Wanda Jean Allen described as ''hunter'' who would kill again

Monday, October 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ At first blush, it looks like Wanda Jean Allen is facing execution for a crime of passion, gunning down her lesbian lover in front of a police station.

But prosecutors describe Allen, 41, as ``a hunter'' who would kill again and thus is a suitable candidate to become the first woman to be executed by the State of Oklahoma.

``She was a two-time killer and obviously she presented a continuing threat to society,'' says Sandra Elliott, Oklahoma County assistant district attorney, who pressed for the death penalty at Allen's 1989 trial.

``She killed her first lover. She killed her second lover and I have no doubt that if she were angered by any future lovers she would respond in the same way,'' Elliot said in an interview last week.

At her trial for shooting Gloria Leathers, the prosecutor put it this way: ``She is a hunter when she kills. She hunts her victims down and then she kills them.''

Elliott reminded the jury that Allen had killed lover Debra Pettus in a similar way in 1982. Her death occurred in a supermarket parking lot. The 1989 slaying was outside the police station in Bethany, an Oklahoma City suburb. Both victims were shot in the abdomen.

``She chased Debra Pettus down and shot her at close range,'' Elliot said.

In both cases, prosecutors said Allen concealed a gun under her garments and claimed she did not know how it fired.

Allen was in prison for four years at the Mabel Basset Correctional Center, where she met Gloria Leathers before her parole on the manslaughter charge.

She was described as a model prisoner then and since returning to Mabel Basset, she has only one disciplinary mark on her record _ a May 6, 1990 altercation with another inmate.

In her 1989 trial, prosecutors presented correspondence to show her intent to kill if Leathers ever tried to leave her.

``You're not only in my prayers, you're also in most of my confessions,'' she wrote her companion. ``You're everything I ever wanted. I'm very happy with your love. You're my everything. P.S. I'm the type of person who will hunt someone down I love and kill them. Do I make myself clear, Gloria? Jean.''

In their appeals, attorneys for Allen have said she was not adequately represented at her trial. They also have made an issue of her psychological condition, saying her IQ borders on mental retardation, based on tests when she was about 16 and in 1995.

Allen is one of five Oklahoma death row inmates scheduled to die in January.

Thirteen inmates have been executed in Oklahoma this year, more than a third of the 30 inmates who have been put to death since executions resumed in the state in 1985 after a 20-year hiatus.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals recently scheduled the five January executions after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected final appeals by Allen and the others.

The executions would have fallen during the holiday season if the court had not departed from its usual practice of setting executions about 60 days after all appeals have been exhausted.

Oklahoma executions are expected to continue to come in bunches in the coming years, partly because of a state law that Attorney General Drew Edmondson pushed to shorten the appeals process.

Edmondson is a strong death penalty advocate, but says that as a prosecutor he did not seek the ultimate punishment in every first-degree murder case.

As for Allen, he says the jury ``had every opportunity to weigh whether manslaughter would have been a more proper charge.''

And Allen, he added, ``had every opportunity to withdraw from the confrontation, but she in fact pursued the victim.''

Edmondson does not think a moratorium on executions is warranted in Oklahoma, despite the fact that two men convicted of murder in an Ada case were subsequently cleared by DNA evidence.

While the death penalty may not be a general deterrent, Edmondson maintains it does deter some armed robbers from killing their victims and eliminates the ability of a murderer to ever kill again, either outside or inside prison.

Since statehood, 113 inmates have died at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester _ the last 30 by lethal injection and 82 by electrocution. The list includes a federal prisoner who was hanged.

However, it does not count numerous killers who were executed at the county level in Oklahoma's early years.