Updated: Tuesday, January 9, 2024
Wendell Grissom was scheduled to be executed on Thursday, January 11, 2024, inside the execution chamber at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary near McAlester, Oklahoma. His execution has been stayed and is awaiting a new execution date. Fifty-five-year-old Wendell is convicted of murdering 23-year-old Amber Matthews on November 3, 2005, in Watonga, Oklahoma. Wendell has spent the last 15 years on Oklahoma’s death row.
During his birth, Wendell was deprived of oxygen for a time, which could have adversely impacted his brain development as he grew. As a child, he had a history of head injuries. He also struggled in school and had social problems. As an adult, Wendell regularly drank alcohol and suffered from depression. He was out on parole at the time of the murder.
On November 2, 2005, Wendell Grissom picked up a hitchhiker, Jessie Johns, while driving from Arkansas to Oklahoma. The two discussed robbing a house together, made a plan, and bought supplies. The following morning, they pulled into the driveway of a home near Watonga, Oklahoma. The home belonged to Matt and Dreu Kopf. Dreu was home that morning with her best friend, Amber Matthews, and her two young children.
Grissom told Johns to wait until the shooting stopped and then come in and help him burglarize the home. Grissom knocked on the back sliding door. Dreu, holding her infant child, stayed seated while Amber answered the door. After a brief conversation, he left and Amber shut the door. Grissom then reappeared and when Dreu approached the door, Grissom opened fire, shattering the door. He entered the home and fired another shot at Dreu, hitting her. Amber took the infant and ran into a bedroom, while Dreu attempted to fight off Grissom.
Grissom fired at least twice more at Dreu, including once in her hip to throw her off of his back and onto the floor. He then approached the bedroom where the two children and Amber were hiding. Dreu heard Amber beg for her before a gunshot went off.
Dreu then fled the house. Outside, she saw the unfamiliar vehicle in her driveway. Johns had left the vehicle after hearing several shots, allowing Dreu to escape using it. Dreu soon came across a group of truckers, one of whom was a retired police officer. He called in the shooting and took Dreu to the hospital, where she survived her injuries. Officers quickly responded to the crime scene. Dreu’s two young children were found alive. Amber was mortally wounded and died on a medical evacuation flight to an Oklahoma City hospital.
Grissom and Johns decided to flee the scene on a red four-wheeler found in the garage. After they ran out of gas, a farmer gave them a ride to a cafe. The two men made the staff at the cafe uncomfortable with their behavior and they eventually called the police to report their suspicious behavior. Police quickly realized the connection to the crime scene and sent officers. Both men were arrested and questioned.
Grissom was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death on June 17, 2008. Johns was also tried and convicted. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has requested that several of the upcoming scheduled executions in the state be rescheduled to allow more time between them. Oklahoma’s Department of Corrections is currently understaffed and preparing for an execution is time intensive. Drummond’s request was granted by the courts. Several executions have been rescheduled, however many, including Wendell Grissom’s have not yet received their new execution dates.
Pray for the family of Amber Matthews. Pray for healing for all victims. Please pray for strength for the family of Wendell Grissom. Please pray that if Wendell is innocent, lacks the competency to be executed, or should not be executed for any other reason, evidence will be presented before his execution. Pray that Wendell finds peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
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