07 January 2019 :
Debra Denise Brown, 56, Black, will no longer be executed. The woman who was Indiana's sole female death row inmate will not be executed for her role in the murder of TamikaTurks, a 7-year-old girl, in Gary on June 18, 1984. Last month, the Lake County prosecutor and the Indiana Attorney General’s Office signed an agreement withdrawing a demand for the execution Debra Denise Brown because of mental disability. It is an appeal Brown's attorneys have made multiple times since she was sentenced to death in June 1986 alongside co-defendant Alton Coleman. Together, the couple was convicted of carrying out a 53-day crime spree across multiple Midwestern states that resulted in 8 killings, 7 rapes, 3 kidnappings and 14 armed robberies. It is still unlikely that Brown will ever be freed from prison. She faces 2 consecutive life sentences in Ohio, plus an additional 140 years in Indiana. According to IndyStar archives, 7-year-old TamikaTurks was walking home from a candy store, on June 18, 1984 with her 9-year-old aunt, Annie, when Brown and Coleman persuaded them to walk into the woods to play a game. Tamika was suffocated and stomped when she began to cry, and Annie was raped. Annie survived, but Tamika was killed. The attack happened in the midst of the couple's crime spree that took them through Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. They were finally captured in Illinois on July 20, 1984. In the wake of her arrest, attorneys for Brown argued that the 21-year-old woman was borderline mentally disabled and acting under Coleman's domination at the time of the killings. But Brown and Coleman were both sentenced to death, and each made multiple unsuccessful appeals to have the sentences overturned. Coleman, who was sentenced to death in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana, was executed in Ohio on April 26, 2002. A statement provided by Indiana Attorney General Spokeswoman Melissa Gustafson said the recent sentence modification was required by constitutional law and based on evidence developed throughout the case that Brown is likely intellectually disabled. "Under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the 2003 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Atkins v. Virginia, a death sentence cannot be given to persons who are intellectually disabled," said the statement from Gustafson. Gustafson explained that because Brown committed her crimes before life without parole was an option in Indiana, it is illegal to give her a life sentence in the Indiana case. Instead, she was given the maximum sentence for murder, short of the death penalty, in addition to her other Indiana sentences. That totals 140 years, to be served consecutively with 2 sentences of life without parole in Ohio. The Ohio sentences are for murders committed during the same 1984 crime spree and were originally death sentences reduced to life by former Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste.