Nov. 28, 2011
There are over 3,500 inmates on death row in the United States, spread out over the 34 states that still use the death penalty. Less than 1 percent of death row inmates are women and all 61 of them have been convicted of murder.
Since 2000, 11 states have executed 28 women. The last female executed was, Teresa Lewis, in Virginia on September 23, 2010. Lewis’s execution was controversial because her IQ score was 72 and 70 and below would have excluded her from being given the death sentence. Lewis along with two accomplices, Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, killed her husband and stepson for insurance money. Shallenberger and Fuller were sentenced to life without parole by the same judge who sentenced Lewis to death calling her the mastermind of the murder.
Fourteen of the women on death row are there for murdering their own children. Here’s a look at the crimes they committed.
Ana Cardona was convicted and sentenced to death in Florida for the severe abuse and beating that killed her 3-year-old son, Lazaro Figueroa. On Halloween of 1990, Cardona split her son’s head open with a baseball bat because he would not stop screaming. Then she proceeded to beat him to death. Cardona had an accomplice in the crime, her lover, Olivia Gonzalez-Mendoza. Mendoza, who pled guilty to second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges, received a 40 year sentence. She served 15 years and has been released. Cardona was sentenced to death on April 1, 1992. On July 11, 2002 Cardona was granted the right to a new trial relating to a Brady violation – evidence that the prosecution withheld from the defense that was favorable to establishing Cardona’s innocence. Cardona’s second trial began in October of 2010. She was once again convicted and sentenced to death on June 10, 2011.
|Debra Jean Milke|
- Debra Jean Milke was sentenced to death in Arizona on January 18, 1991 for murder, conspiracy, and kidnapping relating to the death of her 4-year-old son, Christopher. Milke conspired with her roommate, James Styers, to kill her son, implying that his death would be better than having him grow up to be like his father. An accomplice, Roger Scott, who was with Styers at the time of the crime admitted to police the details of December 2, 1989, when he and Styers took Christopher and shot him, leaving the body. Scott, the accomplice, later took the investigators to where the body was recovered. All three were sentenced to death for Christopher’s death.
Robin Lee Row
Robin Lee Row had the typical American family with her husband Randy, and two kids, Josh and Tabitha. During the early morning hours of February 10, 1992, she set her home on fire while her family slept; all of them died. Row had a total of $276,000 in life insurance on her family at the time of their deaths. Row had two other children who previously had died under suspicious circumstances: Her son Keith died in a house fire that was ruled accidental; the second was a baby who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Row was sentenced to death in Idaho on December 16, 1993 by Judge Schwartzman, who called her a pathological liar.She is the only female on death row in Idaho.
- Dora Buenrosto killed her 4-year-old daughter, Deidra, on October 25, 1994 by stabbing her to death and then dumping her body in an abandoned post office. Two days later she stabbed her two remaining children, Susana, age 9, and Vincente, age 8, to death. In the trial, it came out that Buenrosto had killed her children in hopes to frame her estranged husband, Alex Buenrosto. He was questioned and cleared. Almost four years later, she was given the death penalty on October 2, 1998 in California.
Darlie Lynn Routier was married with three young sons. Routier stated that while she and two of her sons –Damon, 5 years, and Devon, 6 years – were sleeping downstairs on June 6, 1996, the boys were stabbed to death. Routier also received minor stab wounds. Her husband and infant son were upstairs sleeping at the time of the crime. Routier claimed to have slept through the attack and when she woke she saw a man fleeing the residence. It was later determined her wounds were self-inflicted. On February 4, 1997 she was sentenced to death in Texas in a trial that was held in a separate county due to the publicity of her case. She has been granted appeals to new DNA evidence still claiming that she is innocent. Her husband has stood behind her innocence throughout; however he did file for divorce and retains custody of the youngest son, Drake, who is now 15.
Susan Eubanks, the mother of Brandon 14, Austin 7, Brigham 6, and Matthew 4, shot each of the boys in the head on October 26, 1997. Eubanks, who was under the influence of alcohol and valium at the time of the shootings, shot herself in the stomach after shooting her sons. This was considered to be a failed murder/suicide. Two years later, a jury sentenced her to death in California.
Michelle Sue Tharp, on April 18, 1998 along with her boyfriend at the time, Douglas Bittinger, made claims that Tharp’s daughter, 7-year-old Tausha Lee Lanham, had gone missing while they were shopping at a mall. It was later discovered that the pair had driven the body of Tausha to West Virginia and dumped her body. At the time of her murder, Tausha weighed a mere 12 pounds. Bittinger testified against Tharp, stating she refused to feed the young girl or seek medical attention for her.Bittinger received a 15-30 year sentence for his part in the murder. On November 14, 2000 Tharp was sentenced to death in Pennsylvania. She had an execution date in 2004 but it was stayed pending further appeals and has not been lifted.
Sandi Dawn Nieves
Sandi Dawn Nieves, a mother of five, set her home on fire on July 1, 1998, causing the deaths of four of her five children. The four girls Jaqlene 5, Kristi 7, Rashel 11, and Amber 12 were all found dead in the kitchen in sleeping bags and bedding. The only son, David, was 14 years old at the time and he managed to escape the fire, and later testified against his mother. David has refused any contact with his mother since the crime. It was stated at trial that Nieves killed her children because she wanted revenge on the men in her life. Nieves was the 12th women on California’s death row when she was sentenced to death on October 6, 2000.
Patricia Blackmon was convicted in Alabama of killing her adopted daughter, Dominiqua, with a pool cue on May 29, 1999 – only nine months after Dominiqua’s adoption was finalized. The medical examiner testified that there were over 30 injuries to this 28-month old baby at the time of her death. Dominiqua had many old bruises, leading authorities to conclude that this was not the first incident of abuse Blackmon had committed on Dominiqua. According to the prosecutor in the case, Robert Valeska, the “evidence was overwhelming” against Blackmon. In an appeal that Blackmon filed, she stated that the crime was not heinous because it was likely that Dominiqua had already been knocked unconscious prior to the majority of the beating. Blackmon was sentenced to death on June 7, 2002, two years after Dominiqua was murdered.
Socorro Caro, a wife of a doctor, and mother of four boys, Xavier Jr., 11, Michael 8, Christopher 5, and Gabriel 13 months, killed three of her sons by shooting them in the head on the night of November 22, 1999. She left the youngest son unharmed. After Socorro shot three of her sons, she then shot herself in the head. She survived the shooting to be sentenced to death on April 5, 2002, in California. Socorro had a history of severe violence toward others, and the motive for the killings was revenge on her husband for their failing marriage.
Tierra Capri Gobble
Tierra Capri Gobble was convicted for the murder of her 4-month old son, Phoenix Cody Parrish, by fracturing both of his wrists, several ribs, and eventually fracturing his skull on December15, 2004. Gobble had two children, Jewell and Cody. The State of Florida, citing child abuse, had ordered Jewell removed from Gobble prior to the birth of Cody and placed with her uncle, Edgar Parrish. Cody, in turn, was removed from Gobble’s custody within 24 hours of his birth. Cody was placed with the same uncle by the State of Florida. After the children had been placed with the uncle, Parrish then moved to Dothan, Alabama. Gobble and her husband, Samuel Hunter, moved into the same home with the uncle and the children. The medical examiner found numerous injuries on the tiny body of Cody. On that day in December, Gobble admitted she had been the primary caretaker of Cody for the 12 hours prior to his death. Cody’s body was never claimed for burial and the town of Dothan buried him. Gobble was sentenced to death on October 26, 2005 in Alabama. Edgar Parrish and Samuel Hunter both received sentences of 10 years in Alabama for their roles in the murder. Parrish was convicted of aggravated child abuse. Parrish was aware that Hunter and Gobble were not allowed contact with the baby, and he disregarded the state’s order. Samuel Hunter pleaded guilty to manslaughter.They have both since been released from custody.
Melissa Lucio is the mother of 13 children. On February 16, 2007, she killed her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah Alvarez, with a blow to the head. The medical examiner detected cocaine in the toddler’s system. The father, Robert Alvarez, was charged with causing serious bodily injury and failure to provide medical care, and received a sentence of four years in prison.He has since been released. The district attorney stated that Mariah was not the only child being abused at the hands of Lucio. She was the first women in Cameron County, Texas to be convicted and sentenced to death on August 28, 2008.
Christi Michelle Scott
Christi Michelle Scott worked as an insurance agent and she had a husband and two sons. On the night of August 16, 2008 Scott killed her son 6-year-old son, Mason Scott. Mason had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of autism. Scott had given Mason some cough syrup that had codeine in it and put him to bed. She then placed an accelerant around Mason’s bed, removed the fire alarm, and started the fire in Mason’s room. Scott and her other son escaped the fire unharmed. Scott’s husband, Jeremy, was out of town during the murder. There was $175,000 worth of life insurance on Mason, part of which had just been purchased 12 hours prior to the fire. Scott’s crime was so heinous that it fit the circumstances for a capital murder in three different ways. While the jury voted 10-2 in favor of life without parole, Judge Dempsey did not follow the jury recommendation and sentenced Scott to death on August 5, 2009 in Alabama, just shy of a year since the fire.
Angela Darlene McAnulty made the call to 911 on December 9, 2009 to seek help for her 15-year-old daughter, Jeanette Maples. The paramedics arrived to find a lifeless, 50 pound skeletal framed teenager who was pronounced dead a few hours later at the hospital. McAnulty’s husband and younger son stated she had spent the morning cleaning up the blood on the walls and floors from the attacks on Jeanette.They also later stated that she had picked Jeanette out to beat and torture. McAnulty changed her plea prior to the trial from “not guilty” to “guilty” and a jury was chosen to decide her fate. On February 24, 2011 she became the first and only woman on Oregon’s death row.