Rivercrest murder suspect booked into Angelina Co. jail

Published: Jun. 17, 2014 at 10:20 PM CDT
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Justin Welch makes his first court appearance in Angelina County. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Justin Welch makes his first court appearance in Angelina County. (Source: KTRE Staff)
Justin Welch mug shot (Photo source: Angelina Co. Sheriff's Office)
Justin Welch mug shot (Photo source: Angelina Co. Sheriff's Office)
Rosalind Smith mug shot (Photo source: Angelina County Jail)
Rosalind Smith mug shot (Photo source: Angelina County Jail)
Elisha Henson (Photo source: Angelina County Sheriff's Office)
Elisha Henson (Photo source: Angelina County Sheriff's Office)

ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Editor's note: This story contains some graphic sexual language.

The Lufkin man charged with killing an Angelina County woman has been booked into jail. 22-year-old Justin Welch was captured Monday in San Antonio and was transported to the Angelina County jail early Tuesday.

Welch is charged with first-degree felony murder in the death of 30-year-old Elisha Henson. Bond has been set at $250,000. Henson's body was found on May 10 after a group of children discovered a body in a wooded area in the Rivercrest community.

Henson was last seen driving her vehicle on April 27, according to the Sheriff's Office. Her family filed a missing persons report with law enforcement on May 1.

"The Texas Rangers were able to locate Welch in the San Antonio area and work with local authorities to capture him," said Angelina County Sheriff Greg Sanches. "We had a pretty good idea he might be in that area. I understand that he had family living there."

While being transported to the Angelina County Jail, Welch statedthat he was innocent.

"I really hope they find out who did it. I really do, with all myheart. I mean that," Welch said.

According to the arrest affidavit East Texas News obtained Tuesday morning, Welch strangled Henson by putting an electrical cord around her neck on April 26.

Welch was interviewed by Texas Rangers Steve Rayburn and Travis Brazil at the Angelina County Sheriff's Office on May 12. Lt. Pete Maskunas of the Angelina County Sheriff reviewed the recordings and determined there were a number of inconsistencies between Rosalind Welch Smith and Welch's accounts of what happened on April 26.

Initially, Welch said he knew Henson but had not seen her in several months. In addition, Welch told the Texas Rangers that Henson had tried to have sex with him, but he refused because she had AIDS, according to the affidavit.

"He was confronted with his feeling regarding her having the AIDS virus and spreading it by having unprotected sex, and he stated he told her it was a crime," the affidavit stated. "After he was told about her death, he was asked again about he felt about her having AIDS and having unprotected sex, he stated he didn't think she should die for it but should maybe be sent to a psych ward."

Later, Welch admitted to letting Henson give him oral sex for a short amount of time. He also told the Texas Rangers that he was concerned that he may have contracted the AIDS virus and that he felt "cheated" because he couldn't have sex with his girlfriend as a result of that possibility.

Welch's version of the story also confirmed much of what Smith told authorities about what happened on the evening of April 26. However, he also said that on the way back from the house in Lufkin, Henson gave him oral sex.

"[Welch] gave information which indicated he knew that Elisha's body was disposed of using her vehicle or a truck, but at no time was it mentioned that her vehicle was used by anyone to dispose of the body," the affidavit stated. "He said he hoped her vehicle would have physical evidence that would clear him of murder. This would indicate knowledge of the method of disposing of the body and confirmed [Smith's] account."

According to the affidavit, Welch took several steps to prevent his DNA from being taken, including putting his cigarette butts and the top portion of his coffee cup in his pocket. After being told about the possibility of his DNA being present on Henson's body, Welch allegedly agreed to be swabbed for a DNA profile.

In addition, the affidavit stated that Welch deleted several messages from his cell phone before he talked to law enforcement. Although he initially said it was because "be didn't want to get in trouble for drug-related texts," he admitted to deleting several texts from Smith that had been sent to him in the week immediately after Henson's death.

Welch also claimed that he didn't know about Henson's death before he came to the sheriff's office to talk to the Texas Rangers, according to the affidavit. The murder suspect also told authorities that he is afraid of what he might do while he is "blacked out on a drug binge."

"Finally, [Welch] was asked by Ranger Rayburn if thought he was going to jail for murder, and [Welch stated, 'If I was in your shoes, that's what I do would do,'" the affidavit stated. "[Welch] believed the person guilty of the murder should get some jail time but should get out when they were too old to hurt anyone, and they should get some counseling."

In a previous KTRE story, Sanches said the department also filed a murder charge against Smith, 41. Smith was arrested in late May in connection to Henson's death. Smith was originally charged with tampering with evidence and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.

According to Smith's arrest affidavit, she told investigators the three of them they had gone to at a house in the 100 street of Virginia Street in Lufkin and 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.

According to the arrest affidavit for Smith's previous charge, Smith drove the 1996 Toyota Camry belonging to Henson for several days knowing that a murder had been committed. The affidavit also stated that the vehicle was used to move Henson's body from a residence in Angelina County to the boat ramp in the River Crest community.

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 stated 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. 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 was picked up again in January 2014 for theft of property between $1,500 and $20,000.

According to the arrest affidavit, Welch and Smith are not related.

In a press release, Sanches said his investigators were assisted by the Texas Department of Criminal Investigations Division, investigators from the local Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission, investigators from the DPS Narcotics Division, Constable Tom Selman, Constable Ray Anthony, Texas Ranger Steve Rayburn, Texas Ranger Travis Brazil, and Crime Scene Specialist Texas Ranger Wendy Wakeman.

Sanches also thanked Jefferson County medical examiners Dr. John Ralston and Dr. John Edwards, Sam Houston State University Forensic Examiner Dr. Joan Bytheway and entomologist Silyl Buchlli.

Henson's mother, Brenda Carrell, said when her daughter contracted HIV she made a bad decision, a decision she had to live with for the rest of her life.

"But nobody had the right to take her away from us," Carrell said.

Carrell further explained, that people judged her daughter for illness and that's what led to her drug problem.

"She wanted people to give her a second chance, and nobody would give her a chance at work," Carrell said.

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