A former police officer who killed his ex-girlfriend and himself in her Huntersville home underwent an involuntary psychiatric evaluation after telling co-workers he intended to harm her.
But police told the family of Elisa Meryl Slutzky that they gave Kenneth Dale Henson his guns back because state law prevented them from charging him, her father told the Observer.
A little over three months later, Slutzky, 47, and Henson, 55, of Hickory were found dead of gunshot wounds in Slutzky’s home in the 12300 block of Cross Meadow Road, off McCoy Road. Huntersville Police and the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the deaths a murder-suicide.
Slutzky’s father, Don Slutzky, told the Observer his daughter’s death might have been prevented if not for a loophole in state law.
In June 2016, Hickory police took Henson to Frye Regional Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation and removed weapons from his home, Don Slutzky said Hickory police told him.
Police obtained involuntary commitment papers on Henson after one of his co-workers at tape manufacturer Shurtape in Hickory told police Henson made threats against Elisa Slutzky, Don Slutzky said. An incident/investigation report provided by police to the Observer on Thursday confirms police involuntary committed Henson. Police also seized nine firearms worth a total of $3,750 from Henson, the report shows.
Police, however, were unable to charge Henson with communicating threats because Henson didn’t make the threat directly to Elisa Slutzky or ask his co-workers to tell Slutzky he planned to harm her, Don Slutzky said Hickory Deputy Police Chief Maj. Reed Baer told him. Henson would have had to do either for police to charge him under state law, Don Slutzky said.
In late November or early December 2016, Henson showed up at the Hickory Police Department and requested his guns back. Police first checked if Henson had outstanding warrants. When they found Henson had no pending charges, they returned his weapons, Slutzky said Baer told him.
Baer declined to confirm what Slutzky said the major told him about why police couldn’t file the charge or when police returned Henson’s guns, because those details are not in the public police report. He said he could release no details that are not in the report without a court order. The report also doesn’t say where Henson was committed.
It is unclear how long Henson was committed. A Frye Regional spokeswoman said federal patient privacy laws prevent the hospital from confirming whether Henson was even admitted.
Henson was a law enforcement officer in Lenoir and Hickory before working at Shurtape, according to his obituary.
He was hired as a Lenoir officer in March 1997 and left the department in April 1999, a Lenoir police spokeswoman said. She did not know why he left the department. Henson was a Hickory police officer about 25 years ago, a department spokeswoman said after the murder-suicide.
Henson’s ex-wife – not Slutzky – filed a domestic violence complaint and obtained a temporary restraining order against him in 2012, court records show. He was convicted of what is now driving while impaired in 2010 and received prayers for judgment in 2007 for communicating threats and assault by pointing a gun, both misdemeanors, according to court records.
Don Slutzky, 82, said his daughter cut off a relationship with Henson about a year ago. He said he’d met Henson only once.
He said his daughter helped “hundreds if not thousands” of people as a weight-loss consultant.
Elisa Slutzky was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Maryland.
She was so good as a Jenny Craig weight-loss consultant in Maryland that countless people sought her out over others, her brother, Howard, said. That’s because she was compassionate and genuinely cared for them, said Howard Slutzky, a psychology professor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.
Don Slutzky said he hopes that by publicizing what he calls a “quirk” in state law that maybe someday the law will be strengthened and save others.
“It still could have happened,” Don Slutzky said of Henson killing his daughter. “But there is a quirk in the law, and that quirk doesn’t protect people. The (state) law didn’t protect my daughter.”
Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak