Recent surveys show that men and women have different mindsets when it comes to dieting, and apparently, not even death row can erase that disparity between the sexes. Counting calories when you’re also counting down your last days on earth wouldn’t occur to most men, but half the women who have been executed over the past 35 years have requested no last meal at all. Maybe they were too nervous to eat, or maybe they dreamed of going six feet under in a size six—nobody knows for sure. The following five women, however, chowed down just like their male counterparts before starting their permanent, state-sponsored crash diet.
5) Teresa Lewis
At the age of 32, Teresa Lewis—who had already married and divorced as a teenager—met and married her second husband, Julian. Eight months later Julian’s adult son Charles, an Army reservist, purchased a life insurance policy with a payout of $250,000 after he was assigned a tour of duty in Iraq. Julian was named as the primary beneficiary, with Teresa as the secondary. Shortly afterward, Teresa began a sexual relationship with two college-aged men she met at a local Wal-Mart—a popular scenario from blue-collar romance novels that rarely ends well in real life. Teresa hired the men to kill both her husband and her stepson so she could collect the insurance money. The two Wal-Mart Romeos killed Julian and Charles with shotguns during a staged home invasion, but less than a week passed before Teresa confessed to orchestrating the crime. As the mastermind, she was given a death sentence and executed in 2010. Her last meal was two fried chicken breasts, sweet peas with butter, German chocolate cake, and Dr. Pepper.
4) Lois Nadean Smith
Ladies, take note; if you date a man whose mother is nicknamed “Mean Nadean,” prepare yourself for a series of uncomfortable family dinners—and perhaps even a violent death. In 1982, Nadean Smith decided she was fed up with her son Greg’s former girlfriend, Cindy. Some rumors said that Cindy was about to turn Greg into the police for selling drugs. Others claimed Cindy was trying to arrange Greg’s murder. When Nadean confronted Cindy about the rumors, she denied them. Unconvinced, Nadean choked Cindy, stabbed her in the throat, shot her nine times, and jumped up and down on her neck. Greg, who was present at the time and even reloaded his mother’s gun when she ran out of bullets, was given a life sentence. “Mean Nadean,” however, earned a death penalty conviction and was executed in 2001. For her last meal, she requested barbecued ribs, onion rings, strawberry banana cake, and cherry lemonade.
3) Judy Buenoana
Known as the “Black Widow” because of her bad habit of killing the men in her life, Judy Buenoana was executed by the state of Florida in 1998. Although the grandmotherly woman spent her years in prison knitting blankets and baby clothes, the behavior that led to her conviction was far from warm and fuzzy. Judy’s offenses included poisoning a boyfriend with arsenic, trying to kill another boyfriend with a car bomb, poisoning her husband, and causing the drowning death of her handicapped son by pushing him out of a canoe. Her crimes went undetected for years, however, until as one detective put it, “Judy just went one murder too far.” She received the death penalty for her husband’s murder, and was executed in Florida’s electric chair after a healthy last meal of steamed broccoli, asparagus, tomato wedges with lemon, strawberries, and hot tea.
2) Marilyn Plantz
Most interior designers agree that plants add beauty and life to a house—unless you’re talking about Marilyn Plantz, who could actually detract from your home’s appeal by adding copious blood stains to your carpet. Marilyn was tried, convicted, and given a death sentence for hiring her teenage boyfriend and one of his friends to kill her husband so she could collect over $300,000 in insurance money. The two teens beat James Plantz with baseball bats then put him in his pickup truck and set the vehicle on fire, hoping to make the death look like an accident. But the ruse didn’t work, and Marilyn and her boyfriend were arrested within days on suspicion of murder. Both received death sentences, and Marilyn was executed in 2001. Since most last meals in Oklahoma come from local fast food restaurants, she asked for a chicken taco salad, two soft chicken tacos, a Mexican pizza, two cinnamon twists, a piece of pecan pie, and two cans of Coca Cola.
1) Christina Riggs
Some people saw Christina Riggs as a divorced nurse who was morbidly depressed over her finances and failed love life. Others described her as a selfish single mother who left her two young children home alone while she went out to karaoke bars. Whatever the truth might have been, Christina decided to kill both herself and her children on the night of November 4, 1997. She smothered her son and daughter—ages 5 and 2—with a pillow, then swallowed 28 antidepressant tablets and gave herself a shot of potassium chloride strong enough to kill five people. But the years of exposure to karaoke must have built up an immunity to harmful elements, because Christina survived the ordeal. She confessed her crime and was sentenced to death, a punishment she gladly welcomed. Prior to her execution in 2000, she dined on a supreme pizza, salad, pickled okra, strawberry shortcake, and cherry limeade.
Ty Treadwell is the author of the new thriller Secret 77 and co-author of Last Suppers: Famous Final Meals from Death Row. For more last meal trivia, read Ty’s blog at http://lastsuppersbook.blogspot.com/