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Death Row

Women on Death Row

In Tennessee, there is currently one woman on death row.  In 1996, Christa Pike was sentenced to death for the beating and then murdering of a fellow Jobs Corps worker from Knoxville, Tennessee.  Pike was 19 years old when she committed her crime and at the time of her incarceration, she was the youngest person on death row at age 21. She was convicted of first-degree murder on January 12, 1995 and entered prison on March 30, 1996.

Christa Pike:

  • Born in West Virginia on March 10, 1976.
  • Lived in Knoxville working in the former Federal Jobs Corps Program when she committed her crime.
  • On January 12, 1995, she killed Colleen Slemmer in a remote area of the University of Tennessee Agricultural campus.  She beat the worker and then killed her.  Pike was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death.
  • On March 30, 1996, Pike entered the Tennessee Prison for Women.
  • On August 24, 2001, Pike strangled inmate Patricia Jones with a shoe string nearly choking her to death.  She was convicted of attempted first degree murder on August 12, 2004.

It was not until 1986 that the first woman in Tennessee received the death penalty when Gail Owens, from Memphis, was sentenced to death for having someone kill her husband. The man who actually killed her husband, Sidney Porterfield, also was sentenced to death. Owens committed her crime on February 17, 1985 and was convicted on January 4, 1986. She entered prison on February 21, 1986. On July 14, 2010, Governor Phil Bredesen commuted Owens' death sentence to life. She could become eligible for parole in 2012.