Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The True Story of Ray and Faye Copeland


Two weeks after her sentencing, Faye Copeland gave a rare interview to Lee Kavanaugh of the Kansas City Star.   The following are excerpts from that interview:

"I couldn't have flowers at home, he didn't like me to be tending to anything other than him.   As long as I was with him or working the cattle or the tractor that was OK. But flowers, no, he didn't like them.

I was raised to love my husband and support him no matter what.   The man is the head of the family.  The Bible says it should be that way. It wouldn't do to say if Ray was (sic) mean to me or not.  Yes, he did mess up my life, but that's not to say that I wasn't a good wife to him.  I was never mean to him.  Maybe we'd have got along better if I had knocked the shit out of him a few times.

Faye Copeland, 1994
Faye Copeland, 1994
I've often thought since, maybe this was for the best.   Where did I go wrong, if I went wrong?  I know one place was getting married at all.  But he was my life for many, many years. I didn't know nothing else.  Will I get out? I may go out feet first but I'll get out of here. Someday.

In November 2000, Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon appealed Judge Smiths ruling and asked the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to reinstate Fayes death sentence.   But, the federal appeals court upheld the decision.  Faye remained quiet during most of the proceedings, but when asked if she had anything to say, she stood up stating at that hearing, I think Ive paid for what I did or what I knew."  "God will forgive me for anything Ive said or done.

Afterwards, Fayes son, Al Copeland, spoke briefly with the Associated Press and said he had been pressing for his mothers release since she was imprisoned.   Theres no way in the world Mom could have done what they said she had done," he said.  But in regards to his father, Al said: He was guilty. I have no qualms about that.

The following month, Tom and Jeanette Block, founders of Missourians Against State Killing (MASK), began fighting to have Faye released from prison.   They desperately sought the publics help and requested that people send letters of support for Faye.  During this time this author contacted the group and later received the following reply:

While we are grateful that Faye is out of danger of execution, we are disappointed that she will remain in prison for the rest of her life.   We have an application for clemency pending before Governor Wilson, asking that he commute her sentence to time served.  I have attached a copy of the petition.  Anyone interested in helping could write and urge the governor to grant our petition. Thanks for your support. Sean D. O'Brien - Public Interest Litigation Clinic.

On August 10, 2002, Faye Copeland suffered a stroke, which left her partially paralyzed and unable to speak.  Weeks later, she was paroled to a nursing home in her hometown.  The following year, on December 30, 2003, 82-year-old Faye Copeland died at the Morningside Center nursing home, from what Livingston County coroner Scott Lindley described as natural causes.  Faye finally gained freedom -- even if it was feet first.

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