Death row inmate claims she was an inevitable killer - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Death row inmate claims she was an inevitable killer

KNOXVILLE, TN (AP) - The newest defense tactics for a death row inmate claim she was an inevitable killer with the perfect storm of deadly characteristics.

Nevertheless, a judge has rejected the efforts on behalf of Christa Gail Pike, already convicted in the 1995 torture death of a fellow Knoxville Job Corps student.

In Pike's latest legal appeals, her defenders offered expert testimony attempting to show that her fate as a killer was sealed long before the beating death of Colleen Slemmer, a 19-year-old student with Pike.

The testimony came in a yearlong series of hearings in Knox County Criminal Court that wrapped up in April.

Dr. Jonathan Henry Pincus, a specialist in neurology, began probing Pike's brain in 2001.

Pincus believes every killer he has examined shares three features: brain damage, a history of abuse and mental illness.

He concluded that Pike's hard-drinking mother put her on the path to murder when she drank while pregnant.

Pike's mother has denied that.

Pike, then 18, viewed Slemmer as a romantic rival for the affections of 17-year-old Tadaryl Shipp.

She, Shipp and 18-year-old Shadolla Peterson, also Job Corps students, lured Slemmer to a secluded spot on the University of Tennessee agricultural campus.

For the next 30 minutes to an hour, Slemmer begged for her life while she was taunted and beaten, trial testimony showed.

Her throat was repeatedly slashed.

A pentagram was carved on her chest.

Her skull was bashed in with a rock, and Pike kept a piece of it as a trophy, testimony revealed.

Shipp was convicted in the killing and is an inmate at Turney Center Industrial Prison in Only, Tenn.

Peterson pleaded guilty to being an accessory and received a six-year probation sentence.

Prosecutors contend Pike is a cold-blooded killer who not only plotted Slemmer's death but cruelly prolonged it for sport.

Her defenders at trial painted her as a victim of the manipulative Shipp, mental illness and mob violence.

Forensic psychiatrist William Kenner testified at the most recent hearings that Pike has long suffered bipolar disorder but had never before been diagnosed with the mental illness.

The signs, he said, were there when she was a sleepless, talkative adolescent.

Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz, in rejecting the new appeal, said jurors had heard much of it in different forms at Pike's original trial in 1996.

Pike will next take her case to the state appellate courts.

If she loses there, it's on to federal court for a last-ditch round of appeals that could span years.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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