Category Archives: Victim Voices

Excellent Opinion Piece Published in the Emporia Gazette


On December 16, 2011, the Emporia Gazette published a column by Bob Grover entitled, “Abolish the death penalty in Kansas” which outlined many reasons that the death penalty in Kansas should be replaced with life in prison without the possibility of parole.


Grover approaches this topic from a variety of angles, including cost, deterrence, fairness, and innocence. But perhaps the most compelling argument Grover makes considers the needs of family members of homicide victims. He quotes Stan Bohn of North Newton, KS:


Perhaps forgiveness is the most compelling reason for abolishing the death penalty. My sister was raped and murdered, a shocking experience for us. Our family never had a chance to meet the murderer but wanted to in order to help the long slow healing process. None of us wanted the execution kind of ‘closure’ that can’t compensate the loss and only hinders real healing that might happen in victim-criminal talks. It’s time to end death penalty vengeance and consider the deeper healing that the victims need.


The entire article may be found here.



Victim Voices: Marilyn J. Trechter “My Own Journey As an Abolitionist”


My Own Journey As An Abolitionist

by Marilyn J. Trechter

My own journey toward abolition actually began on April 4, 1968.  On the day before my sixteenth birthday, Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered. What impressed me was that I was so saddened by the riots that occurred as a response to the murder.  This man was an Apostle of Non-Violence. His murderer was not found until another murder occurred in June of that year.

On June 5, 1968 Robert F. Kennedy became the second member of his family to be murdered. The response of the Kennedy family was to appeal to the court not to seek the Death Penalty for Sirhan Sirhan.  The Kennedys knew that society needed to be protected, and yet they chose life rather than death.

At that time I began to deeply contemplate this idea: Why do we kill when the Man who most of us consider our Lord and Savior said not to?  This same man also died a violent death at the hands of the religious and civic leaders.  How can we ever allow or desire the death of another as punishment?

For several years I contemplated this reality.  I was vaguely aware of the US Catholic Bishops Good Friday Pastoral against the Death Penalty. I was more aware that a movie called Dead Man Walking had been made. This movie stirred my heart to its depths.  Sister Helen Prejean, a Sister of St. Joseph, became a death row prisoner’s spiritual advisor and accompanied him to his death. The story of Dead Man Walking and Sr. Helen completely changed my view of the Death Penalty.  When I had the chance to meet Sr. Helen in person, I found her to be a warm and compassionate woman who manifested the charisma of the Sisters of St. Joseph.

I was also influenced by Pope John Paul II.  The Pope advocated for many prisoners on Death Row.  He met with the man who tried to assassinate him in 1981.  When he visited St. Louis in January 1999, the Pope asked then-Governor Mel Carnahan to spare the life of Darrell Mease, a man about to be executed by the State of Missouri.  Shortly after the Pope’s visit, Carnahan commuted Mease’s sentence to life in prison.

Two experiences dramatically affected my pro-life stance on this issue.  The first was the conviction and execution of Timothy McVeigh. The second experience was the abduction, rape and murder of my cousin, Kaysi McLeod.  When Kaysi was murdered,  I chose to be pro-life and forgive.

I am an Abolitionist because I am convinced that no one has the right to kill another person, even if that person took a life.  I am committed to the sanctity of all life from conception to natural death.  I am convinced that God is loving and life-giving. God loves and forgives, as do I.


Victim Voices: Celeste Dixon

“In 1986 my mother was raped and murdered in her rural home outside Houston. The murderer was eventually convicted and sentenced to death, an outcome I was initially happy with.  Eventually I realized killing him was not going to bring her back. I forgave this man for what he had done—not for him, but for me. I realized supporting the death penalty meant that I was actively wishing for another human being to die and I didn’t like the way that made me feel.  Hating him and wishing him dead had been controlling my life and keeping me locked up in an anger I didn’t even realize I was living with until I let it go.  In 2007, the State of Texas executed him for my mother’s murder. Killing him didn’t bring closure, only sadness that the cycle of violence continued. Death penalty advocates talk about closure but there’s no such thing.  No matter how someone dies, you can never have closure because that person will never come back to you. The best any of us can do is slowly, and painfully, deal with that death and put our lives back together. The death penalty holds out a false promise to people of a release from their pain and suffering that only time and grieving can bring.”

-Celeste Dixon

Larned, KS

Victim Voices: Carol Samuelson

“When my 28 year old daughter Amy was murdered by the father of her 22 month old son, I had to rethink my belief in capital punishment. Some day his son will ask about his birth dad, and I would have to explain everything to him. How could I explain his father was killed because he killed Amy? If I cannot explain the logic of the death penalty to a child, then it is wrong. I realized I had always looked at the death penalty as one dimensional and not how many persons it affects: the families and communities of both the murdered and murderer, and all of society.”

– Carol Samuelson

Topeka, KS

Victim Voices: Candy Ruff

“Because my brother was murdered in 1982, I am often asked if I want his perpetrator to be punished with the death penalty. My unequivocal answer is NO. My faith confirms my belief that the person who took my brother’s life will pay for his crime in the here after. The punishment the Lord has in mind is much harsher than anything our legal system could inflict on earth. However, I truly believe that death by imprisonment is the best alternative. And the incarceration should take place in an isolated institution that allows the guilty person one-hour recreation outdoors and 23 hours inside and all alone. Besides, arriving at a Pro-life political position included life at its beginning and its ending.”

-Candy Ruff

Leavenworth, KS


Victim Voices: Sue Norton

“The execution of Robert Knighton in 2003 was another crisis in my life, another trauma to heal from. He had been convicted of murdering my Daddy and Step-mother in 1990. My husband and I watched that execution not for vengeance but as a form of support since I had become the man’s only friend. Our immediate family had befriended him, all on different levels. I forgave him early on, and learned that forgiveness is a gift to ourselves, not for the forgiven. This is how we can continue on with our life after such a trauma. But in this case the forgiven grew spiritually from it, too. The state of Oklahoma paid so much money to send Robert Knighton to heaven.

In my opinion and experience, the death penalty does not bring closure. Today, twenty one years later, my Daddy and Virginia are still dead.  I still find it impossible that anyone would want to have hurt them. I continue to miss them. However, now I have another event to deal with which is brought to the surface every time my husband begins to snore. I immediately envision a man, strapped to a table after drugs had been pumped into him and he laid there asleep.  Then the strenuous writhing of his body as it experienced drug induced paralysis of the diaphragm and collapse of the lungs, and finally at the end of seven minutes his heart stopped, while others watched on. The only accomplished thing–Oklahoma spent a lot of money and again we as society sent mixed signals of who can and who cannot kill.

I remember the horrific look on my granddaughter’s face when she learned that some States such as Oklahoma (and now Kansas) have a law that puts some folks to death, legally. And I remember how hard it was to explain. She said, “But killing is wrong!” Yes I agree.”

-Sue Norton

Arkansas City, KS


Victim Voices: Bob and Ruth Hessman

“Four years before he was executed, we began to correspond with Gregg Braun who killed our daughter, Mary. At first, he was belligerent with us; but later he began to release his bitterness, eventually expressing regret and apologized for killing her. We didn’t find forgiveness just by saying, ‘We forgive’ and moving on. We found we needed to start each day with a prayer of forgiveness for Gregg. Pleasure comes to us now from watching our children and our grandchildren as they learn to follow us on the journey of forgiveness. For if we are to believe we can be forgiven, we must be able to forgive.”

-Bob and Ruth Hessman

Dodge City, KS


Murder Victim’s Mother Says Death Penalty Isn’t the Answer

In a letter to the editor published in the July 18, 2006, issue of the Newton Kansan, Wilma Loganbill of Hesston told of her feelings on the death of her son and punishment for his killer.

“Murder leaves a multitude of emotions and pain is the worst. A pain so deep, high and wide, no words are big enough to describe it. You can’t get around or through it. And then there is the anger, anger at everything, wanting revenge, the knowledge everything is beyond your control and a feeling of total helplessness.

How do I know this? My son was murdered in 1982. I wanted to hurt the person who murdered my son like he had hurt me, I wanted to poke his eyes out, among other things, but I never wanted him dead. I wanted him to wake up every day knowing he was in prison because of decisions he had made.

I resented my taxes paying for his room and board. Strange as it seems, I learned it is cheaper to keep someone in prison for life than it is to put them to death. The cost of the legal procedures including the last-minute appeals to prevent capital punishment far exceeds paying for their room and board.

However, there is a cost greater than money for family members and friends of the victim. And that is waiting for the legal procedures to be finished. It is hard to work at healing so long as there are court dates to cope with. Each date is like pouring salt in a wound. Once more you are forced to listen to all the legal words. Once more things you started to resolve are torn apart. I have heard victims express disappointment after the offender was put to death. They expected to feel better, but they didn’t.

I am grateful there was not a death penalty when my son was killed. I didn’t have to deal with ongoing court appearances. I could put the offender out of my mind, start to work at healing, and go on with my life without more legal interruptions. It’s very hard to do, but it can be done.”