Angel’s Face, Devil’s Heart – The Story Of Christa Pike
The Straits Times
April 22, 2001
Christa Pike lives in a grey concrete box. It is full of stuffed animal, toys, family photographs and trinkets depicting angels. She is allowed one hour every day for exercise. She is 24 years old. And she is sentenced to die.
The spartan 3 m by 3.5 m cell at the maximum security prison for women in Nashville, Tennessee, is her last home.
There is virtually no chance that Christa Gail Pike, 24, the youngest woman on America’s death row, will ever leave prison alive.
In 1996, the then 19-year-old Pike was sentenced to die by electrocution for an unspeakably horrific crime.
But Christa Pike has a face that beguiles easily. Catherine Crier, the host of an American television news program called Fox Files, described her as having a “sweet voice and childlike manner.”
A juror at Pike’s trial put it better: “She has an angel’s face and a devil’s heart.”
The Twisted Road to Death Row for Christa Pike
In 1995, Christa Pike, a high-school dropout from a broken home, was studying computer programming at a Job Corps in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Job Corps is a US government program that helps disadvantaged youth try and turn their lives around by offering career training. Students live in dormitories in its campus environment. Often, however, it is a hotbed of criminal activity.
Christa Pike, who is white, met and fell in love with another Job Corp student, a black youth named Tadaryl Shipp, 17. They began dabbling in the occult and devil worship.
Christa Pike became convinced that a Job Corps student from Florida, 19-year-old Colleen Slemmer, was trying to steal her boyfriend.
Those who knew Miss Slemmer dispute this, but Christa was sure. In the middle of January 1995, she told Shipp: “That little whore has to be taught a lesson.”
Christa Pike Tricks Colleen Into Isolation
She and her friend, Shadolla Peterson, 18, concocted a plan to lure Miss Slemmer to an abandoned steam mill that is part of the University of Tennessee Campus.
The mill is close enough to walk to, but deep in the woods, secluded, and away from civilization. No one was likely to come upon them. Or hear screaming.
On the night of Jan 12, 1995, she told Miss Slemmer she wanted to smoke marijuana with her as a peace offering, to get things straight between them.
Miss Slemmer agreed to a walk in the woods. Before leaving, Christa Pike pocketed a box cutter and a small meat cleaver.
Pike, Miss Slemmer, Shipp and Peterson signed out of their dormitory and headed out to the mill, walking along a dark jogging trail.
Once they were swallowed up by the forest and completely isolated, Christa Pike began accusing Miss Slemmer of trying to sleep with her boyfriend.
The girl denied it and Christa became outraged and kneed her in the face. She pulled out the meat cleaver and sliced Miss Slemmer’s’ stomach, then Shipp jumped in and gashed her across the chest.
The victim begged her to stop, but her cries fell on deaf ears. The box cutter came out, and the three others tortured Miss Slemmer for the next 30 to 40 minutes, stabbing and slashing her hundreds of times.
Eventually, the three got bored with cutting, so Pike and Shipp held her down and carved a pentagram, the mark of the devil, in her chest with the meat cleaver.
The victim was still alive.
At the end, Pike picked up a chunk of asphalt and smashed the girls head with it, again and again.
And finally, after an hour of torture, she was dead.
Christa Pike reached down, fished a piece of Colleen’s skull out of the gaping open hole in her head and put the blood-soaked fragment in her jacket pocket.
Tears at the Trial
The three were arrested within 36 hours.
Christa Pike had been telling friends and showing the piece of the skull. The police also looked at the log book and saw the four of them signed out together, but only three returning.
The police took the trio in for questioning. Shipp’s room was searched, and a Satanic Bible and altar were found. A search of Pike’s jacket turned up the piece of Miss Slemmer’s skull.
They questioned Christa Pike, but she insisted she was only trying to scare the girl, and it got out of hand.
But the case against her was solid, and her trial for murder and the conspiracy to commit murder began on March 22, 1996.
She cried throughout the proceedings, but the jury was not to be moved.
Christa Pike was found guilty on both counts after only 2 1/2 hours of deliberation. On March 30th, 1996, she was sentenced to death by electrocution on the murder charge, and on June 6th, 1996, she was given 25 years for conspiracy.
Shipp was given a life sentence with the possibility of parole, and Peterson got probation after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact.
Christa Pike Waits
It is unlikely Christa Pike will face an executioner.
The state of Tennessee has put only two inmates to death since 1960, and both were men. Christa Pike has years of appeals in front of her.
Miss Slemmer’s family has tried to have the skull released from the coroner’s custody so they can cremate it and scatter the ashes, as they did with the rest of her body.
But it is evidence.
So the skull will remain locked away until the long appeals process has run its course.
During this time, Christa Pike will sit in her cell, stare at the walls, and wait.