The rape and murder of Demetra Faye Parker

The story of Danny and Janice Buttrum is a horrible tale of rape and murder. Danny was the son of George W. Buttrum and his second wife, Evelyn Fowler. Danny was born about 1952, and his wife Janice was born in 1964. They married in 1979 when she was 15 and he was 27. They had one child and she was pregnant with another when they raped and brutally killed a woman in a Dalton motel in 1980.

I did not know him, but I remember seeing her in the 1970s. She was very overweight and there are two incidents about her that I remember hearing about. Both occurred about 1987, when she was 14 or 15. One, she “streaked” the S&H Supermarket parking lot in Adairsville, which caused a lot of comment because she was so big. The second involves allegations of public sexual promiscuity that I won't go into.

On 3 September 1980, she and Danny were temporarily living in a motel in Dalton called the Country Boy Inn. They had recently moved there from Adairsville, perhaps because Danny was an escapee from a Cobb County workhouse. They had one daughter, Marlena, 19 months, and Janice was pregnant with their second child, Maria, who was born in prison.

While at the motel, they met a pretty 19-year-old woman, Demetra Faye Parker, who had just moved to Dalton from Kenton, Tennessee. Demetra Faye apparently was fond of Marlena and babysat for Danny and Janice. But Janice, according to her confession, became jealous because Demetra Faye was pretty and she feared losing Danny to her. So, Janice and Danny tricked their way into her room by saying their baby was sick, then attacked her. While Marlena played on the floor, Danny raped and beat her and Janice helped, then Janice allegedly attacked her sexually, although there was no evidence to support the allegation. The rumors of lesbianism, however, led to the charge that Janice had "aided and abetted rape." Janice then stabbed Demetra Faye 97 times with a small pocket knife, killing her.

Janice Buttrum was an orphan. Her mother, single and an alcoholic, gave her away when she was a baby, and she was raised by alcoholic foster parents who sexually abused her. Danny was borderline mentally retarded and a drug user.

Both of them were sentenced to die in separate trials. The Georgia Supreme Court said of their crimes that they "can only be described as butchery and barbarism." She was sentenced to die September 31, 1981. After losing several appeals, including two to the U. S. Supreme Court, she was first sentenced to be executed between 26 October and 2 November 1987, but her sentence was overturned by a federal judge because of misconduct on the part of prosecutors.

At 17-years-old, she was the youngest woman ever sentenced to death in the United States, but her sentence was commuted to life in prison in 1989 because she was a minor at the time of the crime. In 1991, Whitfield County prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty again because the state of Georgia had never executed a female who was a minor at the time of the crime. In an agreement with prosecutors, Janice pled guilty and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

In its history, the state of Georgia had only legally executed one woman, an African American named Lena Baker, in 1945.

Danny committed suicide in the Whitfield County Jail in September 1981, a week after he was sentenced to death, but his step-sister said the family had some doubt he took his own life.

Her case, and that of three others including the notorious Aileen Wuornos, who is accused of seven murders and was the topic of the film Monster, are the subject of an article on whether being a lesbian influences whether women get the death penalty. It is available at

Janice's case is also discussed in Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998 by Kathleen A. O'Shea (p. 147).

A letter from Janice Buttrum

In the magazine The Open Door Community (Vol. 24, No. 6), Janice wrote the following letter to the editor about the death penalty in 2005:

Dear Mr. Andrew McCaskill,

You wrote Murphy and suggested that instead of trying to get in front of a camera to oppose the death penalty, she should do actual ministry (in "Hospitality," Letters, March 2005). In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and the goats. He talks about hungry people, thirsty people, homeless people, sick people and people in prison.

What does The Open Door Community do? Feeds, clothes, gives medical help to homeless, hungry, thirsty and sick people. What does Southern Prison Ministry do? Visits prisoners and brings their families to see them once a month. Now for a personal note to you. In 1983, shortly before my 19 th birthday, I sat on Georgia’s death row. I am the youngest female to ever be sentenced to die. My prison was in Hardwick. My two babies and family were six and a half hours away. I had received Christ as my Savior on 12/12/81. I had a church group from the county I was sentenced in who claimed to be my spiritual advisors. All they wanted was to write a book about my crime and come view my execution.

I received notification from the warden that I would be visited by Murphy Davis and Ed Loring. I had no idea who they were. I thought Murphy was a man’s name. I got to visitation and there was this wonderfully warm smile and hug, the first since my arrest in September 1980. Murphy has been my pastor every year since that day. I haven’t seen Murphy in person in several years. I’m not on death row anymore and I’m housed way in south Georgia. But she faithfully writes me. I don’t always faithfully write back. But for all eleven years of my incarceration on death row, Murphy ministered to me. She showed me and still shows me what a Christian is. So guess what? You’re a Presbyterian. So was my mother. Me? I grew up going to a Southern Baptist Church. Today I’m a Christian. My Savior, Jesus Christ was condemned to death, was crucified, died, buried, and rose again. If you support the death penalty then you’re in the crowd who shouted, crucify Him!

Janice Buttrum
Pulaski State Prison

Today, at about 45 years old, Janice Buttrum remains in prison.

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