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Henderson Gets June Hearing

Man accused of embezzling reward fund motions for plea withdrawal.

The man accused of embezzling the money he had collected for information about the death of Erica Smith in 2003 may get his day in court after all.

While Roosevelt Henderson was not present, Friday, May 25, one of his lawyers, Jennifer Wexton, told Judge Burke F. McCahill Henderson filed a motion to withdraw his February Alford plea. In an Alford plea, a defendant pleads guilty, but maintains his or her innocence.

"He has maintained his innocence throughout," Wexton said. "As it hit him what was happening, he didn’t want to move forward."

Henderson was originally scheduled for sentencing Friday, May 18, but the proceedings were continued at the request of his Henderson’s attorney.

HENDERSON IS accused of taking money from two different accounts he set up after Erica Heather Smith disappeared and her body was later discovered. The case remains unsolved.

One of the accounts was for a reward for anyone with information about the case. The second account was for a foundation, intended to be used for a possible educational scholarship or other fund in Erica's name.

In August, a judge found there was enough evidence to move forward with the embezzlement case, but did not support the second charge of money laundering that Henderson was also facing. In September, Henderson was indicted by a grand jury on the embezzlement charge.

Several week ago, Henderson retained new counsel, Joe Ritenour, replacing attorney Raymond Kline. Ritenour filed the motion for the Alford plea withdrawal.

If he is found guilty, Henderson faces a range of possible sentences, from up to one year in the county jail and a fine of $2,500 to up to 20 years in a state prison.

A hearing on the plea withdrawal is scheduled for Friday, June 29, at 9 a.m., in Leesburg.

— Erika Jacobson