Can you imagine what that does to a mother?'
Miriam Shehane holds a picture of her daughter, Quenette Shehane, in front of a wall of photos of other murder victims in her Montgomery office. After Quenette's murder in the '70s, Shehane became an advocate for the rights of the families of murder victims.
Miriam Shehane's daughter, Quenette, was abducted in 1976 as she was left a grocery store. Three men raped and murdered her. Wallace Norrell Thomas was sentenced to death and executed in 1990. Edward Bernard Lee was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Jerry Lee Jones, who testified against the two, received life in prison. Birmingham Post-Herald reporter Taylor Bright asked Shehane about capital punishment in Alabama. Here's what she had to say:
"I've always believed in the death penalty. I had always wondered in the back of my mind if I served on a jury and it was my responsibility to mete out the death penalty if I would be capable of doing it.
Now I know I would be capable of doing it, and I know why it is important. ...
Quenette was killed Dec. 20 and she was already accepted as a graduate student at Auburn University. She was going to teach grammar school. She loved children. She didn't have a prejudiced bone in her little body. She was bubbling over with energy, and it was all taken for nothing. Just for one little fling with a little white girl.
I don't hate blacks. I don't. These were three mean black people. But I do get tired of hearing about the poor uneducated black people on death row. Well, I'm here to tell you there are more whites on death row than there are blacks. ...
She got off work about 5:30 in the afternoon, after dark, and she went straight to the fraternity house. She got there, and her boyfriend was preparing the steaks and he realized he didn't have any salad dressing.
As she came out of the U-Tote-Em (store), she was abducted and was shoved into her car. She got under the steering wheel and she screamed. She was screaming. And the clerks admitted they heard her scream but didn't go out. They thought it was children playing.
So nobody went out to see what was happening, so they pushed her into the car and drove off and kept her for four or five hours, at least, raping her, and when they were all through with her, they decided she couldn't live because Wallace Norrell Thomas told them they had called each other by name so they had no choice but to kill her. ...
And when we found out when she was missing, I was praying all the way to Birmingham that she was warm, because it was so extremely cold. I can't remember ever a colder night in my life.
Then to have to find out when they found her body that she was stark naked and her body was frozen. And Jerry Lee Jones tells how they were shooting at her and how she was running through the briars and begging for her life saying, 'You're killing me.'
Now, can you imagine what that does to a mother?
If I dwelt on what I know she went through for five or six hours, and knowing people look at me and view me as out for revenge. Revenge for me would be for me to ask for the state of Alabama to make Wallace Norrell Thomas go stark naked and shoot at him in the coldest weather ever for about five hours. That would be revenge. But to put him in the chair and he's gone just like that is not revenge. That is justice. ...
I have been asked how I felt when he was executed and it was nothing but relief. I was hoping.
And I feel like if I knew the hour I was going to meet my maker, I would make amends for my sins and I would say I was sorry and beg the Lord to forgive me. So that was really what I was expecting from Wallace Norrell Thomas, because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was guilty."