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First letter from Claudia to Governor Rick Perry:

Munich, May 17th, 2002
Dear Governor Perry,

I hope you find the time to read my letter because I desperately need your help.

At first I like to introduce myself. I am the wife of Texas death row inmate Gary Wayne Etheridge, TDCJ # 000986, who's scheduled to die on June 27th, 2002 and I like to appeal to your heart and conscience before you sign the papers who will set him to die.

I think one of the reasons why a jury is allowed to sentence somebody to die is that the defendant is a continual danger or threat to society. I like you to know my husband a little bit better. Yes, he was a petty criminal before he came to death row. He has a prior police record but never for violence. Yes, he was a part of the crime he is accused to but his hand did not kill that little 15 year old girl Christie Chauviere. He is very remorseful for the part of the crime he did and that the crime lead to the murder of Christie but it was not him who killed her.

Gary told the police from day one that he was not alone at the crime scene but he refused to state the name of the man who was with him. He did so because he always wanted to protect the other man, he wanted to be an idol to the other man from childhood on and he felt so guilty that the other one became a killer because it was his idea to go to the Chauviere home to ask for money. Gary is no saint in hiding the name of the other man, he did so because of desperation about how things went terribly wrong on that day in February 1990 and because back then he did not care much for his own life. He wanted to protect the other one even if he would get a death sentence.

During all the years on death row Gary finally learned to value his own life and to understand that life is a God given gift and he does not want to throw away his life. He does not want to pay anymore for a thing another man's hand did. He still is very close to the other one and they love each other dearly but Gary will not longer hide it anymore that the man who was with him and who stabbed and killed Christie Chauviere was his little brother Michael Etheridge. A few people say that he blame his own brother now to save his own life in last minute but this is not true.

Gary already told his former lawyer Jack Zimmerman Michael's Name and this lawyer filed a few things to the courts in 1996 but since earlier incompetent lawyers missed to raise those new evidence the court did not accept them because deadlines already were missed. Michael Etheridge today is in prison for an additional murder. He killed his own baby in 1992 and got a life sentence. Before this he was arrested for the sexual assault of a 13 year old boy. I just tell you this for you to see that Michael Etheridge obviously had more violent potential than Gary.

I do not plea or ask you for Gary's life because he did not murder. I plea for true justice which truth will save his life. Since it is in your power please allow Gary a simple DNA testing of the drop of blood on the murder victims shirt. Since Gary Etheridge never touched the girl it is not his blood at all. They did a blood type test in 1990 and only 2 prongs of a 4 prong test matched with Gary's blood. You know that already 100 men got off the row because they could proof their innocence via DNA testing and I will not believe that you don't think where 100 innocent men are there surely are a few more. It is a simple DNA test we are asking for. A test will proof that it is not Gary's blood at the victims shirt and another test will proof that it is Michael Etheridge's blood. Michael Etheridge is living in the Wynne Unit in Huntsville. There you can take blood samples from him.

Not only on death row Gary Etheridge became a religious man who believes in God. He's already a Christian since 1983 and today he knows that his former life which brought him into prison was wrong. Yes, he did wrong in his former life several times but none of his petty crimes (burglaries) warrant death penalty.

On death row he became supportive and is a true and loyal caring friend to other inmates. He is a loving son to his parents, a caring brother to his brothers, a wonderful father to his daughters and a loving and caring husband to me. He is more loyal and honest and true to me than most people I know in the so called free world.

Dear Governor Rick Perry, with this letter I like to invite you to visit my husband Gary Etheridge on Polunsky Unit D.R. I ask you to visit him, to talk to him, to look him into the eyes and then decide if this man still is a threat to society. 12 years on death row being a good and loyal prisoner, never causing any harm or hurt to other inmates or guards proves that he is neither violent nor a danger or threat to society. After the visit I ask you to look into my eyes and tell me honestly that you truly believe that this man has no right to live anymore, has no right to breath the air anymore, that this man has to die by lethal injection, that the world will be a better place as soon as he dies and that you are 1.000 % sure that you do the right thing and that Texas never has killed an innocent man and never will do.

No, I never forget that there is a victim and I only can guess what the family of Christie Chauviere must suffer since her senseless death. But besides to the fact that Gary did not murder the girl I truly don't believe that it will bring some relief to the victims family when one more person has to die, when another living and breathing human being will be killed.

I will include an e-mail I got from a close friend of the murder victims Christie Chauviere. She expressed her feelings and she asked me the biggest favour she ever asked from anyone by asking me to tell Gary that she FORGIVE him. And since she knew the Chauviere family she was able to tell me that even Gail Chauviere, the murder victims mother who was stabbed by Gary forgave him from day one because she had no bad bone in her body. We cannot ask Gail Chauviere today because she passed away a few years ago but in the trial records you can read that she did not say one bad word about Gary. She testified that he always was friendly and loyal at work and she testified that she did not see him touching her daughter at all when the crime happened.

Please try to understand what an execution would mean to Gary's family and to each person who ever was in touch with Gary, to each single friend. It only will cause a new pain. There will be a plenty of new victims. When you sign the papers that will kill Gary Etheridge you will take a son away from his mother. Another mother will cry because of the loss of a child. Another father will mourn for his son. Four brothers will cry because of the loss of their brother.

Two sweet innocent children, two beautiful girls who just got to know their father will lose him. How in this world can we explain this to his angel daughters ? They were not in touch with their father for 11 years and just in a moment when they begin to know each other, learn about each other, build a friendship, they again will lose him. Will you explain this to his 11 ½ and 13 years old daughters ? I know that I never will have any words of an explanation for them. Is it justice to break the heart of two innocent girls who just learn about their father for the first time in their lives ? Who will dry their tears ? Who will help them to understand what even adults are not able to understand ? Who will take the responsibility for their broken hearts and their tears ?

And last but not least what about me, his wife ? Texas will make an innocent victim out of me as well. I did nothing wrong, I did not harm anybody in Texas or the US. My only fault is to love the most beautiful and decent and  believing man I ever met. When you allow my husband to die then Texas will murder me as well and it will hurt my human rights and will be a cruel and unusual punishment for me. I don't know how to live without the one I love to death, without the one who is more precioius and lovable than most people I ever met in life. Of course I will go on in live somehow but I never will be the same because it will break my heart forever.

Gary and I we built some dreams if he can get off of death row some day. He likes to live together with me in Germany. He does not want to stay in the US, he want to discover something new and like to live where I come from. It will not bother anyone in Texas when Gary can go with me to Germany but if he has to die on June 27, 2002 our dreams will be shattered and justice never will be shown and my only wish then will be to be straped down on that table next to him and to also get the needle.

Since I know that this is not possible and if you allow Texas to carry out the execution I will invite
you to attend his execution together with me because in this case I need your support and guidance. I need a shoulder to lean on and someone who explain to me that it was the right thing to kill my husband. I need someone who explain to me that the world now is a better place, that the pain of the Chauviere family finally is over forever, that they are happy now and finally have a better good night sleep, that from now on they will no more longer miss Christie, someone who tell me that now you prevent Texas from some new killings or violent crimes. I need someone who tell me with a good conscience that I will now have a better life when I take Gary's ashes with me to Germany instead of him personally.

As I know that all lies in your hands, that you can make the difference, that you have the power to change the world, I beg you to commute the death sentence of Gary Etheridge in a lesser penalty and then hopefully they will grant him a new trial where he finally can proof that he is innocent. He never had a fair chance in his life, so I beg you today to please give him a fair chance in these tough and painful times. It would not hurt anyone to grant Gary a new trial. It only will proof his innocence and this man deserves true justice. You could save a life because at a new trial he could proof that he did not kill anybody. As I said there is DNA testing that can proof it and after all the years Gary will not hide the name of the actual killer, the name of his little brother, anymore.

I hope from the bottom of my heart that you will grant for the sake of humanity the clemency of commutation of the death sentence into a lesser penalty. Please do not allow that Texas kill my beloved husband exactely two years after I wrote my very first letter to him. Gary once told me that his life began on June 27th because I wrote my first letter on that day. Please do not allow that his life will end on June 27th ... only two years after his life began ...

Believing in your understanding and generosity I remain,
respectfully yours

Claudia Schweiger-Etheridge

PS: Enclosed you'll find a few pictures of Gary, his daugthers Brittany and
Brandi and me for you to see who we are.

        02/27th, 2001. Gary & Claudia
          on the day they got married.

            May 19th, 2001. Gary, Claudia, and Gary's               Gary, age 15, with his younger brother.
            daughters Brittany (L, age 12) and Brandi
            (R, age 11) when they met after 11 years !

Second letter from Claudia to Governor Rick Perry:

Munich, May 29th, 2002
Dear Governor Perry,

I just like to remind you on the case and fate of death row prisoner Gary Etheridge who's scheduled to die on June 27th, 2002.

I am very concerned and scared because I truly believe that he was a the crime scene but that his hand did not kill. As I already told you in my letter of May 17th, 2002 Mr. Etheridge did not say the name of the killer at the actual trial and earier statements because he deserpately wanted to protect his younger brother Michael Etheridge who was with him and stabbed the 15 year old victim Christie Chauviere to death.

After many years on death row Mr. Etheridge decided to no more longer pay for what another man did. He finally learned to value life which he did not in 1990 when the crime happened. There is a blood drop on the victims shirt and in 1990 they did a blood typ test and only 2 prongs of a 4 prong test matched with Gary's blood. A proper DNA test can proof that it is not Mr. Etheridges blood. A DNA testing could proof as well who the actual killer is.

I know Gary Etheridge for 2 years now and I only know him as a warm, friendly, supportive, protective and attentive human being, always loyal and fair to his friends and family. After a few months of knowing him only via  letters we met and instantly I found out that in person he is exactely the same loving caring person I already knew from his letters. Even in deepest pain and desperation he always find some encouraging words for others. Even in his darkest days, when you expect a man to rather be selfish and no more longer caring for other ones problems he find the strenght and courage to encourage others. Even now, facing death he does not cry for himself. He worries what his death will mean to his old mother, to his daughters Brittany and Brandi, to all of his friends and of course to me, his wife. Even now, in deepest pain he does not grief for himself. He spend his precious time with writing plenty of letters to all of his friends asking them to help me and support me after his death. Even people who does not know him pretty good are moved to tears that this man tries from his cell to find help and to do everything to ask friends to comfort me after his death. I never met a more loving and caring man before and I guess it's hard to find another one like him with such a big heart. He has a heart of gold.

Next to the fact that I fear that Texas is going to execute the wrong one I do not believe in the death penalty at all because it does not prevent further crime, it is no deterrent at all, it does not bring closure to the victims family as a letter of a murder victims mother recently proves. The death penalty only creates a new violent act. It is barbaric, old-fashioned and a cruel and unusual punishment. I do believe in punishment but I think to give life in prison should be enough even for the worst killers.

And next to the fact that I truly believe that Mr. Etheridges hand did not kill I feel that it is vengence to execute him because for 12 years while on death row he did not hurt anyone, no other inmate and no guard. This is proof enough that he is no future dangerous or threat. I know for sure that, if he ever would get off prison, he never would fail or do wrong because today he finally is the good and honest man he always wanted to be. The only  reason why he did wrong 12 years ago was because he did much too much drugs to overcome a painful childhood. But today the anger and pain of his childhood is gone. He is no weak man anymore and today he knows that drugs does not resolve anything. He does not need drugs anymore. If he ever would get off his only desire is to go to work and live a quite normal average life together with me. He's grown to a mature young man and he would not steal or rob again or do anything that would get him back to prison. I think, I know Gary much better than 12 jury members did in 1990.

With an execution my world and dreams will be shattered as well and I have no idea how to go on in life. If you would allow the wife of an inmate to be executed as well I gladly would accept this offer because without him I don't want to live anymore. He plays a big role in the life of his daughters as well and his poor old mother already does not know how to live without him. It will break our hearts forever and none of us have any idea how to survive Gary's death. If you allow Texas to execute Mr. Etheridge this day will be the most terrible day in our lives.

I still do not plea for Gary's life because he's no killer. I plea for true justice which truth will save his life. Please do all in your power to commute Mr. Etheridges penalty into life and please allow him a DNA testing. I desperately ask you for this test. Mr. Etheridge still is so very remorseful for his part in the crime but what he did to the murder victims mother does not warrant the death penalty.

I still hope from the bottom of my heart that you will grant for the sake of humanity the clemency of commutation of the death sentence into a lesser penalty. Please do not allow Texas to execute my husband. The world will be no better place without him. But the world of all the people who loves him will be dark and sad and blue because they will lose a wonderful friend, brother and son.

Believing in your understanding and generosity I remain,

respectfully yours
Claudia Schweiger-Etheridge

PS: (Again) I will include the e-mail a friend of the victim sent to me. She has FORGIVEN Gary. When even people who are involved are able to forgive ... why can't Texas and society? And please also find another picture of Gary and me for you to know who we are.
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This page was last updated June 23, 2002                  Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty
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