The title of this post was a question posed by documentarian Werner Herzog. In the opening of his documentary film Into The Abyss, Herzog is talking to one of the chaplains from Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice’s infamous Walls Unit – the death house. After allowing the chaplain to explain his role during an execution, Herzog asks this question.
Throughout the entire documentary, he never once asks, “why does God allow evil people to live and commit murder?”
I remember going home to Houston for Thanksgiving in 2001 and seeing news that the body of a woman had been found in a lake. That woman turned out to be 50-year-old Sandra Stotler. In her home several days after she had actually been killed, police found a grisly scene. Lights and the TV were still on, having never been turned off by the killer. Stotler had been baking cookies; a bowl of raw cookie dough and a half-finished sheet of unbaked cookies still sat out where she’d left them. Blood had been splattered all over the door frame and wall. Blood on the floor showed that after she’d been shot once, she had hit the floor and tried to scoot away, but the gunman shot her a second time where she lay. A red Camaro convertible was missing and a blood trail showed that the body had been dragged out through the garage on the side of the big ranch-style house in the upscale Highlands Ranch subdivision of Conroe, Texas.
Conroe isn’t far from where I grew up. About an hour and a half due North of Houston, right on I-45, sits this quiet little town that I remember driving through during the summer when my youth group would go up to Huntsville for camp. That a murder like this would happen in such a quiet, well-guarded neighborhood was very rattling to a lot of people I know. What’s most chilling of all is that the crime that turned into a triple homicide later on was all over a car.
Michael James Perry and Jason Aaron Burkett were best friends. They had lived together for a stretch in a camper, then later in an apartment in Conroe. For a time they had a racket going with Burkett’s girlfriend where one would steal checks, one would forge them, and the girlfriend would then cash them. As children, they both had serious issues. Burkett’s father was a raging alcoholic and drug addict, and as of this year is on his fifth prison sentence (back in 1973 Dennis Burkett was a high school football star and landed a full scholarship to the University of Texas to play college ball but he dropped out and went his own way – which is why I sincerely disliked the turn of events in the final season of Friday Night Lights). Burkett’s older brother is also in prison for a dangerous felony, making criminal behavior a family profession. Burkett has issues; Perry is worse.
As a child, Perry was diagnosed with “oppositional defiant disorder”, which is the childhood diagnosis of sociopathy. Perry grew up to be a psychopath (for those who never took psych classes in college, a literal psychopath is a person diagnosed as a sociopath – basically a person who views people as objects and has absolutely no conscience). He ran away from home frequently, pawned his parent’s valuables, stole their van and wrecked it, and broke into a neighbor’s home for the sole purpose of doing damage. His parents sent him to “Outward Bound”, an outdoors rough-it camp for troubled kids; he quit after a few days. His parents filed charges against him and had him sent to Boys Town in Nebraska, where he promptly told one of the “house parents” that he was one of the people “trying to rape and murder your kids.” He ended up being locked in the secure section of Boys Town for four months, later being sent to a “secure school” in Mexico. As soon as he turned 18 he went homeless; he refused to hold down a job and tried to forge prescriptions to get pills to sell for dope money. Somewhere in the midst of that was when he fell in with Jason Burkett.
Two days after the murder, Perry was pulled over in the red Camaro and presented an ID bearing the name and info of Adam Stotler – the 16-year-old son of Sandra Stotler. He was arrested, booked and released. Three days after his arrest, he and Jason Burkett were spotted in Adam Stotler’s stolen Isuzu Rodeo. They ran over a deputy and had a shoot-out with police; officers later testified that Perry was shouting, “balls to the wall!” They were arrested, and almost immediately Jason Burkett told them where to find two additional bodies. Police discovered the bodies of Adam Stotler and his best friend Jeremy Richardson next to another home in Highlands Ranch. Evidence included cigarette butts with Perry’s DNA on them. The shotgun used in the murders was stolen from a relative of Burkett. On top of all of this, the pair went to a bar in the two vehicles they’d stolen and claimed to everyone in the bar that they’d won the lottery, cashed the tickets at a gas station and went out to buy two supposedly brand-new vehicles. They took several people for a spin in the cars and even showed off the shotgun they’d used – and Perry later pointed the shotgun at Burkett’s girlfriend and threatened to kill her.
Perry confessed, and during the confession he gave facts that only the perpetrators would have known. He later claimed that a detective pointed a gun at him and forced him to confess, then even later claimed that evidence had somehow proven that the murders had happened on the 27th. The problem with that? Stotler’s body was found on October 27th, three days after the murders – and she had been there for some time, wrapped in the comforter and top sheet from her bed. Some of the crime scene footage is shown in the documentary, and I can tell just by the video footage that the blood on the floor was OLD.
Perry had an excuse for everything. During the interviews, he never referred to the victims as the true victims; he only talked about how he’s been wronged. It didn’t help that, as soon as he sat down and started talking, Herzog said, “I respect you and I believe that what’s been done to you is wrong.” Not once does Perry ever acknowledge that several people’s lives were irrevocably changed by what happened. In fact, it’s revealed that in his final statement before his execution, Perry said, “Yes, I want to start off by saying to everyone know that’s involved in this atrocity that they are all forgiven by me.”
Never does Herzog ever question Perry to his face on his claims that he, the convict, has been wronged. He never asks Perry about his long, storied history of sociopathic behavior. All he does is try to present the case against executions.
I’m tired of hearing people ask why God allows capital punishment. Life is precious, but when the person in question has made the choice to live their life in such a way that they have done nothing but victimize people for their own gain, justice must be done. Perry is guilty as hell, as is Burkett. Just once I’d like to hear one of these foreigners who bag on us for using the death penalty ask why God allows violent sociopaths to continually victimize innocent souls – and stop defending the killers.