Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Karla Faye Tucker: Texas' Controversial Murderess

Early Days, Dark Days

Karla Faye Tucker was born in Houston, Harris County, Texas on November 18, 1959. Life started out normal enough for the doll-faced little brunette with large almond eyes and a set of dimpled cheeks. By the time she came into the world, the Tuckers already had two daughters, Kari Ann, one year old, and Kathi Lynne, two, and a German shepherd who was child-friendly. Larry, her father, was a longshoreman in the Gulf of Mexico and her mother, Carolyn, a home mom. Karla Faye's earliest years were happiest.

As a family unit, the Tuckers often vacationed in a small cottage they owned on Caney Creek in Brazoria, Texas. "I was an itty-bitty girl...we were family, and we used to go to the bay house and do neat things with the boat and dog and water skiing and fishing and stuff, but it didn't last very long," she told former Miss America Terry Meeuwsen during a Christian Broadcasting Network in the 1990s.

Mr. and Mrs. Tucker had an on-again, off-again marriage, literally. They divorced and remarried several times, trying to make a go of it, but each time they would regress. Each time it was because of infidelity. The three daughters felt the sting of the breakups, only to rejoice at the reunions, only to be torn asunder again when the parents' union did so. When Karla Faye was ten, the final dissolution took place. It was messy.

"I didn't know why my parents divorced; I was too young to know," she told LifeWay Church magazine who featured her story in a 1990 edition. "My dad got custody of us girls, and we all wanted to go with Mother...My father couldn't control us real good. He tried to discipline us, but we were just too much, just too much."

The divorce only added to a number of personal problems Karla Faye was already experiencing at a young age. For one, she had always felt like the ugly duckling between two blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned siblings. Also, she was extremely self-conscious about a large birthmark on her arm. She found it hard to communicate with other kids in school and those who played up and down Hewitt Street where she lived.

During final divorce proceedings, which seemed like an eternity to a young child caught up in the midst of the battling, Karla found out exactly why she did not look like Kari and Kathi. Her mother admitted to her that she was the result of an extramarital affair. Even though her father had accepted Karla Faye as his own, the third daughter from that moment on never psychologically could convince herself that she belonged to the Tuckers, as real kids Kathi and Kari belonged.

Karla Faye Tucker wanted a family, so she did what all other children do when their own isnt definable: looked for one elsewhere.

By the time she was 10 years old she had been smoking marijuana for nearly a year, a recreation introduced by her sisters. Finding that maryjane was not companion enough to make her feel like the somebody she wanted to feel like, she tried the harder stuff. Before she was eleven, she was shooting heroin.

"The influence of others peer pressure," Karla Faye explained to Ms. Meeuwson. "My sisters were into drugs and they had a friend who was older; they always hung around with older people. There was a lot of drugs."

There was sex, too, at an age when other girls still played with dolls. Because she went where her sisters went, she began hanging out with the same crowd. The clique largely consisted of bikers, chief among them a neighborhood gang called the Banditos. This "club" often conducted drug fests that ended in orgies. Karla Faye present at some of these parties, even though initially not a participant, took mental notes wide-eyed and, in the process, learned that the birds and the bees could make quite interesting study.

Her first contact with sex came when she was twelve. One evening she happened to stop by one of the member's houses looking for her sisters, who, she discovered, weren't there. The biker talked her into joining him on a high. After they shot up, he took her for a ride on his bike to a secluded spot where he had his way with the pre-teen. She liked it and learned that "sex on high" was the ultimate trip.

She had found a family. It brought her bright colors, a buzz in the head and a warm feeling all over her body.

And a sense of belonging.

Dysfunctionality roared. Under her father's custody, Karla Faye was expected to walk the straight and narrow, but he was rarely home to supervise. He worked two shifts, was gone late into the evening, and his daughters took full advantage of their liberty. Karla Faye dropped out of school in the middle of the seventh grade without much parental disapproval. When in her mother's care, the straight and narrow often curved, like the time her mother discovered the girl sneaking a maryjane in her bedroom. Instead of lecturing the adolescent as her dad would have done, Mrs. Tucker scolded her on her inability to pack a smooth joint. Then instructed her on the fine art of rolling.

Then again, consider Mama Tucker was not June Cleaver. To make ends meet after the divorce, she drifted, if at first hesitantly, into prostitution. Being yet in her twenties and still blossoming of a noble housewife, she found her place in the profession of the call girl a lucrative one. She was the girl next-door oozing temptation.

When Carolyn Tucker inherited a Karla Faye whom her ex-husband could no longer handle, she may have at first worried how she could carry on her productive trade from her Genoa, Texas, apartment in the presence of a teenager. Evidently, according to Karla Faye, Mama devised a solution beneficial to all.

Karla was to testify later: "(My mother) took me to a place where there was all men and wanted to school me in the art of being a call girl. I wanted to please my mother so much. I wanted her to be proud of me. So, instead of saying no, I just tried to do what she asked...The thing is, I knew deep down inside that what I was doing was wrong."

Karla Faye Tucker became a prostitute at age 14.

After a while, it no longer seemed sordid. Especially when she accompanied her mother, an inveterate rock groupie, on concert tours state to state. Highlights of this period included personal meetings with the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band and the Eagles. For a teenager who didn't know how to handle it, and hadn't heard of the word 'moderation,' life was enchanting, nevermind that the speed and the booze might catch up.

When Karla Faye was sixteen, she met and wed Stephen Griffith, a mechanic. On the surface, the marriage appeared happy. Griffith thought it was. He liked his wife's tomboyish quality, her feistiness, and even though they fought constantly he always saw her more as a friend first, which he considered healthy in any marriage. She wasn't one to hold in her feelings. He appreciated that.

"We fist-fought a lot," he told the Houston Chronicle. "I've never had men hit me as hard as she did. Whenever I went into a bar, I didn't have to worry because she had my back covered."

But, underneath, wifey fidgeted. The things she and Griffith did together get high, get drunk, make love and war all were old hat to her. She needed to be free, to let the colt run and maybe run around in circles until it was daft. But, at least the result would be her choice. Not her mother's, not her father's, not her sister's.

She left Griffith.

It was then that she met her friend Shawn Dean who, in turn, introduced her to Danny Garrett. Working late hours as a prostitute in Quay Point, Karla Faye found Garrett an easy companion. She was free to run around in those circles. More so, Garrett asked no questions and respected her "career". Better still, he sustained her habit of pills and powder.


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