Kelly Gissendaner, Georgia
March 2, 2015
Kelly Renee Gissendaner was executed shortly after 7 pm, on Monday, March 2, 2015, at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison in Jackson, Georgia. Her execution was postponed from Wednesday, February 25, 2015, due to a snowstorm in the area. Forty-six-year-old Kelly was executed for arranging the murder of her husband, 30-year-old Doug Gissendaner on February 7, 1997, in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Kelly spent the last 16 years of her life on Georgia’s death row.
Kelly had three children, aged 5, 8, and 12, at the time of the murder. She was previously a member of the United States Army. Kelly alleged she was physically and sexually abused as a child. While in prison, Kelly earned a theology degree.
Kelly and Doug met in the 1980s. They first married in 1989. Over the next eight years, Kelly and Doug had a tumultuous relationship. After getting 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 divorce Doug because he would not leave her alone if she did. Over the 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 Doug, holding a knife Kelly had given him to his throat. Doug was forced to drive to a remote location, walk into the woods, and kneel on the ground. Owen then killed Doug by striking him with a nightstick, which was also given to him by Kelly, and stabbing Doug 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 is the second woman executed by the state of Georgia. Georgia last executed a woman, Lena Baker, in 1945.
Please pray for peace and healing for the family of Doug. Please pray for strength for the family of Kelly.
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