The Pickaxe Muderess– Karla Faye Tucker

The childhood of Karla Faye Tucker was a turbulent one, with her parents’ divorce overshadowing all the childhood joy she should have experienced. During divorce settlements, Karla discovered that she was the product of an affair and was not her father’s child, a devastating blow for any 10-year-old. Two years later, she had already started to act out by taking drugs and having sex with older boys. By the age of fourteen, she was working as a prostitute alongside her mother. Her mother, who spent most of her days as a rock groupie, would prove to set a terrible example to the young girl, taking her daughter touring alongside The Eagles and The Allman Brother Band. From an early age, Karla had been exposed to the worst aspects of Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll.

Whether it was the drugs or the natural state of her psyche, the majority of Karla’s life decisions were flawed by impulsiveness. At 16, she married a mechanic called Stephen Griffith, a man who barely knew her. Unsurprisingly, Griffith was quickly dumped and Karla started to get into the biker scene of Houston where she became good friends with fellow motorcycle enthusiasts, Shawn Dean and her husband Jerry Lynn Dean. In 1981, Karla met Danny Garrett through the couple. Then 21 years old, she started an exclusive relationship with 35-year-old Garrett and the pair were reportedly “inseparable”. The two couples, clad in leather and zipping around Texas on roaring motorcycles, lived care-free and spent most of their time together taking drugs and binge-drinking.

Daniel Ryan Garrett, Karla’s boyfriend

On Friday 10th of June, 1983, Karla and Danny were planning a big weekend drugs binge. They got some friends over, but didn’t invite their biker friends Shawn and Jerry for unknown reasons. Instead, a few of Danny’s buddies rolled up including a man called James Leibrant. From Friday right through to the early hours of Monday, the entourage of addicts binged on pills, marijuana, speed, and alcohol. On the Monday, at around 3AM, Tucker, Danny Garrett, and James Leibrant left Tucker’s house still very much intoxicated but Tucker was reportedly able to walk, talk, and carry on a conversation as if she was sober. Tucker made the suggestion to James Leibrant about how she wanted to go over to Jerry Lynn Dean’s apartment to collect some money and intimidate him a little. Over the past few weeks prior, she had been unusually “off” with her once close friends, Jerry and Shawn. The trio hatched a drug-fuelled plan- They made a deal that instead, they would sneak into Jerry’s place and burgle some valuables, specifically a motorcycle, a TV, and a stereo. At the last minute, James Leibrant would refuse to commit such a crime and walked away. In hindsight, he would have been glad that he did. Looking into the case, it seems obvious that excessive drug-binges had taken a massive toll on Tucker’s wallet and now she was desperate for money, but would she kill for it?

Entering the property, Karla and Danny made their way over to the spare bedroom where Dean was sleeping. Sneaking over to his bed, Karla sat on Dean’s chest to restrain him while Danny scoped the room for any valuables. In an effort to protect himself, Dean suddenly grabbed Karla and made an attempt to throw her to the ground. This is when Garrett intervened. Using a hammer that he found on the bedroom floor, Garrett struck Dean numerous times in the back of the head where he fell to the floor and began to make distinct “gurgling” sounds, probably due to a post-traumatic brain seizure. Karla wanted to keep him quiet, so she picked up a three-foot pickaxe and hit Dean. In police reports, she stated that she felt “sexual gratification” with every blow and that murdering Dean gave her “intense multiple orgasms”. After a final blow to the chest, Dean was now dead. The gurgling sounds had stopped and the room was finally quiet. From the corner of the room, a faint whimpering broke the silence. Hiding under a duvet was Deborah Ruth Thornton, who had had a one-night-stand with Dean after a fight with her husband. Listening to her boyfriend’s suggestion of “no witnesses”, Karla swung the pickaxe straight into Deborah’s heart and she became another innocent victim in this already callous crime.

Wrong place, wrong time: Deborah Thornton. Credit: findagrave.com

Morning broke, and one of Jerry Dean’s co-workers, Gregory Traver, was expecting to carpool with him to work. After Dean did not show-up, Traver entered the house where he made a grim discovery: Dean’s bloody body in the spare bedroom along with the body of a young woman with a pickaxe “in her heart.” Traver told the police that as well as the murder, Dean’s motorcycle was missing and his TV had been moved. On the evening of the June 13th, Tucker and Garrett were watching television when the news came on with a story about the murders. They phoned Leibrant and told him to come over immediately, and the three of them sat giggling about how “famous” they were. During the investigation, a frenzied crime scene gave the police the evidence they needed. They were able to arrest Danny and Karla quickly due to fingerprints found at the scene, something that, in their intoxicated state, they had forgotten all about. During trial, they were both given the death penalty and Karla was executed in 1998 by lethal injection. Danny remained on death row until 1993, where he succumbed to liver disease rather than the needle.

“Model prisoner”- A more pious Karla after turning to religion (AP Photo/FILE)

Readily admitting to her crimes, Karla took the media by storm as she converted to Christianity. Shortly after she was imprisoned she remembered taking a Bible in her hands and falling to her knees begging for God’s forgiveness. Prison Officers noted that she had become a model prisoner, and before her execution, she appealed her sentence stating that she was a “different person” on drugs. The warden of the prison testified in agreement with Karla, in a bid to appeal the death penalty. Her crimes may have warranted God’s forgiveness, but it didn’t warrant the forgiveness of Texas; The board rejected her appeal and her final appeal, hours before the execution, was blocked by Texas Governor, George W. Bush.

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