HOUSTON — A Texas woman who made national headlines in 2003 and became the subject of a Lifetime movie after stabbing her husband 193 times and burying him in a hole in their backyard has been released on parole.
Susan Lucille Wright, 44, of Houston, was released Wednesday morning from the Lane Murray Unit in Gatesville, ABC 13 in Houston reported. Wright had spent more than 16 years behind bars for killing her 34-year-old husband, Jeff Wright.
The newly-released former inmate, who was dubbed the “Blue-eyed Butcher” due to the brutality of the crime, declined to speak to a reporter who showed up at her family’s home. She asked the news crew to leave her family in peace.
“I would just like privacy. Please respect that,” Wright said. “I’m sure that y’all can understand, but don’t do this to my family.
“Even if you do it to me, don’t do this to them, please.”
Wright was convicted in 2004 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. A judge ruled in 2009, however, that her trial attorneys rendered ineffective assistance of counsel during the penalty phase of her trial, and he subsequently ordered a new sentencing hearing.
The court shaved five years off her prison term following her 2010 resentencing hearing.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles told ABC 13 that Wright, who was granted parole in July, will remain on intense supervision until 2024, when her sentence comes to an end. She is required to wear a GPS ankle monitor, must get anger management counseling and is barred from leaving the state.
Harris County authorities said Susan Wright, then 26, had used neckties and bathrobe sashes to tie her husband to their bed the night of Jan. 13, 2003.
“According to the state, on the night Jeff was killed, (Susan) undertook an elaborate plan to seduce him so that, in anticipation of lovemaking, he would allow her to tie him to their bed,” court records state. “Once Jeff was tied up and defenseless, (she) emerged with a knife and, with unfathomable anger, brutally stabbed him over and over again.”
The motive, according to prosecutors, was Jeff Wright’s $200,000 life insurance policy.
Then-prosecutor Kelly Siegler infamously brought the couple’s bloodstained bed into the Harris County courtroom during Wright’s 2004 trial and, straddling a male colleague, demonstrated how investigators said Jeff Wright was slain. See footage from the courtroom below, courtesy of KHOU.
The scene, broadcast live on Court TV, was reenacted in the 2012 Lifetime movie, “Blue-Eyed Butcher.” Susan Wright was also the subject of episodes of “Snapped,” “48 Hours Mystery” and other true crime shows.
Following her stint as a prosecutor, Siegler went on to host “Cold Justice,” a program on the Oxygen network. She has since come under fire for allegations of prosecutorial misconduct and, as recently as last year, was threatened with a contempt charge for dodging a subpoena in a death row inmate’s appeal, according to the Houston Chronicle.
During her closing arguments in 2004, Siegler called Susan Wright a “card-carrying, obvious, no-doubt-about-it, caught-red-handed, confirmed, documented liar,” the Chronicle reported.
Susan Wright’s trial attorney, Neal Davis, painted a much different portrait of what took place the night of the murder, describing his client as “Jeff’s physical and mental punching bag.” The couple had been married for about five years before the killing.
Davis told jurors that “193 stab wounds shows how much Susan feared her husband,” the newspaper reported.
“Jeff Wright had emotionally and physically abused (his wife) throughout their marriage, and the reason she did not leave him was that she was afraid he would kill her,” the defense argued, according to a trial summary in court records. “On the night of his death, Jeff had come home under the influence of cocaine and hit their son in the face.”
Susan Wright testified at trial that she confronted her husband, who had just returned from a boxing lesson, about getting help for his drug problem. He “threw (Susan) on their bed, forcibly raped her and threatened to kill her with a knife,” the records show.
Wright said she and her husband struggled for the knife and, when she got it away from him, she stabbed him several times. According to a 2010 Texas Monthly story, the couple’s 4-year-old son knocked on the door.
After hiding the knife and tying Jeff Wright’s wrist to the bed with a necktie, she walked the boy back to his own room before getting a second knife from the kitchen and returning to the master bedroom.
Despite having already stabbed her husband multiple times in the neck, she feared he had found the first knife and was waiting for her, she testified. She resumed stabbing him.
“I couldn’t stop stabbing him; I couldn’t stop,” Susan Wright testified. “I knew as soon as I stopped, he was going to get the knife back and he was going to kill me. I didn’t want to die.”
According to court documents, Jeff Wright suffered 41 stab wounds to his face, 23 wounds to his neck and 46 cuts to his chest. In addition, he had 22 wounds to his abdomen, 19 to his legs, 23 to his arms and one to his back.
He also had seven wounds to his pubic area, which Susan Wright testified she targeted “for all the times that he made (her) have sex and (she) didn’t want to.”
One of the knives broke during the frenzy.
“The tip of a knife was broken off in the top of his skull,” court records state.
After the killing, Susan Wright used a dolly to move her husband’s body into the yard of their home, where she placed him in a hole he had already dug as part of a home improvement project near their patio. The neckties and robe sashes were used not to tie him to the bed but to secure his body to the dolly, the defense argued.
Susan Wright spent the next several days in a fog of delusion in which she believed her husband was still alive and would come out of his shallow grave to kill her, her attorneys said.
The night she buried him, Wright testified, she sat up on the sofa until morning, a knife in hand. According to Texas Monthly, she said she “watched for Jeff to get up because (she) was afraid the second (she) went to sleep, he was going to get up and come after (her) again.”
Prosecutors argued that Wright was very much in her right mind, spending the days after the murder convincing family and friends that her husband had abused her and their son before leaving their home.
“As part of her plan, (Susan Wright) also reported physical abuse to her doctor and filed criminal charges against Jeff, resulting in a warrant being issued for his arrest,” court records state. “It was only after the family dog dug up Jeff’s body, the state concluded, that (her) plan fell apart.”
Jeff Wright’s remains were found five days after the murder by officers from the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, who went to the couple’s home on a report of a possible dead body. They found the dead man partially buried face down, with his head, left arm and left shoulder exposed.
Ligatures were found around each of his wrists and ankles.
“The officers also found a mattress, box springs, comforter and headboard in the backyard,” according to court records. “The mattress was soaked with blood.
“Inside the home, one wall of the master bedroom had been freshly painted and a piece of the carpet had been cut out. Painting supplies, a box cutter and scissors were found in the room.”
Read the criminal complaint in Susan Wright’s case below.
Despite Susan Wright’s obvious efforts to clean up the scene, detectives found blood spatter on the walls, ceiling and furniture of the master bedroom, including the dismantled bed. Some areas of the room showed evidence of cleaning with bleach.
Investigators also found a receipt for two gallons of bleach, as well as a bleach-stained pair of women’s jeans. Empty bleach containers were found in a trash can, as well as a full bottle of bleach still in Susan Wright’s car.
In the aftermath of the killing, Susan Wright confessed to her mother that she’d killed her husband.
“Momma, it wasn’t me. I snapped,” she said, according to the criminal complaint in the case. “I was up there and I saw somebody do it, but it wasn’t me.”
She also admitted the killing to Davis, who went to the Harris County District Attorney’s Office to report the slaying.
The attorney checked Susan Wright into the psychiatric ward of Ben Taub General Hospital, Texas Monthly reported in 2010, after Wright was granted a new sentencing hearing.
During her testimony, in which she verbally sparred with Siegler multiple times, Wright contended that both the stabbing itself and the subsequent cleanup were the result of her terror.
“It was cleaning,” Wright said, according to the Chronicle. “I thought it was dirt and I had to make the house clean because Jeff was going to be mad. I wasn’t lying, because I believed Jeff was going to be coming back.
“I still thought Jeff was alive and he was going to kill me.”
Siegler accused Wright of rehearsing her testimony beforehand and crying on cue.
“She cries when you’re in the room and she stops when you leave,” the prosecutor told jurors.
Wright denied the accusation, telling Siegler she covered her face at times to compose herself because the judge had ordered her to do so.
“I haven’t cried on cue once,” Wright protested, according to the Chronicle. “I don’t see how someone could not cry during this.”
Jurors took just five hours to find Wright guilty of first-degree murder.
“Just about everyone in Houston believed Susan Wright was a monster,” Wright’s appellate attorney, Brian Wice, told Texas Monthly. “Everyone believed that she was some real-life reincarnation of Sharon Stone from the first reel of Basic Instinct. There was just one problem. Everyone had gotten it wrong.”
Wice, who represented Wright pro bono, argued in her appeals that Davis and his co-counsel had failed their client. They did not call witnesses who could corroborate her claims of domestic abuse and failed to introduce experts who could testify that Wright suffered from battered woman syndrome as a result of the abuse.
The defense also failed to call as a witness the psychologist who evaluated Wright after her arrest and found that she was convinced her dead husband was still alive and would kill her, Texas Monthly reported.
At Wright’s resentencing hearing, Dr. Jerome Brown testified that she was in a “dissociative state” in the days after the murder. He also said he’d diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder.
District Judge Jim Wallace, who had presided over Wright’s trial, ultimately determined that while Wright indisputably killed her husband, there was a “wealth of mitigating evidence not presented at the punishment stage that painted a dramatically different picture of (her) and her moral blameworthiness.”
He ordered a resentencing hearing, a move later affirmed by the appeals court.
Some of that mitigation, Wright told the magazine, was the violent temper her father had when she and her siblings were growing up. Wright’s sister, a college professor, corroborated those claims.
“We learned to walk on eggshells,” Wright said in a 2010 jailhouse interview. “We did our best to put on a smile and make everything look normal. When he got mad, we tried not to be seen. I thought that’s what happened in every house. If you had told me every husband didn’t yell at his wife or make her feel less than dirt, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Wright met her future husband in 1997. They married the following year after she got pregnant with their son.
The abuse began after the boy was born, Wright said. The couple’s daughter was born in December 2001.
Susan Wright lost her parental rights following the crime. The children were later adopted by Jeff Wright’s brother.
Another mitigating factor that Wice stumbled upon during the appeals process was a sworn statement, taken 10 months before Wright’s murder trial, of Jeff Wright’s one-time fiancée.
Misty McMichael, who later married Chicago Bears football player Steve McMichael, told the Harris County Sheriff’s Office that Jeff Wright was abusive during their relationship, particularly after he’d been drinking. She said that he beat her and threw her down a flight of stairs.
Jeff Wright was also charged with assault with bodily injury after an incident in a bar in which he broke a glass, sending a piece of the drinkware into McMichael’s chin. She later dropped the case out of fear of what Wright would do when he got out of jail, Wice told Texas Monthly.
McMichael’s allegations never came up at Susan Wright’s trial.
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