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Virginia set to execute first woman since 1912 in US

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-10

The state of Virginia was moving forward Thursday with its first execution of a woman in nearly a century amid appeals from the European Union and a rebuke from Iran.

AFP - Teresa Lewis knelt in deep prayer with her husband hours before two men she plied with sex and money walked into their mobile home and killed Lewis’ husband and stepson while they slept.

The 41-year-old woman, who defense attorneys say is borderline mentally disabled, inspired other inmates by singing Christian hymns in prison.

Now she’s out of options, about to become the first woman to be executed in the U.S. in five years - a fate that has drawn appeals from the European Union, an indignant rebuke from Iran and the disgust of thousands of people.

Hours before her execution, Lewis was meeting with family, her spiritual adviser and supporters at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, where she is scheduled to die by injection at 9 p.m. (0100 GMT Friday)

The U.S. Supreme Court and Gov. Bob McDonnell have refused to stop her execution.

Throughout her life, a faith in God has been a seeming constant for Lewis - whether it was the prayer with her husband or her ministry behind bars.

But by her own admission, Lewis’ life has been marked by outrageous bouts of sex and betrayal even as she hewed the trappings of Christianity.

“I was doing drugs, stealing, lying and having several affairs during my marriages,” Lewis wrote in a statement that was read at a prison religious service in August. “I went to church every Sunday, Friday and revivals but guess what? I didn’t open my Bible at home, only when I was at church.”

Her father said she ran off to get married, then later abandoned her children and ran off with her sister’s husband. Then she had an affair with her sister’s fiance’ while at the same time having an affair with another man.

Lewis’ life took a deadly turn after she married Julian Clifton Lewis Jr., whom she met at a Danville textile factory in 2000. Two years later, Julian Lewis’ son Charles entered the U.S. Army Reserve. When he was called for active duty he obtained a $250,000 life insurance policy, naming his father the beneficiary and providing temptation for Teresa Lewis.

Both men would have to die for Lewis to receive the insurance payout.

She met the two men who ultimately killed Julian Lewis and his son at a Walmart. Lewis began an affair with Matthew Shallenberger and later had sex with the other triggerman, Rodney Fuller. She also arranged sex with Fuller and her daughter, who was 16, in a parking lot.

On the night before Halloween in 2002, after she prayed with her husband, Lewis got out of bed, unlocked the door and put the couple’s pit bull in a bedroom so the animal wouldn’t interfere with the killings that were to come.

Shallenberger and Fuller came in and shot both men several times with the shotguns Lewis had bought for them.

Even now, when she talks about that night, she casts her actions as a deeply felt spiritual tug-of-war - which she lost.

“Well the night of my crime I had Jesus telling me not to let this happen and then the Devil telling me do it,” she wrote in the prison testimonial.

Despite the sins she fully acknowledged, Lewis’ execution has stirred an unusual outcry - more than 7,300 appeals to the governor - in a state that is second only to Texas in the number of people it executes.

Some question how a woman with a feeble intelligence could manipulate and orchestrate the killings, and why the killers would receive life terms. Lewis confessed, hoping a judge would show her mercy.

Others are repulsed by Virginia’s killing of a woman - the first since 1912.

Regardless, Lewis has no hope of escaping the death penalty now. Instead, she has pinned her hope on redemption.

A website dedicated to her plight has testimonials from former chaplains, volunteers and prisoners detailing how Lewis comforted and inspired the other women on the wing with hymns or country gospel tunes and her words.

The site features Lewis singing her favorite: “I Need a Miracle.”

“She has never said ‘I didn’t do this, I don’t deserve the death penalty,”” said the Rev. Lynn Litchfield, who met Lewis the day she arrived at prison. “She said ‘I did it and I wish I hadn’t.””

Kathy Clifton, Julian Lewis’ daughter - who is to witness the execution - said she believes in redemption.

Whether her stepmother will find it, “I can’t say one way or the other with her.”

Date created : 2010-09-23

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