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Old 06-14-2004, 04:46 PM
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Default Virginia's only woman on death row says sentence unfair

TROY, Virginia (AP) -- The only woman on Virginia's death row doesn't deny
that she deserves punishment for having her husband and stepson killed so she
could collect insurance money.
But paying the ultimate penalty, says Teresa Lewis, is too much -- especially
considering the men who actually did the deed will live out their lives
behind bars.
"I don't think it's fair for the triggermen to get life, and I got the death
penalty," she said, speaking by phone through a glass partition at the
Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.
Lewis pleaded guilty last year to arranging the slayings of her husband and
stepson to collect a $250,000 insurance policy.
At her sentencing, Circuit Judge Charles Strauss said Lewis had no motive but
greed in the October 30, 2002, slayings and was even more culpable than the
two young men she hired to kill 51-year-old Julian Lewis and his 25-year-old
son, C.J. Lewis.
Lewis maintains she hired the hitmen to escape an abusive relationship.
Strauss said he was particularly bothered by the slaying of C.J., who was
home on leave from Army National Guard duty and "by all accounts was a fine young
man," said defense attorney Thomas Blaylock.
Teresa Lewis kissed him goodnight in the family's Pittsylvania County home,
knowing the hit men were coming, Blaylock said.
Prosecutor David Grimes said he sought the death penalty because "her actions
in planning and getting the other two to actually do the shooting was
extraordinarily cold."
Blaylock said he was surprised by Teresa Lewis' sentence because she was the
first to confess and led police to the triggermen.
Teresa Lewis said she's confident she can avoid execution, and smiled and
laughed through much of a recent hourlong interview with The Associated Press.
"I just feel like I have something to live for. I've got a daughter here,"
she said.
Christie Lynn Bean, 17, is serving five years at the Fluvanna prison because
she knew about the murder plot but remained silent. A jury convicted Bean of
conspiring with her mother and of two counts of first-degree murder as an
accessory before the fact.
"I feel terrible for her being here," Teresa Lewis said. "She knew about it
before it happened. Oh, what a mess! I didn't think about the consequences it
would bring. I hate myself."
Teresa Lewis said she met would-be triggermen Matthew Shallenberger and
Rodney Fuller, both in their 20s, while waiting in the customer service line at a
Wal-Mart store. She and Shallenberger became lovers and concocted the scheme to
murder Julian Lewis, who she said was an abusive alcoholic.
"My motive was to get rid of Julian because I was a prisoner in my own home,"
she said. "I didn't care about the money."
Teresa Lewis hopes she can win a new trial, or at least a reduced sentence.
The Virginia Supreme Court rejected her appeal in March. Blaylock said the case
will be appealed to the federal courts.
Kathy Clifton said she wants to see Lewis executed for arranging the murders
of her father and brother.
If Lewis is put to death, "I will be there," Clifton said. "I want to see it
finished.
"I want justice for my father and brother."
Teresa Lewis would be the first woman executed in Virginia since 1912, when
17-year-old Virginia Christian died in the electric chair for suffocating her
female employer with a towel.
Virginia has executed 91 people since the Supreme Court reinstated the death
penalty in 1976, second behind Texas. Of the 912 people executed nationally
since then, 10 have been women.
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