Karla Faye Tucker (November 18, 1959 – February 3, 1998) was the first woman to be executed in the United States since 1984, and the first in Texas since 1863. She was convicted of murder in Texas in 1984 and put to death fourteen years later. Because of her gender and widely publicized conversion to Christianity, she inspired an unusually large national and international movement that advocated the commutation of her sentence to life imprisonment, a movement that included a few foreign government officials. [from wikipedia]
When I share that I was out of it on drugs the night I brutally murdered two people, I fully realize that I
made the choice to do those drugs. Had I chosen not to do drugs, two people would still be alive today. But I
did choose to do drugs, and I did lose it, and two people are dead because of me.
– Karla Faye Tucker in her letter to Governor Bush and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles,
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! – 2 Corinthians 5:17
February 3, 1998, 6:25P.M., Walls Unit,
With the strength and poise of a gymnast, Karla leapt up on the gurney and whispered a prayer: “Lord Jesus, help them to find my vein.” Then, strapped to the table, she looked toward the small window and spoke her last words.
“Can Warden Baggett hear me?”
After being assured that yes, the warden was nearby and was listening, Karla went on: “I would like to say to all of you- the Thornton family and Jeny Dean’s family- that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this.
“Baby, I love you,” she told her husband, Dana. “Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you vety much. I’m going to be face to face with Jesus now.
“Warden Baggett, thank 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.”
After her final words she licked her lips and, according to witnesses, appeared to be humming softly as she waited for the lethal injection.
“Karla, how do you explain to yourself that you were involved in a violent slaying?” television interviewer Larry King asked, his familiar face separated from hers by a scratched Plexiglas window.
Millions of viewers throughout the world were riveted to their television sets in January 1998 as the drama unfolded on CNN’s Larry King Live. They, too, wanted to know the answer. Who was this attractive and captivating woman that drew Larry to Texas? How could she have committed such a heinous crime?
Pausing just for an instant, Karla looked steadily back at him. “I can’t make sense out of it, Larry. I don’t know how to answer, except to say that because of the choices I made to do drugs and buckle to peer pressure, it was inevitable that something like that was going to happen in my life.”
While they continued talking and the CNN camera crew filmed the interview, I sat in the chapel at Karla’s prison, praying. After it was over, Karla and I would meet for our daily two-hour visit. As I waited, I thought about the events that had led her to this place.
Over the years I’d heard much about Karla’s life. While never shy, she shared her story with me cautiously. She never hesitated to accept responsibility for what she had done. Better than anyone, she knew the horrific life from which she’d now been set free.
When she talked with reporters she carefully omitted details about the crime itself. “I think about it pretty often; I am well aware of what I have done. But it’s pretty hard to talk about because it brings up too many painful memories. I think about the pain I put others through. I wish it had never happened. If I could go back, I would not do it again. Now I know the value of human life.”
She understood that each time her victims’ family or members of her own family read or saw anything about the crime, they experienced renewed grief. In addition to not wanting to relive the past herself, she wanted to spare them as much pain as possible.
I feel the same way. The two murders Karla committed were a tragedy; the lives of everyone connected will never be the same. Yet, the Karla I had come to know was not the same young woman who had committed the crime. She had been transformed- as I am being transformed- by a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Karla Faye Tucker was born November 18, 1959, in Houston, Texas. “As a little girl, I remember that we were a family,” Karla said when I asked about her background. “We lived in a middle-class neighborhood and went to the bay house where we water-skied and fished. But that period didn’t last very long. My parents fought a lot and divorced each other several times.”
As her parents’ turmoil increased, Karla’s life began unraveling. Her first experience with drugs came when she was seven or eight. “I caught [my older sisters] smoking pot and threatened to tell our parents,” she told the Gatesville Messenger in 1998 (January 30 ). “But they gave it to me and then said I couldn’t tell because I was doing it too.”
Karla remembered one brief encounter with what seemed to be a normal life. “At school this little girl would talk to me. I remember seeing something really different in her. It was like a genuine love for people. But her parents didn’t want her hanging around with me because they thought that I was just a bad, bad child.
“Somewhere along the way she talked her mother into letting me go to church with them. I think they must have been [very conservative] because they wore something on their heads and had to wear dresses. We sat on the front row. At some point she was down on her knees and really praying in the Spirit. I thought, ·what is going on here? Everybody came and laid their hands on her. I don’t remember doing anything wrong that night, but they never would talk to me again. Why didn’t they reach out to me? Why did they cut me off?”
Life at home was rapidly deteriorating. Any chance of a normal childhood disintegrated. “Back then there was a lot of drugs and sex. My sisters ran around with older people. One of their friends was in a biker club. He came to see my sisters and when he found out they weren’t there, he took me off on his motorcycle. He asked me if I wanted to shoot some heroin. I think he was going to molest me. But he shot me so full of heroin that I got sick and he wasn’t able to do anything. He ended up dropping me off at some apartments. That was the beginning of me shooting dope.”
By the time Karla was in seventh grade she was heavily into drugs and she dropped out of school. “I got kicked out as much as quit,” she said. When her parents divorced for the last time, she chose to live with her mother, Carolyn Moore. Life with her mom was unrestricted, with little or no adult supervision.
“There were a couple of things my mother did that made me wonder, Don’t you see what you are doing to me? Why don’t you notice this and come to me and ask what is going on?” In spite of inner turmoil and confusion, Karla wanted to be just like her mother. When Karla was only fourteen she followed her mother into prostitution.
Sharing Thoughts: This is what a new creation in Christ looks like! True Salvation! 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
The wording is a sample from chapter one of Karla Faye Tucker Set Free: Life and Faith on Death Row. We do not own the rights to the wording we are merely supporting this book by giving a sample of chapter one. If you believe we have violated your copyrights please contact us, thank you.
- ISBN-10: 0877887756
- ISBN-13: 978-0877887751