Angela Kelsey

Tell the Story

There, but for the grace of God, go I

Filed in Dating Violence, Domestic Violence, Stories :: July 5, 2010

I wished that I could snap my fingers and go back in time to the day before I met him, and not meet him.

I wished that he would get arrested for driving drunk.

I wished that he would leave me for one of his girlfriends.

When fear and humiliation and fatigue coalesced, I wished that he would die.

Headshot Gaile Owens is a battered woman on death row in Tennessee for arranging for the 1984 murder of her husband, a man who sexually, emotionally, and physically abused her.

In spite of accepting a plea deal in exchange for a life sentence, Gaile is scheduled to die on September 28, 2010.

She didn’t testify in her own defense to protect her young sons from the details of her abuse at the hands of their father.

Gaile has been diagnosed with battered women’s syndrome.

She has expressed remorse for her crime and been a model prisoner.

She would be the first woman to be executed by the state of Tennessee since Eve Martin was hanged in 1820.

A review of nine comparable cases from the past 25 years found that six of the nine cases received full probation or early parole; two of the nine are serving life sentences and entitled to parole hearings.  Only one of the nine, Gaile, is serving a death sentence.

Gaile’s only hope now is for Governor Phil Bredesen to commute her sentence from the death penalty to life in prison.

Please go to to sign a petition and read more about what you can do.


  1. Kimberley

    I signed the petition. Years ago that could have been me. My heart and prayers go out to her.

  2. angela

    Thank you, Kimberley, for reading and supporting Gaile. I’m going to call and email the governor tomorrow –didn’t want to get lost in the holiday shuffle.

  3. Alana

    Oh this makes me so sad. Thank you for sharing the story. I’ve signed the petition too.

  4. angela

    I emailed the governor and his counsel yesterday. Here is the response I received from his counsel:
    July 6, 2010
    Dear Ms. Kelsey:
    This letter is in response to your email to Governor Bredesen and me regarding Gaile Owens. The governor and I appreciate your taking the time to share both your personal story and your thoughts on this important matter with his office. Your comments will be available for consideration as the governor reviews this matter.
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding Ms. Owens with the governor’s office.
    Best regards,
    Steven E. Elkins
    Legal Counsel to the Governor

  5. Julie Daley

    Angela, Thank you for posting this. I had no knowledge of this story. I will sign the petition now.

  6. wholly jeanne

    signed the petition when you first told me about it. started a letter, but got distracted. time to finish and mail.

  7. Cheryl-Ann Henning

    As a domestic abuse survivor in Vancouver, Canada whose story is somewhat appalling – one can always be reminded that there is another story – some where out there – that is worse. Grace should not have to die or spend the rest of her life in prison for choosing to defend herself and protect her young sons. I will gladly sign this petition.

  8. angela

    Cheryl, thank you for signing the petition. I appreciate your feeling that your story is appalling, but (and to me, more important) also applaud your getting out four years ago (I saw your anniversary tweet). Thank you so much for reading and commenting.