|Born||Christa Gail Pike
March 10, 1976
|Criminal penalty||Execution by electrocution|
|Criminal status||Awaiting execution on death row|
|Conviction(s)||Conspiracy to commit murder,
Murder — March 22, 1996
Christa Gail Pike (born March 10, 1976) is the youngest woman to be sentenced to death in the United States during the post-Furman period. She was 20 when convicted for a torture and murder she committed at age 18.
According to a piece published in Singapore's English language newspaper The Straits Times on April 22, 2001, Pike lived a troubled life and dropped out of high school. She joined the Job Corps, a government program aimed at helping low-income youth by offering vocational training and career skills, and attended the now closed Job Corps center in Knoxville, Tennessee. Pike fell for a young man named Tadaryl Shipp, one year her junior. Together they "dabbled" in the occult and devil worship.
Pike became jealous of fellow student Colleen Slemmer, 19. She thought Slemmer was trying to "steal" her boyfriend from her. Though friends of Slemmer deny the accusations, Pike was set on a vendetta. Along with friend Shadolla Peterson, 18, Pike planned to lure Slemmer to an isolated, abandoned steam plant close by on the University of Tennessee Campus.
On January 12, 1995, Pike, Shipp, Peterson, and Slemmer signed out of the dormitory and proceeded to the woods where Slemmer was told they wanted to make peace by offering her some marijuana. Upon arrival at the secluded location, Slemmer was attacked by Pike and Shipp while Peterson acted as lookout. Per later court testimony, for the next 30 minutes she was taunted, beaten, and slashed, and a pentagram was carved in her chest. Finally, Pike smashed Slemmer's skull with a large chunk of asphalt paving, killing her. Pike kept a piece of her victim's skull.
Pike began to show off the piece of skull around the school and within 36 hours the three were arrested. The log book showed that the four of them left together and only three returned. They also found the piece of skull in Pike's jacket pocket. Their rooms were searched and a Satanic Bible was found in Shipp's room. Pike insisted they were merely trying to scare her and it got out of control.
There was evidence and a confession. Pike was charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. On March 22, 1996 after only a few hours of deliberation, Pike was found guilty on both counts. On March 30, 1996, Pike was sentenced to death by electrocution for the murder charge and 25 years in prison for the conspiracy charge. Shipp received a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 2028. Peterson, who had turned informant, received probation for pleading guilty to being an accessory.
Appeal of conviction
Following the guilty verdict, Pike "launched, canceled and then relaunched" an appeal of her conviction in the Tennessee state courts. In June 2001, then again in June 2002, against the advice of her lawyers, Pike asked the courts to drop her appeal and sought to be executed via electrocution. Criminal Court Judge Mary Beth Leibowitz granted the request and an execution date of August 19, 2002, was set. Pike soon thereafter changed her mind and on July 8, 2002, defense lawyers filed a motion to allow the appeal process to continue. This motion was denied. However, on August 2, 2002 a three judge state appeals court panel ruled that the proceedings should be continued and the execution was not carried out. In December 2008, Pike's latest request for a new trial was turned down and she was returned to death row. This denied request is believed to be the final allowed under the appeals procedures in the State of Tennessee. As of May 2014, no execution date has been set and her case has now entered the federal court system. A federal court has denied a request to release and overturn the death penalty conviction.
Attempted murder conviction
On August 24, 2001, Pike (with alleged assistance from inmate Natasha Cornett) attacked and attempted to strangle fellow inmate Patricia Jones with a shoe string, and nearly succeeded in choking her to death. She was convicted of attempted first degree murder on August 12, 2004. Although it is the position of the Tennessee Department of Corrections that Natasha assisted in this crime, their investigators concluded there was insufficient evidence to charge her with helping Pike attack Jones.
Attempted prison break
In March 2012, it was revealed that Pike had made escape plans involving corrections officer Justin Heflin and a New Jersey man named Donald Kohut. Kohut had visited Pike in prison, but complete details of his relationship to Pike were not immediately known. The attempted prison break was thwarted by a joint investigation involving the Tennessee Department of Corrections, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey State Police.
- http://www.willkern.com/pike.html Newspaper clip of Pike
- Rejected Appeal, Knoxville News Dec 21 2008
- Hearing Resumes, Knoxville News April 7, 2008
- Judge Denies Appeal, Knoxville News Dec 11 2008
- Execution Date Set, Florida Times Union June 27, 2002,
- Pike's Final Appeal, Knoxville News Dec 4 2008
- Mike Donila: Federal court denies Pike's request to overturn death penalty, WBIR-TV, 11 March 2016
- Women on Death Row, Tennessee Department of Correction.
- Love and Hate on Death Row, The Tennessean July 6 2003, Available on Prison Talk Online