Friday, February 3, 2012

Famous Karla

14 years ago today, at 6:45 PM on February 3rd 1998, thirty-eight-year-old Karla Faye Tucker would cement the fame she had long known was her destiny. Twenty-five minutes earlier George “dubbya” Bush had rejected Karla’s plea for a 30-day delay of her execution.

Karla, a pretty young prostitute from Houston Texas, had a smile made to photograph. She smiled for the cameras one last time, and said:


"I love all of you very much. I'm going to be face to face with Jesus now."


Dana Brown, her husband of three years, stood watching as she gasped twice, and silently became history. Tony Thornton, the husband of one of Karla’s victims observed that “Now Dana Brown gets to write his book”. Dana hung around after the execution for a bit to serve-up some sound-bites for the TV cameras. Dana cheerfully described his wife’s execution:


“Just Glowin’. The love of Jesus radiatin’ through her and around her.”


Karla and her lover Danny Garrett had killed two people with a pick-axe in June of 1983. They were quickly fingered, and in September of 1983 they were both indicted for first-degree murder. Within weeks Karla had picked up a bible from the prison ministry and converted to evangelical Christianity. She and Garret would be sentenced to die late in 1984, but Garrett beat the state to the punch by dying of liver disease in 1993. Two years after Garrett’s death Karla would pick up a husband from the prison ministry by marrying minister Dana Lane Brown.

Karla’s Christianity became the centerpiece for emotional appeals for clemency.

Terry Anne Meeuwsen, Miss America 1973, called for commuting of her sentence to life-in-prison. Meeuwsen had toured with The New Christy Minstrels till her miss America gig.  The New Christy Minstrels had won a Grammy a few years before Meeuwsen won Miss Wisconsin for their debut album (Presenting the New Christy Minstrels) which included a cover of Woody Guthrie’s American-Socialist song: This Land Is Your Land. The year Danny Garrett died Meeuwsen became permanent co-host to the Christian Broadcasting Network’s (CBN) 700 Club.

The considerably less attractive Newt Gingrich and Pat Robertson took up her cause also.

Sister Helen Prejean also met with Karla and spoke against her upcoming execution. Prejean was made famous when Sean Penn played a character amalgamated from two rapist murderers whom Sister Helen wrote about in her book: Dead Man Walking. At about the same time Sister Helen was meeting with Karla she was counseling Debbie Morris to write about her forgiving the abduction torture and multiple rapings at the hands of one of Sister Helen’s Walking Dead Men. Debbie wrote about her Christian forgiveness in her book Forgiving the Dead Man Walking after several years professionally traveling from church-to-church testifying about her experiences. In the 1995 movie Susan Sarandon played Sister Helen, and Debbie Morris’s abduction and rape were never mentioned.

Linda Strom visited her. Linda Strom and her husband Dallas run an international network of prison ministries called discipleship unlimited. They started DU in Millwaukee Wisconsin the year after (1974) Meeuwsen was elected to the post of Miss America. They sing a lot in DU. She later (2000) published a book: Karla Faye Tucker Set Free: Life and Faith on Death Row. In 2003 Linda and Dallas moved to Texas; it was, apparently, a better place to grow their ministries.

The Christian publicity machine working for Karla pulled in whomever they could grasp. Beverly Lowry, fiction writer and associate professor at The university of Houston, interviewed Karla extensively. The result was her most famous book: Crossed Over. In it she relates the feelings surrounding the accidental death of her 18-year-old son Peter to the death-row Karla, and find emotional healing. The book was made into a movie with the same name where Diane Keaton plays Beverly Lowry, and Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Karla.

Good publicity requires good sex, or at least it is greatly facilitated by it. The Christian media stories of Karla feature bashful descriptions of her pre-conversion life. They half-heartedly refer to her prostitution. Many of them refer to Karla’s sexual -almost orgasmic- delight at hacking away at the blood-spurting bodies of her victims; she did hack them more than 20 times. One of my favorite Karla sex references mentions an orgy put on at the request of her sister Keri for her birthday shortly before the pickaxe murders.

Strangely, though her life was supposed to be a modern re-enactment of living in a drug-paved Sodom, the stories focus on those last few weeks before the axe murders.


Just after Karla gasped last her sister Keri yelled: “I Love You Karla”.


Yet somehow Karla managed to stay married to the same relatively-normal man, Stephen Griffith, for six years between her 17th birthday and her 23-years-of-age pickaxe murders. By my arithmetic that did not leave a whole bunch of time for a life of depravity.


“She always said that someday she would be famous” – Stephen Griffiths


And she became famous. Famous enough that many who would convert at her suggestion were gilded by simple association with her fame.

Ron Carlson, the brother of Karla’s female victim, was converted to Christianity by Karla. In 1999 Ron got his own movie The Power of Forgiveness, produced by Gateway Films and presented by Vision Video.

And her fame continues. As late as 2011 prison interviews with her and Dana Brown were re-packaged into a shiny-new DVD entitled: Forevermore: Karla Faye Tucker.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have just seen the movie about her today. It was wonderful. Jesus is allpowerful!HE changed my life too like 6-7 years ago and He's still working in my heart and life! He can change yours too! I'm serious!

adult onset atheist said...

Whatever..

Anonymous said...

Love god with all your heart...

adult onset atheist said...

Which one?

Anonymous said...

I remember being youger and watching this on t.v. but not really understanding.... I went into a Christian rehab for heroin and a woman and I were speaking about the book... And I realized the day I started reading it was FEBRUARY 3rd!!! Is that a GOD WINK or WHAT? Praise God! Karlas life was transformed through Jesus he is sooo GOOD!!!

adult onset atheist said...

Please elaborate on your "Christian Rehab Center". Why did you go to such a center as opposed to a secular rehab? Were you ordered to go there by a judge? pressured to go to a Christian center by family?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Wow, so, suddenly this woman is somehow deemed "good" between you people? She's a cold blooded murder who tried to play on the sympathy of people. I don't believe in the death penalty, but I don't think she was a completely reformed woman. Just a lunatic.

adult onset atheist said...

You've hit on one of the points that inspired me to wrote this entry. What is good? Who can decide this? If it is a decision to be made by intervention of clergy how does this jive with the separation of church from the judicial branch of our state? There are many who categorically state that there is an "objective morality" whose foundation is belief in a particular deity. What is this is used, like many would like, as the precondition for clemency? At least in Karla's case the attempt to petition by big-name individuals for a church-specific clemency did fail.

Sundragon1 said...

Anonymous : she couldn't have "faked" her Christianity for 14 yrs! Then as they are injecting her, she says " love you all, I hope this gives you peace, ill see you all when you get there, ill be waiting for you" at that point she had nothing to lose and coulda cussed em all out but she didn't! She truely WAS reformed, though she did a horrible thing, she was forgiven even by one of her victims own brother, who wanted her to die, until he to converted because of Karla! Now if that isn't love and forgiveness and goodness all at work I don't know what is!

Anonymous said...

What happened to Dana her husband after all of this did he remarry

Anonymous said...

What did happen to her husband?

LuckyDuck said...

Ugh! She was a master manipulator right to the end. Glad she's not using up oxygen anymore.

Anonymous said...

karla was a prime example of Gods grace and mercy for God looks at our heart. sure some of u may say i'm not a murderer like she was but on the inside were all just as filthy and we we need the blood of Jesus. Truth is it dosent matter what we think or thought of her all that matters is what God thinks. i praise God for with him nothing is impossible. thank you Lord

Dave Andrzejewski said...

You are as crazy as that pick Axe murdering trash!

Dave Andrzejewski said...

C-c-c-c-crazy!

Dave Andrzejewski said...

...and all that proves is she was a con artist to the very end and fooled lots of very gullible and naive people

Anonymous said...

I saw the movie on T.B.N.last night.Ive been off of hard drugs 7 years this week.THIS story has changed me.Ive allowed the uglyness of anger and unforgiveness to keep me a prisoner of potential violence and hate.Another words my heart has not been right.My step son has been bullied at school ( Now in H.S.) andall his life .Hes a very forgiving kid and I wanted revenge and eye for an eye.If I would of died in THIS condition,I would of gone to hell.Born again and Spirit Filled and living with UNFORGIVENESS.Karla HAS ministered to me and I AM Changed.

tracey carnahan said...

We can't really ever know what's in someone's heart so speculation is rather useless. However, it does seem rather cruel to criticize people's desire to be inspired to change their lives for the better. We all need hope, right?

adult onset atheist said...

The very lack of certainty concerning the secret motivations that lay, sometimes subconsciously, in the causal genesis of their words and actions, which affords a spark of very human desire to speculate about them… sometimes obsessively so. Indeed, the story of Karla is one where many important names attempted to chime in to spin the nature of that speculation. I doubt that you –Tracey- would have commented on this post if you had not done quite a bit of speculating about Karla’s motivations.

You say that “it does seem rather cruel to criticize people's desire to be inspired to change their lives for the better.” You imply a secular message of redemption in Karla’s story. Karla was not simply inspired. She was magically transformed by the bible and preacher Brown’s desire. Potential inspiration was presented to her in many forms, but if she had hopped off her publicity train at any of the those many stops she ignored we would not have been aware of her. She was the darling of the Christian media machine because she had found Jesus, not inspiration. She was the darling of politicians and singers because she had found Jesus, not inspiration.

There is good reason to doubt she found any actual inspiration to change. If she had been granted a stay of execution it would only have served as proof that enough people saying “Jesus performs magic” can actually get something done sometimes.

Rachel Branan said...

Didn't look like she got her way at all she still got executed!

Tracey Carnahan said...

May I ask what factors have led you to atheism? I'm interested.

adult onset atheist said...

Tracey Carnahan; The best answer to your questions: "What factors led you to Atheism?" would be crafted only after knowing a little about you. What do you mean? thinking of becoming an Atheist Tracey? Do you have those real doubts that need a little emotional support to become convictions?

Without knowing about you my more general answers must suffice. Here is the blurb from my profile: " I am an adult onset atheist. I cannot blame parents, society, or an unhappy childhood on my decision to abandon all things theist. I clung for a while to a deist god, but it too was eventually thrown onto the trash-heap. Why insist that I am believing in a “god” when “gravity” or “electromagnetic radiation” are better names? I finally found that I was clinging to the weakest shadow of a deist god because I connected the belief in this imaginary entity with so many good things in the world. One day I realized that those good things would be better without the residue of a belief in god contaminating them."

Other, more general, information can be gleaned from the 440 other posts on this blog.

Anonymous said...

Why we don't accept forgiveness. May her soul rest in perfect peace

Anonymous said...

One psychopath may be gone but there are plenty still among us. It is truly disturbing how so many people can be so brain washed. I always have to laugh at the "Jesus is love" arguments. Check your bibles thumpers. Nothing says love like a good 'ol story about cutting up prostitutes and "mailing"'the individual body parts. Yes, it's in there along with a slew of other stories condoning violence and even homicide. I'm thankful everyday that I came to my senses way back in middle school that I didn't agree with religion. But hey, I only achieved two bachelors, a masters degree, house and two cars in my twenties without so much as a parking ticket and plenty of volunteering and community service on my record. Clearly, that lack of "God" in my life left a gapeing void..... Hahahaha

Sabrena O'Day said...

What good does doing good for others if we don't have love for them, all of them even the ones who murder. All of us have done wrong, if you were truly sorry wouldn't you want to change? And what good is material things like money, a house, a car? All of it can be gone in a moment, even our very mortal lives can be taken in a moment, so what good would all our earthly riches and boasting of our good works, they won't matter. But eternal life with Jesus is the highlight. Search your heart, God knows you.

Unknown said...

Very thankful God chose to bless you despite the fact that you denounce Him. His forgiveness is available to you just like it's available to us all. But don't kid yourself, YOU didn't do anything on your own. God gave you the brain capacity to achieve all of your degrees and He gave you a heart for volunteerism. He has a plan for you and I will pray that you find it.

Jennifer said...

I am glad to hear that you have been blessed by God even though you denounce Him. His forgiveness is available to you just like it is available to us all. But don't kid yourself, YOU didn't do anything on your own. God gave you the brain capacity to achieve the degrees you have and He gave you a heart for volunteerism. He has a plan for you and I will pray you find it.

ashley berwick said...

He remarried a few years later and also wrote a book !

Ginger Vision said...

To answer 'adult onset atheist' in reference to his question, "Which one?" (referring to which god, I assume).

There is ONLY ONE Lord God Almighty, the Creator God.

All others are false gods made up in the depraved minds of men, allowing themselves to be led by the enemy of our souls, the devil.

Christy Stewart said...

I think the most annoying thing about the Tucker story was the various pro death penalty people who supported her clemency. It was one thing for someone like Pope John Paul II, a longtime opponent of the death penalty, to weigh in but Pat Robertson? There's been many death row inmates who have found religion but it was some some photogenic woman who wore the Jesus label as loudly as possible that brought these people flooding to her prison cell door to claim she'd been rehabilitated. If the state of Texas had commuted her sentence I wonder how long before these people would have been clambering for her release from prison based on all this.

Unknown said...

Only a Christian can have a truly repentant heart. Only a true Christian knows this. I am one, praise God!

Sissy Singh said...

Amen God is good she's in heaven face to face with Jesus!♡

Sissy Singh said...

I'm so glad to see so many God fearing people responding here. I believe we all deserve forgiveness we have all sinned we have all made mistakes clearly some worse than others but luckily in God's eyes we are all deserving of His love and forgiveness that's why He sent His Son that's how I know Karla's in heaven today I choose to believe that she was sincere in her faith she really turned her life around and in the process helped a lot of people she was an inspiration to a lot of the people who knew her

Christy Stewart said...

Then there's unknown (post 6/19/16) up there committing one of the seven deadly sins. Pride, which has been said to be the worst of them all. Jesus taught humility which is sorely lacking in the type of Christians that swarmed around Karla Faye Tucker.

Anonymous said...

LOL at the people defending her. Notice the hubby is still riding this cash train where he can. FWIW, i've read somewhere (so don't take this as gospel --see what I did there?--) that even her own sister has expressed doubts about KFT's sincerity.