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Wretched Sisters

Examining Gender and Capital Punishmend


Mary Welek Atwell

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, fourteen women have been put to death in the United States. The criminal justice system defines crimes committed by women in a particularly gendered context. Wretched Sisters is unique in its analysis of the legal and cultural circumstances that determine why a small number of women are sentenced to death and provides a detailed account of how these fourteen women came to be subjected to the ultimate punishment.
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Chapter 10. Not The “Triggerman”


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Teresa Lewis

In the middle of the night on October 30, 2002, two men entered the mobile home near Danville, Virginia, where Teresa and Julian Lewis lived. Julian’s son, Charles, who was on leave from his Army Reserve unit, was also in the house. One of the intruders shot Julian five or six times with a shotgun loaded with birdshot. The other murdered Charles (C.J.), also firing numerous shotgun blasts. The deaths were the final result of a plot concocted by the shooters, Matthew Shallenberger and Rodney Fuller, and Teresa Lewis, the wife and stepmother of the victims. Three people plotted the murders. Two men were killed. Two men were the killers. All three pled guilty and were sentenced by the same judge. Two received life sentences. One person was executed for the crime—Teresa Lewis, the conspirator who never touched a gun and who killed no one. Why?

Teresa Wilson grew up poor in Danville, Virginia, burdened by a repressive home environment and mental disabilities. She attended six different schools before the seventh grade and dropped out of school altogether after her sophomore year in high school. Over the next fourteen years, she held forty-nine low-paying and generally unskilled jobs. She apparently found it difficult to get to work regularly.1 At 16, Lewis left home and married, gave birth to a daughter Christie, and divorced shortly after. Teresa became her ← 239 | 240 → ailing mother’s...

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