Gaile Owens


Gaile Owens1



This morning, Gaile Owens will take her last steps in the prison she’s known for nearly 30 years. She’ll make the long walk along a chain-link fence from the Tennessee Prison for Women to freedom.
Gaile Owens is going home.
The Tennessee Department of Correction on Thursday announced she would be released at 9:30 a.m. today where she is expected to be greeted by family, friends and a legion of supporters who have lobbied on her behalf since she was sentenced to die in 1986 for the murder of her husband. Owens, now 59, was scheduled to be executed, but had her sentence commuted to life by then-Gov. Phil Bredesen in 2010.
Owens’ family declined to comment Thursday evening, but planned to speak at her release today. Owens also was expected to give a statement, though it was unclear if she would answer questions. She is expected to leave prison directly to live for awhile with Pat and Eugene Williams. Pat Williams worked as a religious volunteer at the Tennessee Prison for Women and met Owens 13 years ago.
Owens was convicted in 1986 of hiring a man to kill her husband, Ron Owens. Though the details never came out in her trial, she later said that she suffered years of emotional, physical and sexual abuse at his hands. She said that abuse and his constant cheating was what prompted her in 1984 to troll the streets of Memphis, offering $5,000 to $10,000 to anyone willing to kill her husband. Sidney Porterfield, now 68, took the job and killed him on Feb. 17, 1985, with 21 blows from a tire iron. Gaile Owens and her children arrived that night to find Ron Owens bleeding and dying on their living room floor.
Porterfield remains on death row.
On Sept. 7 of this year, Owens had
her first parole hearing, where, for the first time, she described the abuse she said she suffered. She said she omitted those details from the court case to spare her children.
Three weeks later — exactly one year to the day after she was scheduled to be executed —
parole officials voted 4-2 to release her from prison.
The news caused rejoicing among her many supporters, including singer/songwriter Marshall Chapman, former Tennessee Titans Coach Jeff Fisher and former
Tennessean publisher and editor John Seigenthaler.UPDATED: 9:45 a.m.
Gaile Owens is a free woman, for the first time in 26 years.
Owens, 58, was released Friday and greeted by a small group of supporters outside the Tennessee Women's Prison.
One of her sons, Stephen Owens, was there as she left prison and she immediately hugged him.
UPDATED: 9:33 a.m.
Gaile Owens walked out of the Tennessee State Prison for Women pushing a yellow laundry cart and flanked by the warden and a guard.
She did not address the media but a statement was issued. It said:
"For many years I didn't believe this day would come. For the 14 months since Gov. Bredesen spared my life, I have prepared for life outside these walls. I am confident and excited.

"I'm looking forward to leading a quiet, private but productive life.''

She said she wanted to get to know her son and the grandchildren born while she was in prison.
Volunteer prison chaplain Bonni Skipworth met with Owens weekly.

Skipworth said, "She was a leader in prison, a chapel worker and a wonderful influence out here. She will be missed by a lot of women here at the prison. Women were drawn to her.''