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A Letter From
Death Row

A Letter From Death Row

by David Duren

Published in
The Christian Informer
March, 2000

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Last updated:
March 11, 2000.

In January of the year 2000 David Duren became the first person to be executed by the State of Alabama in this new century. David realized that according to the law he deserved to die for the heinous crimes he committed--the murder of Nancy Kathleen Bedsole (just 16 years old) and attempted murder of her young friend, Charles Leonard, Jr. David confessed his guilt and asked the death penalty. David's grand-parents are members of a church of Christ close by us and through the efforts of members of that church he was baptized just before writing the following letter. Twelve years after David wrote this he is dead, at age 36. A copy of this letter was handed to me by a teacher who was reading it to all her classes a few days after the execution. I began to do the same.
-- R.N.

Dear Friend:

Hi, my name is David Duren, and I'd like to take this time to share something of great importance with you in hopes that my story will aid you in making some of the most important decisions you will be faced with in life.

But first, let me tell you a little about myself. I'm a white male; I just turned 25 years old. I have a G.E.D. and an average I.Q. of 132. I come from a middle class family and I am currently on Alabama's death row awaiting execution.

How did this happen, you ask? That's an important question, one that I have asked myself over the past four years on numerous occasions. But it's an important question that has an even more important answer--an answer that over the past four years of my life, I have been able to accurately piece together by reviewing my life. Because, while I am in a most realistic, life-threatening situation... [I can say] my only hope is the salvation of our Lord Jesus Christ. If you will listen carefully and accept with an open mind and heart what I'm about to share with you, I believe that you can use my mistakes to check your life, and the lives of those you associate with, to help you correct and/or avoid making those same mistakes before they get too far out of hand to be corrected.

My real problem was peer pressure. I was a skinny little weakling, a "straight" kid, living in an apartment complex where nearly all of the kids lived with single parents who had to work and leave the kids unattended. So for company and fun we all "hung out" together. Like I said, I was not accepted by the other kids because I didn't do the things they did. I didn't curse, smoke, drink, or smoke pot (at first). But I knew if I wanted to fit in, if I wanted any "real friends" (Ha!), I had to do all of those things. So at age 12, I inhaled my first cigarette, drank my first beer, cursed regularly, and smoked my first joint. "Aw, a little pot never hurt anybody!" "Pot's not addictive--it doesn't make you crazy!" Maybe, maybe not, we'll leave that to the medical experts--and they say differently. But the point is, it doesn't stop there! In my case, and in many others I've discovered, by succumbing to peer pressure, I surrounded myself with so-called friends who drank, smoked, cursed, and did drugs. And when you smoke pot, you've got to get it from someone who sells it. And frankly, I never met anybody who sold pot only. So by smoking pot, you introduce yourself to the drug world. You run the same risks drinking. Suddenly, you need something to enhance your drunk, so you smoke a joint--I did. So one day you go to buy some pot from your "connection," and he or she says, "Oh, man, I don't have any pot right now, but I've got some bad quaaludes, or some crack, or a few valium, placidills, or even acid (L.S.D.).

I know, because that's the way it happened to me. So you buy whatever is for sale. And, before you know it, you're not just smoking pot anymore--you're crushing quaaludes and mixing that with your pot. So you're all strung out now and need a pick-me-up. "Hey! This cocaine will really put you in the clouds!" Now you're flirting with death. And what happens when you "need a fix" but can't pay for it? I think we all know the answer to that one. And if you think you can do without it until you can pay for it, you're only kidding yourself. I was so bad off, I was doing heroin two and three times a week--and I didn't even like the high! My "favorite" drug? Acid--L.S.D. I was doing it (when I was in the Army, even) on an average of four and five times a week. I was doing it the night I murdered a 16-year-old girl (the reason I'm here now). All because I succumbed to peer pressure--because that's where it all started. Only later did it lead to addiction.

I'm not writing this to have something to do! I could be watching TV right now. I have Bible studies that I have to get done by Thursday night. So, I'm not doing this for the fun of it. Do you think it's "fun" for me to sit here and tell you that I murdered a sixteen-year-old girl because I was so strung out on drugs and booze that I didn't know how to act like a responsible citizen? Do you think that it's fun for me? It's humiliating, embarrassing, and generally downright painful to have to relate to someone.

So, I'm not doing this for me--I'm doing this for you, because I care! I don't want to see others ruin their lives and the lives of innocent people as I have. I've traveled that road you, or someone you know is traveling right now. That road is dark, it's a dead end street, and I have reached its end. Its end is ugly, its end is pain, its end is lonely, its end is death.

Have you, or do you know anybody who has ever witnessed an execution here at Holman Prison or any other prison where they use the electric chair as the vehicle of death? If you do know somebody who has witnessed an execution by electrocution, ask them to describe the sight of a man strapped into the electric chair when 1600+ volts of electricity pass through his body--straining and creaking the leather restraining straps. Ask them to describe the sight and smell of that man's burning flesh as the electrode gets so hot it sears like a branding iron branding cattle. Ask him to describe the sight of the horrifying mask that once was that man's face, but now looks like an almost comically macabre Halloween mask--eyes bulging, face grimacing, mouth opened in a silent scream (not because he wouldn't scream, but because the pain was so intense he couldn't scream).

Maybe you're not into the things I've discussed here today. Good! You're on the right track. But maybe you know someone you care about who is walking that dead-end street. If so, share this with them.

I have cost an innocent girl her life, and have ruined countless other lives by doing so. I sincerely hope that what I have shared with you today is responsible someday for saving lives. I ask for your prayers and welcome any and all mail, positive or negative.

In Christian love, -- David Duren

May the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ keep you.

I read this painful letter and couldn't contain my emotions. It is so sad not only about David and his sad end, but it is also such a tragedy for all the lives he touched. If only he had chosen another path; if only someone could have reached him sooner. There is no way that these acts can ever be changed, but it was obviously his purpose to try to prevent others from taking the same paths. Someone might say, "Wow! Wasn't he brave." Maybe so, but there's no reward for taking well the punishment you are given for your evil deeds. The word of God tells us, "Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Pet 4:15,16). I pray that all will be moved by his writing.

If you are interested in seeing more details of David Duren's life which are incorporated into a Bible lesson that he wrote, you may see that by logging on to -- -- or, if you don't have internet service, write to us and we will try to make a copy available to you. In his Bible lesson he marks the first step in the wrong direction at age 13 when he wanted to "fit in." David says, "It was about this time I started smoking. This marked a change in my life-- not so much the cigarettes themselves, but the attitude which led me to make the decision to smoke, knowing that it was wrong." The title he gave this lesson is An Attitude Adjustment. You will read step after step as young David went from bad to worse in need of "an attitude adjustment," which he finally received by the harshest of methods.

-- R.N.