AP NEWS
Related topics

Mo. Family Thankful for Pope’s Help

January 30, 1999

REEDS SPRING, Mo. (AP) _ For Darrell Mease’s mother, it was never a matter of whether, but simply when, her son’s death sentence for killing three people would be commuted to life in prison.

``We were listening for this, Darrell and I were listening for this for years,″ Lexie Mease said Friday. ``We didn’t know how long we would have to wait, but we knew it would happen. We weren’t depending on man. We were depending on God.″

Gov. Mel Carnahan spared her son’s life Thursday after an extraordinary face-to-face plea from Pope John Paul II. While everyone from political pundits to religious leaders were flabbergasted, Mease had told his brother, Larry, to expect something remarkable.

``He said he didn’t know when it would happen. But he snapped his fingers and said, ’When it does it will be just like this. And everybody will know about it,‴ Larry Mease said about a death row visit with his brother last Sunday.

Mease, 52, was facing execution for the 1988 murders of a former drug partner, the man’s wife and the couple’s paraplegic grandson. The governor had previously considered 27 death sentences and commuted only one.

``If somebody told you the pope was going to come over here and do that, you’d think they was crazy,″ said Larry Mease.

Mease’s 71-year-old mother said she had never been in contact with any representative of the pope, and didn’t believe her son had either.

The area Mease grew up in is a collection of hardscrabble farms and ramshackle old homes mixed in with shiny new vacation cabins, horse stables, fancy restaurants and antique shops for tourists visiting Branson.

It’s an area that Mease hopes to return to someday and take up the ministry. He renewed his faith shortly after going to prison and has said often that God has been his lawyer during all of his appeals.

``Vietnam and his first wife, that seemed to put him on a different path,″ said his brother, recalling how Mease had come home from the war in the 1960s disillusioned and cynical.

Mease got married and had five children, who range in age from 13 to 18. But he has said that he turned to drugs and drifted away from the church during that time. He was divorced twice.

After living in Kansas City for a time, he returned home to the Ozarks and eventually found work as a carpenter. One of the people he worked for was Lloyd Lawrence, who Mease has said also taught him how to make the drug methamphetamine.

In a confession he later recanted, Mease said he had hidden along a path near the Lawrences’ secluded house and shot them with a 12-gauge shotgun. He later contended the confession had been obtained illegally.

Mrs. Mease refuses to discuss the killings. Reminded that her son’s sentence is now life without parole, she smiled and said the same prayers that saved his life will eventually set him free.

``You can come back and see us when he comes home,″ she said.

AP RADIO
Update hourly