Women make up less than 3% of the people awaiting execution on Texas. In fact, there are currently only six women on death row in the state most commonly associated with executions.
I am often interested in the details of these cases. What makes one woman who killed her children a candidate for the death penalty when other people who kill their children receive prison sentences? What are the circumstances surrounding the crimes these people committed — were they really that much more heinous than crimes committed by those serving life sentences? Did these women lack solid legal representation?
These are the brief stories behind the six women on death row in Texas.
Darlie Routier has maintained her innocence in the deaths of her two sons, Damon and Devon, for more than 20 years. Darlie was convicted of stabbing and killing the boys, who were 5 and 6 years old as her husband and infant son slept. She was accused of doing so because her family was facing some financial difficulties.
One of the nails in the coffin of Darlie’s 1997 case is a video of Darlie spraying silly string and giggling at the grave of her young sons. Family members of Darlie who support her say that this was all part of a birthday celebration for one of the boys and should not have been used as evidence. They say the video did not capture the prayers and tears the family shared over the graves.
Right now, Darlie does not have an execution date. She maintains that an intruder killed her sons.
Kimberly Cargill was convicted in 2012 of killing the babysitter she hired to watch her children in 2010. The victim, Cherry Walker, was developmentally disabled. Cargill had previously faced investigations regarding child abuse, and she’d already lost custody of one of her children. Cargill’s intention was apparently to prevent Walker from testifying against her in court.
In 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Cargill’s appeal. At this time, Cargill does not have a set execution date.
Melissa Lucio is convicted of abusing and killing her 2-year-old daughter, Mariah, Alvarez, who was discovered by emergency personnel in 2007. Lucio had nine children and claimed the young girl had fallen down stairs. Investigators found this was not the case based on the injuries the young girl had endured.
In 2011, the state upheld Lucio’s death sentence. She has been on death row for nearly 11 years.
Linda Carty was sentenced to death in 2001 after planning and implementing the murder of her 20-year-old neighbor, Joana Rodriguez. Carty intended to murder the woman and take her baby in the hopes it would benefit her relationship. She was sentenced to death in 2002.
In 2018, the Supreme Court turned down Carty’s appeal. Carty maintains her innocence and says she was framed by those who carried out the murder and attacks on others in the home.
Brittany Holberg was convicted of murdering an 80-year-old man she robbed at his home. The man had hired Holberg as a sex worker and taken her to his home. There, she brutally attacked him with several weapons.
Holberg was sentenced to death in 1998. She remains on death row in spite of her assertions that she was acting in self-defense. Her conviction was affirmed in 2000.
Erica Sheppard, 19 years old, and James Dickerson were convicted of robbing and murdering Marilyn Meagher as she walked to her apartment from her vehicle. They brutally killed her inside her apartment to get her car keys. They had been scoping out the apartment complex in the hopes of finding somebody to steal a car from.
In 1996, Sheppard was sentenced to death. Dickerson died while awaiting his execution. Sheppard claims she was present for the crime but was not an active participant.
Texas has executed 561 people in total, which is far more than any other state. The state with the second most executions is Virginia at 113.
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