By Bill Spinks
A murder case from eastern Ellis County that’s almost a decade old may soon be getting a second look on cable television’s Oxygen Network.
The long-running true-crime series "Snapped" will take a deep dive into the case of Debra Ruth Henderson, who was arrested and found guilty in the murder of Marian Parsons, a neighbor of hers, who was last seen alive on Dec. 1, 2010.
The episode is in the early stages of production and an air date has not been announced.
Henderson, who is now 62, was convicted in May 2012 of Parsons’ murder and sentenced to life in prison, and also convicted of three counts of credit card abuse in connection with the case. On Sept. 19, 2013, the Texas Court of Appeals in Waco rejected Henderson’s appeal.
Of all female inmates in the Crain Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, where Henderson is presently incarcerated, only 20 are serving life sentences without parole (all for murder). Henderson will be 94 years of age before she becomes eligible for parole. Until then, her projected release date according to the TDCJ is Jan. 1, 9999, which falls on a Friday.
On March 19, 2011, Henderson’s husband found a human skull in a field behind Henderson’s rural residence in the 4600 block of Farm-to-Market 879 near Palmer, then-Sheriff Johnny Brown said. Investigators also responded to the scene and after further search of the property, human remains were located in a shallow grave.
Henderson was arrested that same Saturday on a warrant for three counts of credit card abuse relating to the case, of which she was eventually convicted. Henderson bonded out the next day, but was re-arrested the following Monday on a murder charge.
Parsons was last seen at about 11:30 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2010, then-sheriff’s Lt. James Saulter said in a previous Daily Light interview, saying her last known phone contact with someone was at 3:59 p.m. that day.
The sheriff’s department was notified Dec. 3 that Parsons hadn’t returned home, with investigators pursuing leads since.
At Henderson’s trial, mountains of circumstancial evidence suggested that Henderson murdered her neighbor. Testimony revealed that a 9mm handgun was recovered from a cattle pond on her property.
Saulter said investigators were able to ascertain that the 5-foot-5 tall Parsons went to IHOP in Ennis on Dec. 1 with Henderson, arriving there at 9:28 a.m. and leaving at 10:05, before going back to Henderson’s home.
Parsons’ boyfriend arrived at his and Parsons’ home on FM 879 that evening at about 8:30 to find their front gate locked and her pickup unlocked in the driveway, according to the sheriff’s reports.
"Her boyfriend went into the residence and said the door knob was locked, however, the dead bolt wasn’t, which was uncommon," Saulter said. "Her keys were inside on the table and all of her clothes and accessories, personal hygiene items, were still at the residence. The only thing missing was her purse and its contents.
"After the boyfriend was home several hours, he began to get worried and called (Henderson) to see if she had been with her, if she was there or if she knew where she was at," Saulter added. "The neighbor said she was unsure of her whereabouts and hadn’t seen her since she’d left her house earlier in the morning."
The sheriff’s office was subsequently contacted, with a missing person’s report filed.