This is an extremely controversial case; there is no doubt whatsoever that this cold blooded killer was guilty, there’s no denying it. Still, in the end this double murderer had changed so much that many, including the officers who’d taken care of her, fought tooth and nail for her life to be spared. This case asks the question, can a horrible person change? And if so, should that person’s life be spared in certain instances?
Karla Faye Tucker didn’t have the best of childhoods. Her mother, Carolyn, was a drug addicted groupie and sex worker who’d taught her child all of the tricks of her trade at a very early age. By the tender age of 10 Karla was abusing drugs, and at 14 she’d dropped out of school to travel around with Carolyn; they were groupies for The Marshall Tucker Band, The Allman Brothers, and the Eagles. At 16 she married, but the union hadn’t lasted too long. Then, when Karla was 20, Carolyn passed away. As terrible a mother as she’d been, the young woman had adored her; Karla was deeply traumatized by this loss.
It’s no surprise that Karla’s drug abuse began to spin out of control and that found herself hanging out with a really bad crowd. When Karla found out that a friend of hers, a woman named Shawn, had been beaten by her husband, Jerry Dean, she’d been outraged. So, on June 13th of 1983, while high as a kite on a mixture of hard drugs which included methadone, heroin, Valium, and liquor, Karla, her boyfriend Danny Garrett, and their friend, James Leibrant, broke into Jerry’s house to exact their revenge.
Karla had obtained the keys to her victim’s home, so she and her cohorts had simply walked right in; the plan had been to steal the man’s motorcycle, but unfortunately Jerry was home in his bedroom at the time. Instead of theft, the criminals had opted for murder; Danny beat Jerry in the back with a hammer. Karla discovered a pick ax, and when her boyfriend left the room, she’d hacked at her victim until he was dead.
That should’ve been it, but then Karla noticed something squirming under the bed covers; Jerry hadn’t been alone – a female friend, 32 year old Deborah Thornton, had been hiding beneath the covers. This completely innocent young woman was beaten to death with Karla’s pick ax as well; as a matter of fact, the weapon was actually discovered “embedded” in Deborah’s chest.
After the murders, Karla and her buddies stole their victims money and vehicle, and went on their merry way. The next morning the two corpses were discovered, and a month after that Karla and the others were arrested for double homicide.
At trial Karla hadn’t even attempted to save her own life; she’d testified that she had orgasmed with every blow of her pickaxe. She hadn’t cared one way or the other how she was sentenced, and it had definitely showed; in 1983 both Danny and Karla were sentenced to death for their crimes.
Shortly after her sentencing, Karla found a Bible and she attempted to read it. She’d had very little education and could barely understand the words within, so this killer decided to attend Bible study; it was here that Karla began to change, and she became a born again Christian. This double murderer dedicated her life to the gospel and to helping others – even the prison officers. Everyone who came in contact with Karla noticed the abrupt changes in her, and people everywhere came to her aid. Politicians including Newt Gingrich, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Pope John Paul 2, and amazingly even her victim’s very own brother begged for Karla’s sentence to be reduced to life.
While Karla had been ministering to the women who she’d seen herself in, she’d fallen in love with and married a Reverend named Dana Brown. The killer attempted to get a new trial, she’d claimed she’d been on so many drugs during the murder and at the time of trial that she’d barely known what had happened, but this did not work out. George W Bush, then the governor of Texas, was having none of it; he gave the green light on her lethal injection on February 3rd of 1998.
Karla spent her final 14 years on death row at Gatesville penitentiary; she was transported to Huntsville for her execution. The condemned’s final meal consisted of fruit and a salad with ranch dressing; it is said that she’d made peace with her fate.
These were Karla’s last words:
“Yes sir, I would like to say to all of you, the Thornton family and Jerry Dean’s family, that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this. (She gazed at her husband) Baby, I love you. (Karla looked at Ronald Carlson) Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. (She looked around the room, making eye contact with everyone present) Everybody has been so good to me, I love all of you very much. I am going to be face to face with Jesus now. Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much, you have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there, I will wait for you.”.
At 6:45 Karla was pronounced dead. They say there was not a single dry eye in the entire area when 38 year old Karla Faye Tucker was put to death; even all of the guards sobbed, they all grieved for the woman who Karla had become in the end. She is eternally resting at Forest Park Lawndale Cemetery in Houston, Texas. As far as Danny Garrett, he never was put to death; in 1993 he died of liver cancer.