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FD man pleads not guilty to murder

Pendleton charged in Oct. 2 death of St. Paul’s senior pastor

The Fort Dodge man charged with murder and robbery in the homicide of the Rev. Al Henderson pleaded not guilty in a written arraignment Monday morning.

Joshua Pendleton, 36, faces first-degree murder and first-degree robbery charges after police say he killed Henderson in an Oct. 2 confrontation outside of St. Paul Lutheran Church, 400 S. 13th St.

Henderson was found unresponsive there at approximately 5:45 p.m. that day.

Capt. Ryan Gruenberg, public information officer for the Fort Dodge Police Department, said that injuries visible on Henderson’s body that evening were consistent with the wounds of an assault. He told The Messenger earlier this month that there was no indication of an injury from gunfire, or of any other apparent weapon, such as a knife, used in the alleged assault.

Pendleton’s trial has been scheduled to start Dec. 10, with a pretrial conference scheduled for Dec. 2. Pendleton remains in the Webster County Jail on a $6 million cash-only bail; $5 million for the murder charge and $1 million for the robbery charge.

“It’s the state’s position, given the facts in this case, that the defendant cannot be safely released to the community under these circumstances, so we’re asking for significant cash bonds,” said Webster County Attorney Darren Driscoll at Pendleton’s initial court appearance on Oct. 4.

Police arrested Pendleton within hours of the incident after reviewing surveillance video from St. Paul Lutheran Church, in which they observed a man attempting to gain entry to the building.

Pendleton’s criminal complaints say that he was identified as the man in the video by officers who had previous experience with him.

Officers making contact with Pendleton at his Fourth Avenue South home that evening observed that he wore the same clothing as in the surveillance video from the scene. He also provided officers with Henderson’s cell phone, complaints allege.

Court records reflect Pendleton’s extensive history with charges in the criminal justice system. He has been charged numerous times over the last several years with attacking jailers and assaulting others, many times in conjunction with court-ordered treatment.

First-degree robbery, a class B felony, is punishable by up to 25 years in prison. First-degree murder, a class A felony, is punishable by a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Iowa does not have the death penalty.