Gaile Owens to be released Friday

Gaile Owens
Gaile Owens

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - A woman who once sat on the state's death row for hiring a man to kill her husband will go free Friday morning.

The state Board of Probation and Parole voted late last month to release 58-year-old Gaile Owens, whose death sentence was commuted last year by then Gov. Phil Bredesen.

Owens was convicted in 1986 of hiring a man to kill her husband, Ron. He was beaten to death with a tire iron at their suburban Memphis home.

She initially told police that she had a bad marriage but that there was little physical violence. Shortly thereafter, she told attorneys a different story: claiming her husband had repeatedly raped and denigrated her, cheated on her and threatened to take their two children when she asked for a divorce.

Bredesen said he commuted the sentence because Owens once had a plea deal to avoid the death penalty that fell through when her co-defendant refused to plead guilty.

Defense attorneys claimed Owens' death sentence was out of line with others convicted of similar crimes. Attorneys found records of at least 20 women convicted in Tennessee of first-degree murder for either killing their husbands, or hiring or conspiring with someone else to have their husbands killed. None of those women were sentenced to death. Many other women were convicted of lesser charges.

Before her death sentence was commuted last July, Owens' execution had been set for that September. It has been nearly 200 years since Tennessee executed a woman. One other woman, Christa Gail Pike, is in prison with a death sentence but she is continuing to appeal.

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