Lori Fullbright, News On 6
UNDATED -- A Discovery Channel crew recently visited Oklahoma's death row to interview Scott Eizember for a show called "How I Almost Got Away With It."
Eizember led officers on a massive manhunt in 2003 after he murdered AJ and Patsy Cantrell. He hid in the woods, drank out of creeks and stole food to survive.
The Cantrell's daughter is afraid the show will glorify the killer and the victims will be forgotten.
Debra Cantrell doesn't want her parents remembered for how they died, but for how they lived. As for their killer, she's decided to do something quite unusual, something most people couldn't do and many won't understand.
AJ and Patsy Cantrell were loving, kind and generous people. AJ was a gifted artist who painted signs and logos on gym floors all over the state. He was a big presence who taught himself how to play the guitar and fiddle and loved to perform.
"We'd always go hear Daddy play music somewhere," Debra, AJ and Patsy's daughter, said.
Patsy was a part time substitute teacher, worked some at Bell telephone, loved to collect antiques, but was mostly a stay at home mom, raising the couple's three girls, Debra Kaye; Marsha Faye and Linda Gaye.
"She was the heart of our family," Debra said.
AJ and Patsy had celebrated their 50th anniversary in early 2003. No one dreamed it would be their last.
Scott Eizember murdered them.
After getting arrested for breaking into his girlfriend's Tulsa apartment and bonding out, he drove straight to her parents' home in Depew where she was hiding. He needed a place where he could watch for her to return.
AJ and Patsy lived across the street. That random coincidence is how two kind souls crossed paths with a cold blooded killer.
"Broke in, and they came home and found him with his head in the refrigerator looking for something to eat," Debra said. "He had gone in the closet, got my dad's shotgun, then loaded it."
In his confession, Eizember says the couple didn't panic. In fact, Patsy sat down at the dining room table and began to talk.
Scott Eizember: "Patsy started a conversation. We started talking about God, religion."
Interviewer: "Patsy was preaching to you."
He says at some point, AJ grabbed the shotgun, the men fought over it and Patsy was shot in the back. AJ fought even harder, but Eizember wrestled away the gun and beat AJ to death with it.
Interviewer: "You had the gun in your hand. Where'd you hit him at?"
Eizember: "Here turn around, he was more like that. I hit him somewhere around there."
Interviewer: "Okay, then what happened?"
Eizember: "He'd tried to get back up."
Interviewer: "Okay, he got back up like I'm doing. Then what?"
Eizember: "I hit him again."
Eizember: "Same place."
He dragged them both to the bathroom, piled Patsy's dead body on top of AJ's barely breathing one, then left.
Eizember next shot his girlfriend's teenage son, then beat her mother with the gun.
Eizember went on the run, leading officers on a massive manhunt. For more than 30 days, he stayed one step ahead of them, until a doctor and his wife offered him a ride. Eizember forced them to drive south at gunpoint, until the doctor pulled a gun of his own and shot Eizember. Finally, he was arrested.
Two years later and time for the trial, but another tragedy would knock the Cantrell family to their knees.
"I can't do this again, there's no way, this isn't real," Debra said.
Just five days before the trial, the youngest sister, Linda, was shot to death by her boyfriend in a murder-suicide. Debra says Linda had never really recovered from their parents' murders, had spiraled downward into drugs and bad relationships.
"Sometimes, I feel she was in too much pain to on living on this earth," Debra said.
In a state of shock, the family made it through the three-week trial to see Eizember convicted and sentenced to death.
Years passed, each day consumed with pain, loss, hatred, resentment and anger until finally, through the clouds of grief, a moment of grace for Debra.
"I made a decision with the help of the Lord to forgive him," she said.
A lot of people don't understand how she could do it, certainly many in her own family, but Debra says she's not doing it for him; she's doing it for herself, so she'll no longer be held hostage by bitterness and hate.
"I felt like I could not move on in a positive way until I let go of this bearing down on me, hatred and resentment," she said. "I'm not saying I want to be his friend. I still think he got a just sentence, still think he should be executed and I will be there to watch him die."
But before that moment comes, Debra wants to meet Scott Eizember face to face, to make him look into her eyes. Regardless of what he says, she feels it's something she must do.
"I don't go into it expecting him to say I'm sorry, I really don't," she said.
Eizember did agree to meet with Debra once his appeals are over, which could be two to five years away. Debra now works to improve victim's rights and to help domestic violence victims.
The show on the Discovery Channel airs sometime in April.