Why was Kenneth Eugene Smith executed? Alabama killer put to death using nitrogen gas, but what was his crime?

Mugshot of Kenneth Smith
Kenneth Eugene Smith was a cold-blooded killer of Elizabeth Sennett. Pic credit: AL Dept. of Corrections

Alabama has become the first state and first place anywhere in the world to use nitrogen hypoxia as an execution method after the state put killer Kenneth Eugene Smith to death yesterday evening.

The case has garnered controversy and some outcry as Smith and his defense team argued that the new execution method could amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Smith had two last-minute appeals refused, and the 58-year-old was finally put to death at 8.25 p.m. CT on Thursday at the William C Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama.

The convict reportedly writhed in the gurney for about 22 minutes before he passed away.

But why did Smith find himself in this situation? Smith was convicted of murdering 45-year-old Elizabeth Dorlene Sennett on March 18, 1988 in Sheffield, Colbert County, Alabama.

Elizabeth was the wife of a Church of Christ pastor, Charles Sennett, and it was this so-called man of God who had arranged for his wife to be murdered.

Preacher Charles Sennett hired Kenneth Eugene Smith to kill his wife, Elizabeth Sennett

Sennett was having an extra-marital affair and had gotten himself into financial problems. The preacher decided to have his wife killed so he could pocket her life insurance money.

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He recruited Billy Gray Williams to help him, and Williams arranged for Smith and another man, John Forrest Parker, to do the crime.

Sennett agreed to pay Smith and Parker each $1,000 to kill Elizabeth.

Colbert County Sheriff Ronnie May later recalled a gruesome scene at the Sennett home where Elizabeth had been stabbed and beaten with a fire implement. The scene had been made to look like a home invasion.

May later told the press, “She fought it and fought hard. It was horrific to me. You feel for the victim and what they went through – and the horror she went through in her last minutes.”

Mugshot of John Forrest Parker
John Forrest Parker was executed in 2010 for killing Elizabeth Sennett. Pic credit: AL Dept. of Corrections

Sennett made the 911 call. He told the operator that his wife had no pulse, but when the paramedics later told him there was a pulse, he looked shocked and upset. Elizabeth was later pronounced dead at the hospital.

Kenneth Smith and accomplice Parker’s names were given to the cops by a member of the public

The police got a lucky break when a member of the public called the Crimestoppers hotline and gave them Smith and Parker’s names.

Smith, Parker, and Williams subsequently confessed to their roles in the crime. However, Smith always maintained he had been at the murder but had not personally killed Elizabeth.

In a police interview with Sennett, an officer mentioned Smith’s name to him, and he went “beet red.” The preacher went home and confessed to his family that he had ordered Elizabeth’s death. He then shot himself in the cab of his pickup truck.

Williams was sentenced to life without parole, and Parker was executed by lethal injection in 2010.

Elizabeth Sennett smiles in a family pic
Elizabeth Sennett’s life was cruelly cut short. Pic credit: Family pic

This week, Elizabeth’s son, Chuck Sennett, said of the controversy surrounding Smith’s execution, “They didn’t ask Mama what method she wanted. He just did it. So why are we having to sit here and go through this with him?”

What were Kenneth Eugene Smith’s last words?

Elizabeth’s killer continued to condemn Alabama for conducting the execution right up to the very end. His last words were recorded as: “Tonight Alabama causes humanity to take a step backwards. Thank you for supporting me. Love all of you.”

As the gas was administered, Smith reportedly smiled and nodded at his family, saying, “I love you.”

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