Aba Gayle


Aba Gayle, who became a passionate opponent of the death penalty after her 19-year-old daughter, Catherine Blount, was murdered, died in Silverton, Oregon, in late June. She was 89.

Aba Gayle’s (her preferred moniker) daughter, Catherine, and her friend, 29-year-old Eric Hanson, were killed in Placer County, California, in September 1980. Douglas Mickey, an acquaintance of the couple, was convicted of the murders in 1983 and sentenced to death. 

For 12 years after her daughter’s death, Aba Gayle was consumed with grief, and filled with rage at Mickey. But, as she explained over the years, she had an epiphany that led her to send a letter to Mickey in 1992 telling him she forgave him. He responded, expressing his remorse, and invited her to visit him at San Quentin. Aba Gayle did, and continued to visit for many years, until she moved from California to Oregon, and their communication was limited to phone calls and letters. 

Forgiving Mickey transformed Aba Gayle. She became an outspoken opponent of capital punishment. She traveled the country as a representative of organizations, including “The Journey of Hope” and “Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation,” telling her story of unimaginable loss and grief and the healing power of forgiveness. She was also a loyal supporter of Death Penalty Focus, sharing her experience, wisdom, and spiritual evolution with our board, staff, and supporters for more than 20 years.

In 2004, Aba Gayle said she supported Mickey’s release. “He has paid his debt to society,” she told LA Times reporter Vince Beiser. “He’s totally rehabilitated. It serves no purpose for him to be sitting on death row. It doesn’t change what happened. It’s a total waste of his life, and of taxpayers’ money.”

And she told the Washington Post’s Colman McCarthy in 1996, “My experience has shown me that it is not necessary to kill another human being for me to have the completion of my anger and grief. I do not want my grandchildren to be taught that we deal with violence with more violence. I do not want my daughter’s beautiful spirit tarnished by a premeditated murder.”

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