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.