Profile: Facing death with memories of murder
In this story:
(CNN) -- Karla Faye Tucker admits that nearly 15 years ago,
she helped murder two people with a pickax. And she says that
a few months later, she became a Christian.
Tucker, 38, now wants the result of the conversion -- a clean
life -- to spare her from the result of the killings: her own
death, scheduled for Tuesday.
The slim, brown-eyed brunette refuses to talk about her
specific memories of the June 1983 night that she and her
boyfriend barged into the Houston, Texas, home of Jerry Lynn
"The details of what happened that night, I don't share,"
Tucker told CNN's Larry King in a January 14 interview on
death row at Texas' Mountain View Unit in Gatesville.
The details shocked the nation. She and Daniel Garrett, both
high on drugs for days, went to "case the joint" for robbery
when they entered Dean's home.
The Texas "rap sheet," the state Department of Criminal Justice's inmate case brief, summarizes her testimony: Garrett bashed
Dean in the head with a hammer, and Tucker grabbed a pickax
to silence a "gurgling sound" Dean was making.
Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton
Tucker and Garrett also attacked Deborah Thornton, a friend
of Dean's, with the pickax. Both bodies had more than 20 stab
wounds. Tucker said she felt each stroke sexually, a claim
she later recanted.
She was convicted and sentenced to death in Dean's killing.
Garrett was also convicted and sentenced to death; he died in
prison in 1993.
"I can't -- I can't make sense out of it," Tucker told King
of the murders.
But she can make sense of what religion has done for her.
Pointing to her faith and clean prison record, she claims she
no longer meets a key finding for sentencing someone to death
in Texas -- posing a threat to society.
"If there is a change for the positive, and it's proven, and
it's factual, why can't that be considered" in her plea to be
spared lethal injection, she asked on "Larry King Live."
Her husband, Dana Brown, is just one of many supporters
convinced her conversion is genuine. He was doing prison
ministry when he met her, and married her by proxy in 1995.
Thornton's own brother, Ron Carlson, wants her spared. Her
supporter with perhaps the biggest marquee value is former
presidential candidate Pat Robertson.
To opponents, including Thornton's widowed husband Richard, the issue is not as simple as excusing her from execution.
They note that if her sentence were commuted to life, she
could be eligible for parole in five years. And they dismiss
her willingness to forgo parole as a ploy outside Texas law.
Then, many observers suggest she's only getting sympathy as
the first woman to be executed in Texas since the Civil War,
and only the second in the nation since a 1976 Supreme Court
decision reinstated the death penalty.
Tucker claims her gender may be more hindrance than help.
"This gender issue is almost forcing their hand to say,
'we're not going to let a woman get by with it'" and be
spared, Tucker told King.
The woman once capable of extreme brutality now not only
rejects the death penalty, she also opposes abortion and
euthanasia. She even wants her own child.
Tucker says she wants to live to minister to other prisoners
who are as lost as she was. But she placed little value even
on her own life before her conversion.
"I didn't care about anybody. I didn't care about myself,"
she told King.
When she was very young, she said, her mother told her she
could grow up to become anything. But her mother also gave
her little guidance, and encouraged her to be a prostitute as
a teen-ager. Her father, by then, wasn't on the scene.
Tucker recalled using marijuana and heroin for years before
that. She dropped out of school. By the time of the murders,
she was trying to impress a rough crowd.
She told King it was "inevitable that something like that was
going to happen in my life," given her circumstances.
"I not only didn't walk around without any guilt, I was proud
of thinking that I had finally measured up to the big boys,"
Then, in the fall of 1983, she stole a Bible after a prison
ministry program, took it to her cell and began to read --
and realize what she had done.
"I didn't know what I was reading and before I knew it, I was
just -- I was in the middle of my floor on my knees and I was
just asking God to forgive me."
Now more than 14 years later, Tucker was clinging to that
turn-about, as she stared February 3 in the face.
"It's a blessing to be a part of it," she told King of her
case, "and it's exciting to know that God has a plan for