Co-conspirator in death of Pollok woman agrees to 17 years in prison

Co-conspirator in death of Pollok woman agrees to 17 years in prison
Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff
Justin Welch (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Justin Welch (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Elisha Henson (Source: Angelina County Jail)
Elisha Henson (Source: Angelina County Jail)


A 42-year-old Lufkin woman accepted a plea bargain deal of 17 years in prison for her part in the 2014 death of 30-year-old Elisha Henson Thursday.

"It was a very emotional hearing," said District Attorney John Peralta. 

"Whether she was bad or good, she was my daughter," said the victim's mother

Rosalind Welch Smith appeared in Judge Bob Enselmann's 217th Judicial District Court for a plea hearing Thursday morning. As part of the agreement, Smith pleaded guilty to two felony charges with or fabricating evidence and burglary of a habitation. 

Originally, Smith was charged with first-degree felony murder. However, the charge was dropped when she pleaded guilty to the two lesser charges.

"Smith's involvement was after the fact and was limited to assisting Mr. Welch in disposing of the body," said Peralta. 

As part of the agreement, Smith will serve a 17-year prison sentence for the tampering with evidence charge. She will also serve a 10-year sentence for the burglary charge concurrently, or at the same time.

According to the arrest affidavit Smith, drove the 1996 Toyota Camry belonging to Henson for several days knowing that a murder had been committed.

The affidavit goes on to say, the vehicle was used to move Henson's body from a residence in Angelina County to the boat ramp in the River Crest community.

Henson's body was discovered by some children playing in the woods, Saturday, May 10.

"Two little boys that are going to grow up now with only their aunts and their uncles and no mama," said the victim's mother. 

When interviewed by authorities on May 13, Smith told investigators that on April 26 she was told to drive a green 1996 Camry with Henson's body in the back seat, according to the affidavit. The document goes on to say Smith drove the vehicle to the boat ramp where the body was disposed of then Smith continued to drive Henson's vehicle for several days.

The affidavit stated that Smith tried to have the vehicle painted and also destroyed or chopped up but was not able to.

The affidavit goes on to say that on or around the 7th or 8th of May Smith took the vehicle to Groveton where she was able to sell it for scrap.

According to Angelina County jail records, Smith also had three traffic warrants for expired registration, no liability insurance and displaying a fictitious license plate as well as burglary of a habitation.

Smith's arrest record in the county dates back to May 2013 when she was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia and had a warrant for theft by check between $20 and $500.

Smith's co-conspirator Justin Welch, 23, accepted a plea deal of 50 years in prison for killing Henson after he learned that she had HIV. As part of the deal, Welch pleaded guilty to a first-degree felony murder charge.

Welch was arrested in June in San Antonio after the Angelina County Sheriff's Office issued a warrant for his arrest for first-degree murder of Elisha Henson, 30.

An arrest affidavit states Welch killed Elisha Henson, 30, after he learned she had HIV and they had already had sex.

According to another arrest affidavit, Welch's co-conspirator, Rosalind Smith, told investigators the three of them were getting high on meth when Smith talked to Henson about her having HIV.

Welch appeared to have heard the conversation and "appeared astonished to know" Henson had HIV. Smith told investigators that Welch later told her that Henson was dead.

An arrest affidavit states Smith burglarized a home in the 100 block of Anthony Drive while law enforcement was looking for her on May 12. During that time, two deputies were searching the area of John Kolb and Anthony Drive.

The deputies went into the Polk's Pick It Up store located in the 3100 block of Atkinson Drive, and the clerk told them that Smith had been in the store 15 minutes earlier. The clerk told the deputies that Smith had been wearing a pink shirt and blue jean shorts, the affidavit stated. She was also carrying a large brown purse and what appeared to be a black computer bag.

The clerk also said Smith climbed into small, silver car and headed east on State Highway 103 toward John Kolb Road. Later, the ACSO deputies found Smith's car at a residence in the 200 block of Anthony Dr. When the asked the people at the home if they knew Smith, they said that they did and that she walked into the woods nearby after she saw a patrol car drive by the residence.

However, the ACSO deputies couldn't locate Smith because it was raining hard that day.

At about 11:19 p.m. that night, a deputy was dispatched to a home in the 100 block of Anthony Drive in reference to a burglary. The resident told the deputy that she had just gotten home after being gone all day. When she went to the storage building where her washer and dryer are located to get some clothes out of the washer, she noticed that someone had been in the building and scattered things around.

Then when the woman went to open her door, she found that someone had wedged one of her kitchen chairs under the door knob. Once she got inside, the woman found that someone had been in her daughter's room and had thrown clothes all over the room. She also said that someone had gone through her clothes as well.

The deputy continued to talk to the woman as she was picking up all the clothes, and at one point, she found a pink shirt, a pair of blue jean shorts, a pink bra, and a pair of blue women's panties that did not belong to her and were very wet. The clothes matched the description of the ones Smith's acquaintances said she had been wearing when she left, the affidavit stated.

 Later, the woman noticed that a pair of white Nike tennis shoes was missing from her home, and the deputy found a large, wet, brown purse matching the description of the one Smith had been carrying.

Acting on a tip, ACSO deputies found Smith walking along FM 1669 later on May 12. She agreed to go to the sheriff's office, and while she was there, one of the deputies called the burglary victim and asked if she owned a pair of shorts matching the description of the ones Smith was wearing. The burglary victim responded that she did.

The arrest affidavit stated that Smith broke into the home in the 100 block of Anthony Drive and stole a pair of white Nike tennis shoes and a pair of Rue 21 blue jean shorts.

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