Reformed inmate recalls encounter with Kelly Gissendaner - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Reformed inmate recalls encounter with Kelly Gissendaner

(WTVM) -

A former inmate who developed a relationship with Kelly Gissendaner is sharing memories of time spent with her.

After a five hour delay Monday night, Gissendaner was put to death for orchestrating her husband’s death in 1997.

Pastor Sandra Anderson served time with Gissendaner at Metro State prison in Atlanta in the late 1990s.

"She was never looking for freedom,” said Anderson, who served two years for theft and fraud. “She never said she wanted to get out."

Anderson says Gissendaner, the first woman to be executed in Georgia in 70 years, understood the magnitude of her crime.

"What impacted her was that God turned my life around, a nobody, but God saw fit to grant me clemency," Anderson said.

Anderson's 10-year-old son died from an asthma attack while she was locked up, which was the turning point in her life.  

"When I got out, I joined a ministry and I was the keynote speaker and I still am the keynote speaker and they let her come to my worship service, that was 2007-2008," Anderson said.

By then Anderson had received a pardon.  She was well on her way to living a renewed life with God and helping those she'd left behind. She has four degrees, pastors a church and is the director of the Apex Theology School. 

“And she rededicated her life and she prayed and I was just blown away that this death row inmate would come to my service and on top of that I never thought that she would be executed," Anderson said. 

Anderson says whenever Kelly came out of her cell, everyone was put on lockdown which is normal when death row inmates go for doctor’s appointments or court hearings. 

"She had on full leg irons and wrist irons and three security members on her and we would wave at her just to make her human,” Anderson said. “It made her feel very, very good." 

Anderson says inmates learn how to read lips and communicate in their own sign language. Kelly would blow a kiss at them or give a thumbs up, a language Anderson says only an inmate would understand. 

Gissendaner had no human contact with other prisoners and was only allowed a breath of fresh air for one hour a day. 

Anderson said Gissendaner’s crime was never an issue for them. 

"It was no big deal that she killed her husband,” Anderson said. “We were repentant about that but the nature of her, heinousness of her crime wasn't revealed until technology, ID and crime TV and those types of shows.” 

After Anderson got out of prison, she wrote Kelly a letter. She says Kelly responded, saying how Anderson's testimony of losing her son to an asthma attack while Anderson being locked up was the turning point in her life. 

We asked Anderson if she thought Gissendaner should have been allowed to live in prison for the rest of her life. 

"I think so, because she wasn't the triggerman," Anderson said.  

Anderson was devastated and reconnected with old cellmates as they all waited to hear the final decision. 

“I prayed to the bitter end, this has shook me to the core because of her case she is the rare person on death row as a conspirator,” Anderson said. 

The victim’s family supported the execution, saying Doug’s life wasn’t for her to take. 

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