Chamblee54

Kelly And Doug Gissendaner

Posted in Georgia History, GSU photo archive, Race, The Death Penalty by chamblee54 on February 17, 2015

Kelly Gissendaner

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Kelly Renee Brookshire Gissendaner is supposed to die on February 25. She is accused of planning the murder of her husband, Douglas Morgan Gissendaner. The killing was done by Gregory Bruce Owen. The Attorney General of Georgia issued a press advisory, with a description of the crime.
“The facts of the case, as presented at trial, show that Gissendaner married Douglas Gissendaner in September of 1989. Douglas joined the Army in January 1990, their child was born in March 1990, and Douglas was transferred to Germany in September 1990. Gissendaner and Douglas separated in December 1991, after Douglas had served in Desert Storm and then left the Army. Gissendaner joined the Army in March 1992, and Douglas joined Gissendaner and the children in Virginia in October 1992, but he left six weeks later. Gissendaner and Douglas divorced in March 1993.
Gissendaner and Douglas started seeing each other again in February 1995, remarried in May 1995, and separated in September 1995. Douglas again filed for divorce, but he later dropped the suit, as he and Gissendaner started dating again in May 1996. The couple moved to Auburn, Ga., in December 1996 and purchased a home together.
However, Gissendaner had met co-defendant Gregory Owen in September of 1995. Gissendaner and co-defendant Owen broke up in April 1996 and did not see each other again until October 1996, when Gissendaner called co-defendant Owen’s sister, Belinda Leicht, purportedly to tell Belinda about a job. However, Gissendaner also asked for co-defendant Owen’s pager number. At this time, Gissendaner told a co-worker that she was not happy with Douglas and was in love with Owen.
On Nov. 8, 1996, Pamela Kogut, a friend of Gissendaner’s, drove Gissendaner to a hotel in Winder, Ga., where Gissendaner spent the night with co-defendant Owen. In December, when co-defendant Owen’s sister asked Gissendaner what her intentions were with her brother, Gissendaner replied that she was only staying with Douglas to use his credit and money to purchase a house and then she would get rid of him. However, Gissendaner was telling others and giving all outward appearances that her marriage had taken a turn for the better.
Gissendaner first brought up the idea of killing Douglas to co-defendant Owen in November of 1996, when she asked co-defendant Owen how to get rid of Douglas. When co-defendant Owen suggested that she divorce Douglas, Gissendaner stated that divorce would not work because Douglas would not leave her alone if she simply divorced him. Gissendaner and co-defendant Owen discussed killing Douglas on four or five occasions, all at Gissendaner’s initiation, before reaching a final agreement to kill him. It was agreed that, on Feb. 7, 1997, while Gissendaner was out with friends, co-defendant Owen would kill Douglas. The murder went exactly as Gissendaner planned.
On Feb. 7, 1997, Gissendaner picked co-defendant Owen up at his home and drove him to her house at approximately 5:30 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. Gissendaner changed clothing, gave co-defendant Owen a night stick and a six to eight inch hunting knife and left. Gissendaner spent the evening with Pamela Kogut, Kerri Otis, and Nicole Bennett, eventually going dancing at “The Shack” at 10:30 p.m. Ms. Otis had attempted to reschedule the evening, but Gissendaner insisted that they had to go out that night. The group left at 11:30 p.m. when Gissendaner stated that she had a bad feeling and had to go home.
In the meantime, Douglas had spent the evening at the home of Tom and Kathy Nesbit, friends of the family from church. Douglas worked on cars with Tom from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m. When Douglas left, he stated he was going straight home. Douglas arrived home at approximately 11:30 p.m. Co-defendant Owen was waiting for him inside the house. As Douglas was closing the door, co-defendant Owen walked up behind him, put a knife to his neck, and told him that he needed to go for a ride. The two got into Douglas’ car, and co-defendant Owen, with the knife in his lap, made Douglas drive in the direction of Luke Edwards Road in Gwinnett County, Ga.
When they arrived at a desolate area on Luke Edwards Road, co-defendant Owen made Douglas get out of the car, walk toward the woods, and get down on his knees. As Gissendaner had instructed co-defendant Owen, co-defendant Owen took Douglas’ watch and wedding band to make it appear like robbery was the motive for the murder. When Douglas was on his knees, co-defendant Owen hit him in the back of the head with the night stick. Douglas fell forward and was silent. Co-defendant Owen then stabbed Douglas in the neck eight to ten times.
Gissendaner had arrived at the prearranged scene of the murder as co-defendant Owen was stabbing Douglas but remained in her car. When co-defendant Owen approached Gissendaner’s car after the stabbing, Gissendaner asked if Douglas was dead. Although co-defendant Owen replied that he thought he was dead, Gissendaner went to check on the body anyway. After Gissendaner walked back from the direction of Douglas’ body, she got into her car and co-defendant Owen got into Douglas’ car. Co-defendant Owen followed Gissendaner about three-fourths to a mile up the road. As Gissendaner continued to the end of the road in her car, co-defendant Owen stopped his car and picked up a can of kerosene that Gissendaner had left for him earlier, doused Douglas’ car with the kerosene and set it on fire. Co-defendant Owen then walked up to the end of the road, where Gissendaner picked him up and drove him home.
After Gissendaner dropped off co-defendant Owen, co-defendant Owen put his clothes, the knife, the stick, and Douglas’ jewelry into a garbage bag and disposed of them one to two nights later.
Between 7:00 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on the morning of the murder, Gissendaner phoned Douglas’ parents, the Nesbits, and Pamela Kogut, purportedly looking for Douglas. All testified that Gissendaner sounded strangely calm and unemotional. Gissendaner told people that she had come home at approximately midnight, mistakenly taken a sleeping pill rather than a pain pill and gone to sleep. Family, friends and the police were soon searching for signs of Douglas. The Department of Natural Resources found Douglas’ burned car on Sunday morning, but could not find Douglas’ body. Gissendaner acted surprised for about 15 minutes, and then did not seem to be distraught at all. When Gissendaner went to the scene of the burned car, she showed no emotion.
Gissendaner appeared on television news asking for information on Douglas’ whereabouts. However, while the search continued for Douglas, Gissendaner basically continued business as usual, even going back to work. Gissendaner told Ms. Otis that her house would be paid for with insurance, so she did not have to worry. However, Gissendaner found out that there, in fact, was no insurance policy in effect. Gissendaner was irritated that Douglas had not taken care of it. Ms. Nesbit asked Gissendaner whether she thought co-defendant Owen had anything to do with Douglas being missing, but Gissendaner was very quiet and did not really respond to that question. Ms. Otis told Gissendaner that she should tell the investigator about co-defendant Owen, but Gissendaner did not do so.
Investigator Doug Davis of the Gwinnett County Police Department interviewed Gissendaner several times during the search for Douglas. On Sunday, Feb. 9, 1997, Gissendaner told him there were no marital problems between Douglas and her. During a second interview on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 1997, Gissendaner told Investigator Davis about the previous marital difficulties, that she had arrived home about 12:15 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 8, 1997, and that there were no life insurance policies in effect for Douglas. Investigator Davis learned about her relationship with co-defendant Owen before Gissendaner admitted to her extra-marital affair with co-defendant Owen. In another interview on Thursday, Feb. 13, 1997, Gissendaner told Investigator Davis that co-defendant Owen had threatened to kill her and that she had ended their relationship in December 1996 when she and Douglas had reconciled. She further acknowledged speaking with co-defendant Owen a few times since December 1996 when co-defendant Owen called her at work to inquire as to how she and the children were and that he had paged her as recently as Friday, Feb. 7, 1997. However, phone records indicated 65 contacts initiated by Gissendaner to co-defendant Owen, the last being a phone call to co-defendant Owen’s beeper at 12:28 a.m. on Friday night, Feb. 7, 1997. Gissendaner also told Investigator Davis that there were other men with whom she had recently had extra-marital affairs.
Douglas Gissendaner’s body was finally located on Feb. 20, 1996, approximately one mile from his car, 100 to 150 feet off the road, on his knees, face down. Douglas had received at least four stab wounds in the back of the head and the neck region. The cause of death was the stab wounds to the neck…. the right side of the victim’s neck, including the skin and much of the soft tissues, had been devoured by animals after death.
Owen initially denied any involvement in the murder, but confessed on Feb. 24, 1997, and implicated Gissendaner. Gissendaner was arrested for murder on Feb. 25, 1997. That day, Gissendaner called Pamela Kogut, saying “I did it.” However, Gissendaner also told her that Owen held a knife to her and said he would kill her and the children if she told anybody about it.
While in jail awaiting trial, Gissendaner shared a jail cell for a short period of time with Laura McDuffie. Gissendaner got angry and hostile when she heard that co-defendant Owen was to be sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role in the murder. At that point, Gissendaner began writing letters to hire a third person who would falsely confess to holding Gissendaner at gunpoint and making her go to the crime scene on the night of the murder. Gissendaner asked Ms. McDuffie to help her find that third party person and said she was willing to pay $10,000. Ms. McDuffie turned these letters, which also contained names of people that Gissendaner wanted beaten up, over to her lawyer because she did not want to get involved in a murder case.”

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Mr. Owen testified for the state. The majority of the state’s case is based on his testimony. Murderpedia has several court documents which cast doubt on Mr. Owen’s testimony.
“… trial counsel was able to elicit the following inconsistent facts in Owen’s testimony on cross-examination: “Owen originally lied to police regarding his whereabouts on the night of the murder”; “Owen admitted he did not implicate Petitioner in the murder until after the police had informed him that she was also seeing other men”; “Owen repeatedly told police that Petitioner had not come to the scene of her husband’s murder and did not testify at his plea hearing that Petitioner was at the scene of the murder on the night of the crime”; “What Owen did with the murder weapon, his clothes and several personal items”; “That Owen lied to police when he had informed them that he drove around after killing the Victim waiting for Petitioner to page him.”
“… Owen now maintains that he testified falsely at trial. He now maintains that: 1) Ms. Gissendaner did not supply the knife; 2) she was not involved in the planning of the actual killing; 3) Owen had the help of a third person whom he recruited in the abduction and killing; 4) Ms. Gissendaner did not know the third person was involved; and 5) Ms. Gissendaner never went to the murder scene to ensure her husband was dead.
The state habeas court held that Owen’s potential recantation at the habeas evidentiary hearing did not prove his trial testimony was false, and thus that the Petitioner failed to establish prong 1 of the Giglio/Jacobs test. The state habeas court reasoned: “The Georgia Supreme Court gives more credit to trial testimony than to post trial recantations.”
It could be argued that Mrs. Gissendaner is being executed as much for refusing to testify, as for the crime itself. “In Gissendaner’s case, said Danny Porter, the Gwinnett County District Attorney who sought the death penalty, the defendant sealed her fate. “For whatever reason she refused the offer to testify against her co-defendant, She kind of took her chances. Whether that was based on bad legal advice or her position at the time, which may have changed over the years.” … “You could say he took responsibility because he took the deal, Whereas Gissendaner left us with almost no choice.”
Murderpedia has a fishwrapper article from the trial, dated November 12, 1998. It says “Almost no one expects Gissendaner to be put to death.”
Another article is dated November 20, 1998, after the jury imposed the death sentence. “The jury rejected defense arguments … and that her 3 children, ages 5, 8 and 12, need their mother.” Who was watching the children February 7, 1997, when Mr. Gissendaner was out, and Mrs. Gissendaner went dancing at “The Shack”?
Amazon reviewer Sylviastel says “She had sons, Brandon, and Jonathon also known as Cody, with two other men but her daughter Kayla was her husband’s child.” Apparently, the 8 year old (age in 1998) is the daughter of Mr. Gissendaner. The 5, and 12 year olds had other daddies. The Gissendaner divorce was in 1993, about when the 5 year old was born.
Kelly Gissendaner, aka Kelly R. Brookshire, GDC ID:0000357507, is currently the only woman Under Death Sentence in Georgia. The Department of Corrections has a document, The Death Penalty in Georgia, which states “The first person believed legally executed in Colonial Georgia was a woman. In 1735, Alice Ryley, a white female who arrived in America on an Irish transport, was hung for the murder of her master Will Wise.” The fishwrapper states “Georgia has put to death 13 women since 1735,” but does not offer any details.
The GDC document has a list of all executions since 1924, when the electric chair was installed at the Reidsville facility. The only woman put to death since then is Lena Baker, a black lady accused of killing her employer. She died March 5, 1945, and was pardoned by the state in 2005.
Kelly Gissendaner, Doug Gissendaner, and Greg Bruce are all white. The State seems to alternate black, and white, prisoners when choosing people to poison. Is this intentional?
During the appeals process, “Gissendaner contends that the jury pools from which her grand jury and traverse jury were selected were created in a racially-discriminatory manner.” This is a standard part of the appeals routine. The state went on to say “Moreover, persons who murder white persons are of course not a protected class under the Equal Protection Clause.”
If you want to write Mrs. Gissendaner, you can go to WriteAPrisoner. ” My name is Kelly. Recently I was introduced to WriteAPrisoner after being incarcerated for 17 years. The past few years have been kind of lonely. So the possibility of meeting new friends is very appealing at this point.
My hobbies include reading, writing, and dancing. I recently started doing spiritual dancing, which I have come to love! I enjoy nature and when the weather permits, I spend many days outside. Right now I’m enrolled in Theology classes so please know that I am extremely open-minded.”
There is a book about the case, First We’ll Kill My Husband: The Dark Desires of the Only Woman on Georgia’s Death Row. Amazon reviewers have not been kind. “All the book did was reinforce my views about rural Georgia “white trash”. Historic pictures for this feature are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. Color pictures are from Georgia Department of Corrections, Murderpedia, WriteAPrisoner, and findagrave. UPDATE Clemency has been denied. The execution will proceed when weather permits.

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5 Responses

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  1. […] Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. A detailed story, Kelly And Doug Gissendaner, is available at Chamblee […]

  2. […] events. Today sees a renewed offensive by the “faith community” to spare the life of Kelly Gissendaner. Apparently she has found G-d in prison. Some seem to think Mrs. Gissendaner is entitled to special […]

  3. […] little while ago, Georgia was fixin’ to waste Kelly Gissendaner. It turns out the mystery drugs were “cloudy.” Using an “abundance of […]

  4. Harold said, on June 25, 2015 at 8:41 am

    The Georgia Department of Corrections should commute her sentence over to life. Here are my reasons why: 1) GDC has erred in Kelly’s care and custody since day one of her being placed under “Death Sentence”. 2) She has been allowed to interact with other inmates,3) allowed to conduct speaking engagements to troubled teens who were brought to the prison on tours. 4) She was allowed to participate in a theology course offered by GDC and outside seminary schools.5) She has counciled other inmates and staff members from rookie line officers up to and including wardens.6) She has been allowed to be interviewed by caribous media groups during her tenure as an inmate “Under Death Sentence” 7) Her execution was called off the first time due to “threatening weather” ( that’s a joke in itself) 8) The States second attempt at killing Kelly was thwarted due to the drug that was to be used appeared “Cloudy”, and no one knows why due to test which were conducted by both an independent lb and by the GDC’s own in-house expert which revealed no answer( I feel that the original sample of the drug should have been tested to see who contaminated the drug, but that is my opinion and I guess it really doesn’t matter). This inmate holds a lot of power and respect amongst both the inmate population and GDC staff. She was to be kept on ” lock down” for 23 out of the 24 hrs a day due to her being under “Death Sentence” and wasn’t. Why? There are a lot of mysteries that are being kept under wraps, that will probably never come to fruition due to the fact that they may cause quite a massive embarrassment for the department that I so love and have worked for for the last 25 years.

  5. Carlton Gary | Chamblee54 said, on March 13, 2018 at 4:56 am

    […] When Georgia decides to execute someone, they don’t like to give up. Troy Davis, Kelly Gissendaner, and Warren Hill are recent examples. No matter how inconclusive the evidence, no matter how bad it […]


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