little extra time to focus on the unsolved homicides and with help from the community, they’ll be able to solve more of the cases. And, in turn, bring closure to many more families.
By the time officers arrived at the scene, news of Henderson’s death had already started spreading around Lakeland.
Booker said she remembers a friend rushing into the convenience store and shouting that something had happened to her stepdad. Without thinking, she left a store full of customers and ran to where Henderson was lying.
Sherelle Williams, who was 15, got to the scene shortly after her sister. She saw Henderson’s body at the edge of a fence in the yard. She couldn’t go any further.
Henderson’s older sister, Brenda Henderson Shaw, said her brother was like a mother and a father to his seven children and stepchildren.
Their mother, Wanda, was often in-and-out of the house, sometimes leaving for more than a week, Booker said. So, Henderson worked several jobs, and cooked, cleaned and cared for his children.
He was a loving father and a great male role model for his sons, who were 2 and 3 years old when he was killed, his daughters said. He was the glue that held them all together.
After his death, many of the children were split up and went to live with family members in Live Oak and Miami. And all of them struggled to cope, Booker said.
They missed him on birthdays and on holidays.
They missed him when Ebony Henderson got married and he wasn’t there to walk her down the aisle and give her away. Her brothers stood in his place.
Now, 23 years later, his family is still trying to come to terms with Henderson’s death.
Shaw said she misses her younger brother every day, and she’s saddened that his case has gone unsolved for so many years.
“I’m upset because it’s taken so long for someone to speak up and do something about it, like he was nobody,” she said. “But he was somebody.”
Booker said she knows someone has to have more information about what happened that night.
And her family is begging them to come forward with it.
Grice, the detective, said he’s heard several stories over the years about what might have happened that night, and he’s looking for anyone with information — even hearsay — to call him.
“We would love to just know the truth,” Grice said. “There were other people out there at that particular time who never did come forward. I just don’t know their names.”
Stephanie Allen can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7550.