Karla Faye Tucker, The Lady Pickaxe Killer Of Texas

The three name curse strikes again with Karla Faye Tucker, known for being the first women executed in the U.S. since 1984 (she was eventually executed in 1998), and the first in Texas since 1863. Tucker played the “I’m a murderer and turn to Jesus in prison and publicly talk about it to gain sympathy” card for all it was worth. Which, is a big change from the woman who claimed to have multiple orgasms from killing. This ignited a media fire storm that prompted many to protest her impending execution. Several days before her execution, George W. Bush, the then-governor of Texas blocked the final appeal.

Born into a troubled home in Houston, Texas, Tucker started smoking cigarettes at age 8 and by age 12 was already into drugs and sex. After her parents divorced, her mother became a rock groupie. Tucker married a local mechanic when she was 16 and was divorced soon after.

In her early twenties, Tucker started hanging out with a rough group of bikers. Some friends introduced her to a man named Danny Garrett. They started dating soon after. On June 3, 1983 at 3 a.m., after a night of drinking and doing drugs,Tucker, Garrett, and a friend, James Leibrant entered the home of Jerry Dean with the intent to steal his Harley Davidson. Dean was the estranged husband of Tucker’s best friend, whom she disliked.

Tucker went into the bedroom where Dean was sleeping. She sat on him while Garrett and Leibrant searched the house. Dean grabbed Tucker which led to Garrett hitting him in the head with a hammer he found on the floor. The blow caused Dean’s neck to become unhinged and distorted his breathing. Tucker was fed up and irritated with his ragged breathing, found a pickaxe (presumably at Dean’s home), and hit him in the throat with it. She later said took the ax to his neck to “stop him from making that noise”. Dean them finished him off with a hammer to the chest.

Garrett left the bedroom and went to finish loading up the motorcycle. It was then Tucker discovered a woman, Deborah Thornton, who had been with Dean the previous day. She’d been hiding in the room the while Dean was murdered. She was also killed by Tucker with a pickaxe to the heart.

In September 1983, Garrett and Tucker were tried and convicted for the two murders. Both were sentenced to death. Garret died in prison in 1993. While behind bars, Tucker became a born-again Christian. She married the prison paster in 1995. Between 1984-1992, several appeals and a retrial were requested unsuccessfully. Tucker tried to get her death sentenced overturned because she was on drugs at the time of the murder.

On February 3, 1998, after eating a last meal of a banana, peach, and a garden salad with ranch, Tucker was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas.

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This would be my death row last meal. No garden salads! 

While Tucker’s death sentence was not overturned, her execution brought about a huge capital punishment debate. Many blamed a pre-poncho battling Dubya for her death. He was criticized for allowing a woman to be executed. And not just a woman, one who was reformed and born-again. Since the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty in the United States, only 16 women (11%) have been executed. 6 out of 11 have all been executed in Texas. The last was Kelly Gissendaner in 2015 in Georgia.

LaFonda Fay Foster and Tina Marie Powell, Lexington, Kentucky’s Only Three-Named, Cocaine-Fueled Spree Killers

Continuing on with female killers, today’s post focuses on a killing spree which happened in my current city, where I’ve lived since 2010. Upon further researching this case, I learned one of the victims was murdered right down the street from my house.

On April 23, 1986, lovers LaFonda Fay Foster, 22 and Tina Marie Powell, 27 went on a violent murder spree leaving five people dead. Having three names also seems to breed murder. It started around 4:00 p.m.that day when Virginia Kearns called Lexington Police complaining of two drunk women who wouldn’t leave her apartment. When the police arrived, they also found Mrs. Kearns drunk. After questioning Foster and Powell, police determined them to be coherent and left. It should be noted now that both Foster and Powell were drinking and high on cocaine during all the events written below.

With the police gone, Foster and Powell headed to a party at a neighboring apartment where Foster tried to sell a knife she had with her. While they were at the party, Virginia Kearns left and went to a nearby drug store. Foster and Powell threatened her again and followed her to the drug store. The three women then returned to the Kearns apartment where they demanded money from Virginia’s husband, Carlos. He said he’d have to write them a check, which he did.

I’m not sure why this happened, but I’m guessing there were drugs involved. Based on the court deposition, it sounds as if this was a hostage situation. It’s an odd situation and doesn’t add up with other spree killings, considering the victims weren’t random. It also seemed as if The Kearns’ knew Foster and Powell. Otherwise, why would they get into a car with them? Carlos Kearns wrote Foster a check for $25. At the same time, two friends of Carlos’, Roger Keene and Theodore Sweet showed up at the apartment.

Foster then drove The Kearns’, Keene, Sweet, and The Kearns’ housekeeper, Trudy Harrell to a bait shop where she cashed the check. Foster and Powell claimed they were raising money to buy a gram of cocaine. Foster then drove the group to the home of a man named Lester Luttrell, presumably to get some money. Luttrell got into an argument with Foster. Foster shot a bullet into his house and drove away.

Four hours after this all began, Foster drove to a field where she and Powell made the five victims get out the car and lie face down in the grass. They then shot and stabbed Trudy Harrell, Carlos, and Virgina Kearns. Only Trudy Harrell died at the scene after being ran over by the car. Her body became lodged underneath the car and was dragged 225 feet. She was shot in the back of the head, stabbed five times in her face and chest, and her throat was cut.

The Kearns’ were forced back into the car. Sweet and Keene were not injured. Foster drove to a nearby bar, where she (again, presumably) knew the manager. She asked him for the some bullets, and he gave her four .22 calibers. He noticed the occupants in the back seat and blood on the driver’s side door.

After receiving the bullets, Foster took the group to a loading dock behind a paint store where she and Powell killed Virgina Kearns. She too, was shot, stabbed, and ran over. After killing Kearns, Foster went back to the bar and asked for more bullets. She was denied and drove to her father’s home in search of more bullets. Mr. Foster did not have any. While Foster was with her father, Carlos Kearns, Keene, and Sweet begged Tina Powell to help them. She claimed she couldn’t because Foster had the car keys and that she believed she could help them more by staying. This ties back to Powell’s defense, saying that Foster overpowered her and that she acted out of fear.

Foster left her father’s house and went to another bar. A witness claimed she asked her for some cash to buy cocaine, as well as some bullets. The witness saw Foster’s car and asked about the blood and occupants in the back. Foster told the witness she was going “to shoot them, too”, meaning Kearns, Keene, and Sweet. I believe it’s safe to assume at this point, the police had been alerted. The witness described Foster as having been drinking, but was in control of herself. Failing to get more money and bullets, Foster drove the remaining victims to another field (this is the one by my house). She killed the three men in the same manner as the women. Only this time, the car was set on fire. Roger Keene was found pinned underneath the car.

Foster and Powell, then walked to a nearby hospital. Powell called for a taxi and Foster went to wash the blood off. A nurse called the police after seeing them. The police were already at the hospital for unrelated reasons. They were arrested for public intoxication and taken to the Fayette County Detention Center, which on a lighter note has some FANTASTIC GOOGLE REVIEWS. 

While Powell was being booked, Foster when to the bathroom where she flushed her bloody shoelaces and socks. She also exchanged sweatpants with another inmate. The police were already suspicious, and after obtaining Foster’s bloodied pants from the other inmate, they were able to link evidence back to the murders. While in jail, Foster bragged to fellow inmates about committing the crimes and admitted to destroying evidence.

During the trial, Foster tried to plead insanity. A psychiatrist found her to be sane, but “extremely emotionally disturbed”. Foster also had a long criminal record, including prostitution, burglary, and various drug offenses. Powell also had a criminal record, but it wasn’t as long or violent as Foster’s.

Both women were charged with five counts of murder. A year after the murders occurred, Foster was sentenced to death. Powell was sentenced to life in prison without parole for 25 years. In 1991, Foster’s sentence was dropped to life without parole. In 2011, Powell was denied parole and must serve 10 more years. Foster is currently housed in the Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women a.k.a PeeWee Valley Prison near Louisville, KY. Powell is on the other side of the state in the Western Kentucky Correctional Complex.

More men tend to be spree killers than women, which is why this case is so interesting. Female spree killers are more often than not a part of a team. Men tend to kill for pleasure or thrill, while women are more likely to kill for some sort of gain, which is why women are more likely to be serial killers than spree or mass killers. 

I need a nap. That’s enough spree killing for one day.

Bloody Babs!

Probably the best nickname ever.

This is a new one for me. I found Bloody Babs while I was researching another murder. The case of Bloody Babs (Barbara Graham) was highly sensationalized by the press, as many female murderers are. This was also because she was the third woman executed in the gas chambers in California. How could I not write about someone named Bloody Babs? This story is a classic, sensationalized murder filled with scandal, intrigue, and made the female perpetrator into a femme fatal in the media. It’s not surprising the story was put on film in the 1958 movie I Want To Live! The movie strongly implies Barbara was innocent, which we will soon learn she was anything but. Even after she was sentenced to death, many still believed she was innocent.

Barbara Graham was born Barbara Ford in Oakland, California on June 26, 1923 to a teenaged unwed mother (sadly, a hallmark trait of later offending). Her mother was sent to reform school and Barbara was raised by extended relatives. As a teen herself, Barbara was sent to the same reform school her mother had been in.

She was released from reform school in 1939 and married Henry Kielhamer, a member of the Coast Guard. She enrolled in business college in 1940 and had two sons by 1942, the same year she and Henry divorced and he was awarded custody of their sons. She was married two more times, both ending in divorce. For the next several years, Barbara became what was called a “seagull”, a prostitute who worked around naval bases. At age 22, she started working at a San Fransisco brothel. Here, she met various career criminals and was soon involved in drugs and gambling. She served five years in prison for perjury after providing a false alibi for two of her criminal friends.

After her prison sentence, Barbara moved to Nevada and worked in a hospital and as a waitress. She soon moved to Los Angeles, where she married a bartender, Henry Graham and had another son.

This is when things really get murdery for Babs…

Henry Graham was a career criminal and a drug addict. Sounds like a real catch. During her marriage, Barbara met Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins, Graham’s criminal buddies. As if this story couldn’t get any more sordid, Barbara and Emmett Perkins started having an affair. Perkins told Barbara about a supposedly wealthy widow he knew, Mabel Monohan. The three conspired a robbery.

On March 9, 1953, Barbara along with Santo, Perkins, and two of their “associates”, John True and Baxter Shorter carried out their plan. Barbara gained entrance into Monohan’s home by asking to use the phone. When the door was opened, the men burst in, demanding money and jewels. Mabel Monohan was a bad ass and refused to give them anything. Barbara then pistol whipped her and the rest of the gang suffocated her with a pillow. They got away empty-handed, but later learned they had missed $15,000 worth of jewels and cash.

They were soon arrested for the crime. John True testified against them in exchange for immunity. Baxter Shorter also confessed and named Barbara, Perkins, and Santo. On April 14, 1953, a month after the crime, Shorter was kidnapped and presumably murdered. Barbara insisted throughout the whole ordeal she was innocent, which True claimed she was not. It was during this time, the press coverage of the crime grew and Barbara earned the nickname “Bloody Babs”.

Her claim of innocence was soon proven false. While she was in jail awaiting trial, she offered $25,000 to a fellow inmate, Donna Prow for a friend to provide an alibi for her. Supposedly, Prow and Barbara had an intimate relationship while in prison. This was after Barbara had served prison time for the same crime. Unbeknownst to her, Prow was essentially working as an informant with an undercover cop in exchange for a shortened sentence of her own vehicular manslaughter charges. The inmate agreed. The undercover officer posed as the “friend” and initiated a conversation with Barbara in which she confessed to the crime. The officer recorded the conversation. Prow was released early for her cooperation.

Barbara, Santo, and Perkins were all sentenced to death for robbery and murder. Santo and Perkins were also found responsible for a 1952 quadruple murder in Pulmas County, California. All three appealed their sentences, and none were granted.Barbara was transferred from the California Institution for Women to death row at San Quentin. On June 3, 1953 Barbara was supposed to be executed at 10:00 a.m. The execution was stayed by the Governor of California until 11:30 a.m. Graham protested,”Why do they torture me? I was ready to go at ten o’clock.” Santo and Perkins were executed the same day.

In 1960, Barbara Graham’s execution inspired California lawmakers to vote on suspend death penalty in the state. The bill failed to pass and was introduced due to the stay on her execution. This case is also believed to have sparked the anti-death penalty movement. Executions of women are met with controversy, as many believe women are not capable of violent acts. If you’ve seen the news (or read this blog), you’ll know this is entirely not true. The Chivalry Thesis states female offenders are treated more leniently for violence than their male counterparts, yet are more deceitful in their crimes. Barbara Graham, as well as many others, proves this wrong.

Myra Hindley And The Potential Causes Of Female Violence

This starts the first in a series of posts about female killers, which are a source of fascination, and are often more interesting than their male counterparts. Even with the abundance of violent female offenders, it is still difficult for many to stomach women can be just as evil (if not more so) than men. This reminds me of a quote by Louis CK:

When girls go wild, they show their tits to people. When women go wild, they kill men and drown their kids in a tub.

Not all the time, but you know what I mean.

In the coming weeks, there will be plenty of women killing men, and a few drowning kids in a tub. Just giving everyone a fair warning.

Continue reading

The East Area Rapist A.K.A The Golden State Killer A.K.A The Original Nightstalker

The individual known by all the above names is the perpetrator in one of the most well-known unsolved serial killing, rape, and burglary sprees in America. Between 1976-1986, The East Area Rapist committed 12 murders, 45 rapes, and more than 120 burglaries in different areas of California east of Sacramento. Since June 2016, the F.B.I has been offering a $50,000 reward for the capture of the East Area Rapist.

What started as multiple burglaries, escalated to a ten-year reign of terror. His primary targets were women alone in suburban homes and later began attacking couples. His M.O. was to break into a home, wake up a couple by threatening them with a gun, force the female to tie up the male,  rape the female, and eventually kill both. He was often known to stack dishes on the males back and claim if he heard them rattle, he’d kill everyone in the house. He would also stay in the house for hours, stealing coins, jewelry, and eating food from the victim’s refrigerators.

In Zodiac Killer fashion, he sent letters to the Sacramento Bee in December 1977 claiming his crimes and referring to himself as The East Area Rapist. In the same letter, he warned of another attack which he carried out. The letter includes a poem where he mentions Son of Sam. At the next crime scene, an essay about General Custer was found as well as a map of the neighborhood in which the crime took place in. The Zodiac Killer also referred to himself by his media nickname. Maybe E.A.R. was paying homage? We’ll never know. Although, writing to media outlets isn’t uncommon for serial killers of this magnitude.

He was also known to call victims before an attack. The super creepy audio below is a well-known recording which has made its way into many Internet list articles.

The crimes of the East Area Rapist theoretically stopped in 1986. All suspects have been cleared by DNA. The DNA of the killer is on file and has yet to match any in the F.B.I’s database. In 2002, Detective Larry Pool of the Orange County, California Sheriff’s Department visited death row inmates at San Quentin to collect DNA, believing the East Area Rapist had been arrested and sentenced for another violent crime. None of the samples collected were a match.

Currently, there are no concrete suspects.

“I Don’t Like Mondays”

Happy Monday, readers!

No one likes Monday, but no one hates Monday as much as Brenda Spencer. 

Brenda Spencer is one of the first school shooters in U.S.history. On Monday, January 29, 1979, sixteen-year-old Spencer began shooting students from her front porch across the street from Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego. She lived with her father across the street from the school. Brenda had a rough home life and was subjected to physical and sexual abuse. She also suffered from depression and suicidal tendencies. She had a negative view of police and mentioned wanting to kill an officer. Later, she claimed to have started shooting at the school to commit suicide by cop. She has since claimed to feel responsible for modern-day school shootings.

After barricading herself for seven hours, Brenda relented and was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in 1980. She killed the school’s principal and custodian.She also injuried eight children and one police officer.

When asked why she committed the crime, Brenda’s answer was simply, “I don’t like Mondays.”

Spencer’s parole has been rejected three times. She is currently housed in the California Institution for Women in Chino, California.

Fun fact: Manson Family killers Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten are also in the same prison. Susan Atkins was an inmate at the same facility until she was transferred in 2008.

 

A&E’s “The Killing Season” Looks At Serial Killers In 21st Century America

Documentary filmmakers Rachel Mills and Joshua Zeman are back again for another murder-filled look into the darkest corners of America with The Killing Season. If you haven’t seen Rachel and Joshua’s other documentaries Cropsey and Killer Legends, stop whatever you’re doing and go find them. They are spectacular, creepy as hell, and two of my favorite documentaries. These guys are great. Josh Zeman and Rachel Mills could make a documentary about my own boring life and I’d watch it.

Their follow-up docuseries on A&E (thank you Arts and Entertainment Channel for taking a break from Duck Dynasty to air something actually important), explores the unsolved case of the Long Island Serial Killer a.k.a LISK as well as potentially connected murders in Atlantic City, Daytona Beach, and Oklahoma. Eventually, Josh and Rachel find themselves in Albuquerque, New Mexico investigating the West Mesa Murders.

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Image via.

What Rachel and Josh uncover is terrifying. The biggest takeaway from their research and findings is that the once headline-stealing phenomenon of serial killers are being overlooked by the current criminal justice system.

It’s true, we don’t hear about serial killers as much mass shootings, cybercrimes, and terrorist attacks, which are without a doubt the most prolific and troubling crimes in our society today. In a way, it makes sense for law enforcement to be more concerned about these crimes versus serial killings, considering they are the biggest criminal threat we face.

I once read an article about how society reflects crime trends (I don’t remember the name and I couldn’t find it). If you Google crime trends and society, there are numerous results. Anyway, I believe this article to be true. If you compare the troubled culture of the 1970’s, the excessive culture of the 1980’s, and the narcissistic social media obsessed culture of today, it makes sense how society can impact the types of crimes committed, mainly murders. Think of killers like BTK, who hid their double life in the shadows while appearing as upstanding and normal members of society. Then, compare him to people like James Holmes and Dylann Roof, who outwardly appeared to be “off”.

Today, the famed serial killers of the last century are treated like celebrities. We’re fascinated by their horrific acts because we feel so far removed from them, in reality we aren’t. We can’t comprehend that people could commit the horrific acts these serial killers did. The media has glorified them into American icons. While mass shooters could be anyone you see every day, and it’s something we don’t want to think about. The media doesn’t glorify them-we fear and pity them.

Another thing that comes into play when exploring the crimes in The Killing Season is victimology. If you’re reading this blog, I’m going to guess you’re familiar with the types of victims the “classic” serial killers chose-every day people in suburbia or certain types fitting their M.O. (such as John Wayne Gacy and boys and Ted Bundy and long-haired brunette women). While mass murderer can strike anyone at any time, if they aren’t mission driven in their act.

The serial killers explored in The Killing Season have a different type of victim, those who can’t be easily tracked. Mainly sex workers and drug addicts working and sometimes living on the street. Sadly, this is another reason why these killings often go over-looked, which is also mentioned numerous times in The Killing Season.

Much like technology, serial killers are evolving and the criminal justice needs to evolve, too and realize this is still a problem.