Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Women Who Kill: Part One

Thrill Killer

Karla Faye Tucker (AP)
Karla Faye Tucker (AP)

It was Karla Fay Tucker's idea to go out that night. She was a tomboy type, 23 years old, getting high and always trying to prove herself there in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. She liked to fight and she hung out with bikers or Vietnam vets. In 1983, her latest boyfriend, Daniel Garrett, was teaching her combat maneuvers when she got high on speed and urged him to go with her for a ride.

There was this guy, she said, that she disliked. His name was Jerry Lynn Dean, and she wanted to break into his house and take something, like his Harley motorcycle or maybe some parts.

When they entered in the dark, Karla heard Jerry waking up on his futon. She jumped him, scaring him, and that gave her an enormous rush. He started to struggle as she straddled him, so she grabbed a pickax to hold him down, and the more he struggled, the more she was determined to keep him down. She used the ax to put eleven deep stab wounds into his throat and chest, and as he died, she experienced a sexual climax. Then she went after Dean's girlfriend, Deborah Thornton, but as Gini Graham Scott put it in Homicide, her arms got tired, so her boyfriend had to finish the job.

Later she bragged about this violence to her sister, who was so disgusted she turned Karla and Daniel in to the police.

At the trial, Karla Fay was a puzzle to everyone. She was small and pretty. She'd never been abused, never raped, never been exposed to violent modeling, although she'd been on drugs since she was ten and supposedly had become a prostitute. No one knew where this aggression came from.

In 1984, she was sentenced to death. While in prison, she found God, and even as her death date approached and she asked for clemency, she claimed that she'd accepted what she'd done and she would now accept her fate. Amid nationwide appeals for clemency on her behalf, she was executed in 1998the first woman to be killed by the state of Texas since 1863.

Another axe murder also featured a female as the central suspect, although this woman managed to get off, despite the significant amount of evidence that went against her.

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