Mother writes about son’s crime, death in prison
For decades, Marian Clayton has been asked how it was that she ended up raising her grandkids.
Answering wasn’t easy, considering it involved telling them that her son, Mark Henderson, was serving time for rape.
“They really didn’t know about him, didn’t know about the case, and they had a lot of questions,” the Garfield County resident said. “Instead of telling them many times over, I just started to write a book.”
The 74-year-old’s endeavor as an author now is complete. Her self-published book is called “Murder With a Twist.” It’s a mother’s candid account of a double tragedy — not just her coming to terms with the fact that her son was a rapist, but the loss of that son when he was killed in prison four years into his 96-year sentence.
Henderson was convicted of a 1985 crime involving two teenaged girls in Glenwood Springs. The reality was even worse than Clayton first knew. She later learned of evidence that he apparently was a serial rapist, having attacked several other victims.
“That was a such a shock to me. It was pathetic. I think it shows that he was leading a double life, you know?” she said.
Clayton doesn’t exclude herself and her multiple marriages and divorces from scrutiny, exploring how her child’s upbringing contributed to the man he became. At the same time, she addresses chromosomal reasons that might help provide a scientific explanation for his becoming a rapist. She also describes him as having been regretful of what he had done and having recommitted himself to Jesus in prison, something she has taken solace in since his death.
She writes near her book’s end, “Mark is in a far better place than prison. He’s in Heaven and I know I’ll reunite with him when I die. This brings me comfort.”
She devotes the latter part of her book to her son’s murder. She believes that the motive went beyond retribution for him reporting the theft of his property, and involved someone beyond those convicted of killing him.
Clayton’s exposure to criminal proceedings in her son’s case and the cases of those who killed him inspired her to pursue a degree in criminal justice. She serves on the Garfield County Community Corrections Board and is a former business owner now working in the Garfield County Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
She said Glenwood Springs has been a supportive town to her despite her son’s actions. Likewise, while chagrined by his actions, she continued to support her son after his conviction, including by raising his children.
“I know a lot of parents would turn their back on their kids and everything else, but I’m just not that way,” she said.
Marian Clayton is selling her book in Glenwood Springs at the Book Train, where she will have a book signing Aug. 20. She also will be selling it at the farmers market in Glenwood Springs on Aug. 3 and 17.