Tragedy touches two families

Shortcomings of mental health system apparent after trial

Following one of the most gut-wrenching trials to impact Webster County in recent memory, there was a remarkable display of forgiveness and humanity.

Not long after the jury submitted its verdict in the Scott County Courthouse in Davenport, Kristine Henderson and Mel Pendleton embraced. Her husband, the Rev. Al Henderson, had been killed by his son, Joshua Pendleton.

For that crime, the jury convicted Joshua Pendleton of first degree murder and first degree robbery. District Court Judge Gina Badding will sentence him on June 18.

Al Henderson was a beloved figure in the community. He was the senior pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church and the chaplain for the Fort Dodge police and fire departments, the Webster County Sheriff’s Office and Post 7 of the Iowa State Patrol. Those who knew him recall his trademark way of wrapping up a conversation by saying ”carry on.”

Testimony at the trial revealed that Joshua Pendleton struggled with mental health problems for decades. The situation became so bad that his mother tried to have him committed to a mental health facility just days before Al Henderson’s death outside of his church.

While the justice system has rendered its verdict, there are no winners here. One man is dead; another will spend the rest of his life locked up.

We can think of just one good thing that could come out of this tragedy: a renewed commitment from officials at all levels to create a mental health system that really works for those who need care.

We can’t help but speculate that if Iowa had a better mental health system. Al Henderson would be alive and Joshua Pendleton would be leading a happy and productive life.


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