Beth’s Story

“I was the last person friends and family thought would end up in prison for any reason, much less convicted of felony murder.

“I was a police officer for 16 years in Barnesville, GA. I had worked my way up to be a captain over the Criminal Investigation and Administrative Divisions and was working on my master’s degree in public administration.

“I became an EMT because our county did not have a hospital. I also served as co-chairperson on the District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Task Force. I was a charter member of The Optimist Club, graduated from Leadership Lamar, and volunteered extensively in my community and church.

“God, church and prayer has always been a part of my life. When I was around 17, I remember sitting in church on Easter with tears running down my face because I finally became aware of the awesome sacrifice Christ made for me, for everyone. I felt the mercy of unwarranted forgiveness.

“On Aug. 5, 1997, I opened my front door to what would become my worst nightmare. I had not seen David in 14 years. I fell instantly in love. I married him on Sept. 27, 1997, when I was 42 years old and he was 27. It was my first marriage and his second.

“I knew David had a drinking problem, but I thought our love would change him. During the 109 days of our marriage, David, who was unemployed, was arrested several times for DUI. I swallowed my embarrassment and bailed him out each time. I took him to treatment centers, solicited the help of his family, begged him, argued with him, anything to get him to quit. Nothing worked. The more he drank, the meaner he became.

“David started abusing me. The hits he gave me were always with a closed fist with the knuckle of his middle finger raised. He would tell me what a sorry police officer I was because I could not stop him from hurting me. The incidents became more frequent and more violent. I began to fear for my life, but I never told anyone about David’s abuse. I was embarrassed. I covered a trip to the emergency room with a tale about falling over the dog.

“Our home caught fire on January 9, 1998. We lost everything. David fought with the fire fighters trying to get them to rescue the liquor inside the house. The loss of his possessions caused him to become more despondent and suicidal, and, unbelievably, his drinking increased and so did his attacks on me.

“I was able to rent us an apartment. That first night he drove his fist through the wall. He attacked me, injuring my arm and shoulder and giving me a bloody nose. He left the apartment for a little while. When he returned he handed me my service weapon, a Glock .40 caliber, and asked me to shoot him because he did not want to live any more. I refused and hid the pistol.

“The next day he started drinking early. I became more afraid of him as the day went by. He stole money from my purse and purchased more liquor. In the evening he held me down and raped me. When I tried to get away he re-injured my shoulder and tried to choke me. Only when he needed to take another drink did he released me.

“I fell onto the floor. He went to the other side of the bed where he kept his bottle. I removed the gun from between the mattresses and laid it in my left hand, pointed towards the far wall, away from him. I was so afraid he would attack me again. I stared at the gun, only aware that I wanted the pain to stop.

“David saw the gun and immediately lunged across the bed and grabbed it, jerking it towards himself. When he did, it accidentally discharged once. The bullet struck him in the chest, killing him. His blood alcohol level at the time was .34 percent, more than four times the legal limit for the state of Georgia.

“I was arrested on January 22, 1998, and charged with murder. I was denied bond. I read the whole Bible and prayed during that time. My trial started August 10, 1998, in Lamar County Superior Court. The district attorney used my law enforcement career and my police training against me, stating that I, in effect, brought a gun to a fist fight, and even though I had been raped, I was not allowed to defend myself with a gun.

“I was found guilty of felony murder on August 15, 1998, and sentenced to life in prison.

“My friends and family continued to stand by me with my parents visiting every other week until they both passed away of lung cancer. I felt guilty and angry because I was unable to be with them during their illness and death. I missed them tremendously.

“While in prison, I attended a weekend session presented by the prison ministry, Kairos. I experienced God in an amazing way that weekend. I realized I never lost my faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, I discovered my life was about my trust in Him, which had been sorely tested over and over

“After nine years in prison, however, I decided it was just too hard. I planned my suicide out perfectly, even praying every day. On January 22, 2008, my ten year anniversary, I prayed for forgiveness in advance, took over sixty Nitroglycerin, and waited to die.

“Nothing – NOTHING – happened to me physically. Instead I felt the most calming peace come over me, and then I heard Jesus say, “No, My daughter, I’m not finished with you yet. If you will let Me, I will do your time for you.”

“My suicidal thoughts were gone, and I felt a sense of joy that was completely new to me. I began taking Christ up on His words and gave the day-to-day frustrations over to Him. Snippets of Scripture began cropping up in my vocabulary and spreading the gospel seemed natural.

“Things happened to me over the next five years that don’t normally happen to women serving life sentences. I am the only “lifer” convicted of murder to receive an in-person parole review before the 18th year of incarceration. I am the only one who has never received a denial from the Parole Board. And I am the only one who served only ten months at a halfway house, being released on parole June 3, 2013.

“After losing both parents, I needed a new parole address. Cindy Hobbs, my lifelong friend, generously offered to allow me to parole to her home.

“She has been a member of Compassion Christian for 17 years, and she invited me to attend. A few weeks ago, we were baptized together at the Henderson Campus.

“I cannot praise Jesus enough about the friends and family He put my life throughout this journey. I consider myself God’s own walking miracle. I can honestly say gaining an up-close and personal relationship with The Trinity was worth the trip. I cannot do enough to serve Him.”