Detective recounts how he put Kelly Gissendaner on death row - CBS46 News

Detective recounts how he put Kelly Gissendaner on death row

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Georgia is set to execute the first woman on death row in more than 70 years Wednesday night.

A state parole could still intervene and postpone the execution or commute her death sentence. Either way, we went back to the scene of the crime from 1997 with the lead detective who helped put Kelly Gissendaner on death row.

Retired major crimes investigator Doug Davis of Gwinnett County police used to bring his grandchildren to a park in Dacula. Little did they know the woods around the park held a gruesome secret that helped define their granddad's career.

He was the investigator on-call the second weekend of February 1997 when county dispatch interrupted his Sunday with a call about a burned out car and the driver missing.

They found the torched car in a couple of days, but Doug Gissendaner was still missing.

Davis heard nothing but great things about Gissendaner. "He was a very good man. Well mannered. A family guy who loved his family and [was] very involved with the church he was a member of," Davis said.

The first person Detective Davis wanted to talk to was the woman who filed the missing person's report, which was Gissendaner's wife.

Davis remembered that first interview with her. "When I asked her questions, sometimes she'd look away and answer me, or not make eye contact with me," Davis said.

Eventually, he asked if she and her husband had marital problems. "The first words out of her mouth were no," Davis said.

She was lying and Davis knew it. He later found out the two were married, divorced in 1993 and re-married in ‘95. A couple days later, he interviewed her again. "She finally admitted that she had an affair with Greg Owen. My next instinct was I wanted to talk to Greg Owen," Davis said.

Investigators brought Owen to the police department but he didn't say much at all. In fact, to this day, it's still one of hardest interviews the veteran detective can remember. "We would go to ask him a question and he'd just stare at us for five minutes or so. And just look. And never say a word," Davis said.

At the same time, there was a massive search for the body of Doug Gissendaner in the woods involving police, a helicopter, dogs and volunteers from Gissendaner's church. Eventually they found his body.

Investigators made another run at Greg Owen. This time, he not only spoke, but also confessed. However, he wasn't the only killer. Owen said the whole thing was planned by his lover, Kelly Gissendaner. Detective Davis said, "He must have been deeply in love with this woman is all I can say."

Here's how Detective Davis recounted what Greg Owen told him. "That night when [Doug Gissendaner] came home, he pulled a knife and put [Gissendaner] in the car and they drove to the location where the crime occurred. That's where he walked him up a hill in a wooded area and got him on his hands and knees and stabbed him to death. He then got on a cell phone and he texted 1-2-3 and that was the signal for Kelly to pick him up."

And where was Kelly Gissendaner the night her husband was murdered? She was with friends at a club.

Her partying days were over though as she was soon arrested. In 1998, the case came to court and Owen turned on his lover and was the star witness at the trial. He avoided the death penalty but the jury sentenced Kelly Gissendaner to die.

Doug and Kelly Gissendaner had three kids, and as you might imagine, this whole episode has been very, very painful for them.

According to papers submitted to the clemency board, two of the three kids have reconciled with their mom. And to Kelly Gissendaner's credit, all indications from prison officials, clergy and fellow inmates are that she's become an introspective and caring person in prison.

Still, in the eyes of the law, she's a killer and the state could still let her execution proceed Wednesday night.

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