September 30, 2015
Kelly Renee Gissendaner was executed on Wednesday, September 30, 2015, by the state of Georgia. Kelly was pronounced dead at 12:21 am EDT, inside the execution chamber at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia. Kelly was 47 years of age. She was executed for arranging the murder of her husband, 30-year-old Doug Gissendaner on February 7, 1997, in Gwinnet County, Georgia. Kelly spent the last 16 years of her life on Georgia's death row.
Kelly’s execution had been scheduled to begin at 7 pm EDT, on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, however it was delayed several hours due to appeals.
Kelly was the mother of three children, who were ages 5, 8, and 12, at the time of the murder. She was previously a member of the United States Army. While in prison, Kelly earned a certificate in theological studies. Kelly alleges she was physically and sexually abused as a child.
Kelly and Doug met in the 1980s. They first married in 1989. Over the course of the next eight years, Kelly and Doug had a tumultuous relationship. After being married in September of 1989, they separated in December of 1991, reunited briefly in October of 1992, divorced in March of 1993, reunited in February of 1995, remarried in May of 1995, separated in May of 1996, and reunited in December 1996. By February of 1997, though, their relationship was once again on the rocks. Kelly was involved with another man, Gregory Bruce Owen, whom she first met in September of 1995. Kelly told a coworker that she was unhappy with her husband and in love with Gregory.
Kelly's relationship with Gregory was equally tumultuous, as they dated and broke up at least once. Kelly first brought up killing her husband in November of 1996. Kelly told Gregory that she could not simply divorce Doug because he would not leave her alone if she divorced him. Over they next four months, they spoke of killing her husband several times, before agreeing on a plan. On the evening of February 7, 1997, Kelly dropped Gregory off at her home and drove to a friend’s house, where she insisted that they go out that night to a nightclub.
Doug arrived home shortly after 10 pm. Owen confronted him, holding a knife, which Kelly had given him, to Doug’s throat. Owen forced Doug to drive to a remote location, walk into the woods, and kneel on the ground. Owen killed Doug by striking him with a nightstick, also given to him by Kelly, and stabbing him in the back and neck several times. Owen also stole Doug’s watch and wedding ring.
After arriving home from her night out, Kelly met up with Owen and the couple burned Doug’s vehicle. Kelly also asked Owen if her husband was dead and inspected the body.
It was nearly two weeks before Doug’s body was discovered. When police questioned Kelly, she concealed her relationship with Owen and insisted she had not contacted him for some time. Owen eventually confessed and agreed to testify against Kelly in exchange for a life sentence, sparing him from the death penalty.
At her trial, Kelly claimed innocence, saying she did not team up with Owen to kill her husband, arguing that she could have divorced him if she wanted out of the relationship. The jury found her guilty and sentenced her to death on November 20, 1998.
Kelly was the only female currently on Georgia’s death row and is only the second women executed by the state of Georgia. Georgia last executed a woman, Lena Baker, in 1945.
This was the third scheduled execution for Kelly this year. Kelly’s first scheduled execution was on February 25, 2015. It was rescheduled for March 2, 2015, due to a snowstorm. Hours after her execution was scheduled to begin, the execution was postponed due to concerns over the execution drugs. In the hours before her execution on March 2, 2015, the drugs were tested for potency. The test fell within the acceptable levels. Hours later, the drugs began to take on a cloudy appearance, leading to new concerns over the drugs. After contacting the pharmacist, the decision was made to postpone the execution in an abundance of caution. It was later determined that the cloudy appearance was due to how the drugs were stored.
Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Doug. Please pray for strength for the family of Kelly.