York City teen pleads guilty to murdering Craig Henise

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

The daughters of York City murder victim Craig Henise cried as they spoke in court about their father and about the pain their family is still struggling with in the aftermath of his homicide.

"Nothing prepares you to get a phone call ... that your father has been shot," Chelsea Henise told York County Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook on Friday, July 6.

"He will not see his grandchildren grow up," she added.

"My dad was my best friend," Kierra Glover said in court. "I could have called him for anything — anything. What could have warranted him being shot at six times and being (hit) three?"

York City murder victim Craig Henise is shown here with daughter Kierra Glover during happier times.

Craig Henise, 50, of Neater Street, was fatally shot about 8:40 p.m. April 3, 2017, and was found lying on the ground with multiple gunshot wounds at the intersection of West Newton Avenue and Neater Street, York City Police have said.

The lifelong west-end resident was rushed to York Hospital but couldn't be saved.

On Friday, the York City teenager who shot him admitted his guilt in court.

Bernard H. Simmons III, 17, of Salem Avenue, pleaded guilty as an adult to third-degree murder and carrying a firearm without a license.

In exchange for his plea, the prosecution withdrew a charge of first-degree murder.

He was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in state prison and given credit for the 459 days he has already served in prison.

Simmons — who was 16 when he killed Craig Henise — apologized in court.

"Me and Craig, we got into an argument," Simmons told the judge, adding that he walked away, down an alley, and then realized Henise was following him.

"I shot him before I could see what would possibly happen," Simmons said. "I wish this would've never went the way that it went in that situation. ... I'm trying to start fresh and do better."

Can't be fixed: Glover told the judge that she doubts Simmons feels remorse for murdering her father.

Now an adult, Chelsea Henise is shown here as a baby with her father, Craig Henise, who was murdered in April 2017.

"I'll never get to hear him call me 'Sweetness' again," she said. "I don't think there is any sentence on earth that can rectify this."

Glover said her children have been profoundly affected by the death of their grandfather.

"This is something that's not going to end," she said.

The grieving sisters spoke about being tormented by what they witnessed in York Hospital — the blood-soaked hospital bed where their father lay dying, the tubes still attached to him.

"I will never forget the smell of the blood in there," Chelsea Henise said.

Because their father's death was unexpected, there wasn't enough money for a funeral, according to the sisters.

"I had to see him in a cardboard box — like he was nothing," an anguished Glover told Judge Cook.

Glover took exception to a comment made in court by Simmons' mother, Cynthia Kimmons. After apologizing to the Henise family, Kimmons said she too is losing someone because her son will be locked up for years.

But Glover said that's merely a temporary loss.

"(Simmons) still gets to take a breath every day," she said.

Self-defense claim: Defense attorney Korey Leslie said he and Simmons discussed taking the case to trial with a self-defense claim but said he was worried a jury could convict Simmons of first-degree murder.

Bernard Simmons III

In fact, Leslie said, he could see possible outcomes where jurors could have gone either way — convict on first-degree murder or acquit the teen entirely.

"It was not worth risking a first-degree murder conviction and the potential for a sentence of up to life," the defense attorney said.

Chief deputy prosecutor Seth Bortner said the prosecution doesn't believe the killing was done in self-defense.

More:Police: Alleged York City killer's story kept changing

"But the law requires us to disprove that (claim), which can be difficult sometimes," Bortner said.

Simmons' little brother attended Friday's sentencing and was clearly heartbroken watching the convicted murderer being led away by deputies to serve his sentence.

Permanent consequences: "I think (Simmons) appreciates that there are permanent consequences to being in the streets and ... using a gun," Leslie said of his client, and added that many young people don't think about those consequences.

Chelsea Henise, now an adult, is shown here as a baby with her father, Craig Henise, who was murdered in York City on April 3, 2017.

The day after the murder, Simmons went to school at River Rock Academy and confessed to a teacher, who called police.

The teen eventually told police he pulled out a .40-caliber handgun and fired it until it was empty, police said.

Simmons initially told detectives that as he ran home, he stopped at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park along the 300 block of South Penn Street and threw his gun into the Codorus Creek but later claimed he gave the gun to a friend, who gave it to another friend.

Police have confirmed Henise and Simmons lived just yards from the homicide scene and were acquainted.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.