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Tennessee to free woman who was sentenced to death

By Tim Ghianni

NASHVILLE, Tenn (Reuters) - A year to the day after she was supposed to have been executed for the killing of her husband, Tennessee officials announced on Wednesday that Gaile Owens will be freed from jail.

The Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole said Owens, 58, will be released sometime within the next three weeks.

"We don't have a date for certain," said Melissa McDonald, spokeswoman for the board.

"She has to get her release plan approved," she said. Owens will have to provide information about where she is planning to live and, if applicable, where she will be working, prior to her release. McDonald also said arrangements must be made for her regular meetings with a parole officer.

Owens would have been the first woman executed in Tennessee in more than a century.

She was sentenced to die after being found guilty in 1986 of arranging to have her husband killed. She was scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on September 28, 2010.

But then-Gov. Phil Bredesen stepped in before the execution date to commute her sentence, which made parole a possibility.

Parole was recommended by the single member of the board who was at her first parole hearing September 7. That recommendation was forwarded to other members of the board, who considered the case and recommended 4-2 to parole her.

During her parole hearing, Owens testified about sexual assaults and physical abuse she suffered from her husband that she said led her in 1984 to contract a man to kill him. Ron Owens died from 21 blows with a tire iron.

The man who actually killed her husband, Sidney Porterfield, now 68, also was sentenced to death and has been on death row since, according to Dorinda Carter, spokeswoman for the state Department of Correction. Owens was a convicted in 1986 of being an accessory to first-degree murder.

(Editing by Greg McCune)

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