By People Staff
February 16, 1998 12:00 PM

ALL ALONG, AS SHE WAITED ON death row, Karla Faye Tucker insisted she was a changed woman, and her last meal seemed a way of making her point. Typically, condemned prisoners choose such get-it-while-you-can fare as steak or cheeseburgers, perhaps with an ice-cream sundae to follow. Tucker requested something more modest: a banana, a peach and a tossed green salad—just something to tide her over, as it were, on the way to a hereafter she was sure would be sweet.

Tucker, 38, who had pronounced herself a born-again Christian before being sentenced to death for her part in the bloody 1983 pickax murders of Jerry Lynn Dean and Deborah Thornton, went to her death on Feb. 3 dry-eyed and calm. “I’m going to go face-to-face with Jesus,” she said. Then, moments before being injected with a lethal mix of three drugs at the state prison in Huntsville, Texas, she told Thornton’s relatives, “I would like to say to all of you…that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this.”

Peace was hard to find amid the frenzy of publicity surrounding Tucker’s execution and the emotions about capital punishment that her case had laid bare—feelings exacerbated by the fact that Tucker was only the second woman put to death in this country in more than 20 years and the first in Texas since 1863. And the day before Tucker’s execution, Pope John Paul II asked that her life be spared. But there was little chance of that. Texas law does not allow for life sentences without the possibility of parole—an omission insisted upon in the legislature by death-penalty proponents—so granting Tucker clemency would have made her eligible for release in five years, a result that would have outraged Richard Thornton, Deborah’s widower. After 14 years of seeking retribution for his wife’s death, Thornton was satisfied. “That,” he told PEOPLE in an interview moments after witnessing Tucker’s execution, “was the best 10 minutes of my life.”