The Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office investigator who helped solve two high-profile crimes late last year has been named Investigator of the Year.
Kelly Henderson, who is assigned to the Crimes Against Children Section, investigates the most difficult cases the Sheriff's Office encounters. Last year, she investigated 55 child abuse cases, four unattended deaths, two homicides, one home invasion robbery, 23 sexual batteries (20 involving child victims) and 16 lewd/lascivious molestation cases all involving children, some as young as 3, according to a news release from the Sheriff's Office.
In November she was named the lead investigator in one of the most difficult cases in recent memory: the murder of 3-year-old Adelynn Merrell. Initially dispatched as a possible abduction, Henderson took on the tasks of assessing the scene and interviewing the mother. She quickly realized the scene did not support the abduction theory and saw through the mother's story. She challenged the mother with the facts and convinced her to tell the truth, the news release said.
Her outstanding interview skills and empathy led the mother to confess that her boyfriend had killed the child and dumped her body in the woods.
While this was a team effort, Henderson's tenacity and ability to remain focused and calm while under extreme pressure directly led to the solving of this case and the quick arrest of all parties.
Less than a week later, she was selected to take the lead in a second homicide in which the suspect hid the victim’s body behind a makeshift wall in the home. While still juggling the tasks associated with the previous case, she took the lead and worked through this very confusing case and develop probable cause to believe that Barbard Wozniak killed her husband.
Kelly’s ability to multi-task, stay focused and see the investigation through to the end led directly to the solving of this homicide, the release said.
Given the timeline of these two cases, Henderson testified in both cases before the Grand Jury on the same day. Both of these offense reports were about 75 pages in length with more than 1,850 pieces of evidence. Her intellect and ability to recall information and convey facts in a convincing and understandable manner directly led to first-degree murder indictments in both cases.