PHOENIX - One of only four women to sit on Arizona's death row, Debra Milke, is telling her story decades later in this 2-part report.
She was at the center of one of the most heinous crimes in Arizona history.
In 1989, weeks before Christmas, her 4-year-old son Christopher was told he was going to the mall to meet Santa Claus. Instead, he was taken to the desert and shot three times in the back of the head.
His mother, 25-year-old Debra Milke, was sentenced to death for arranging the murder. One of her roommates, a would-be-suiter, and his friend were convicted of carrying out the murder.
They are both on death row, and Milke always maintained her innocence.
She spent 23 years behind bars before a U.S. Appeals Court ruled that she was wrongly convicted.
The detective who claimed she confessed to the murder, didn't record it, there were no witnesses to the confession, and he had a history of misconduct and lying.
Milke was set free in 2013, and nearly ten years later, she's still trying to make sense of it all.
"Every single day I think of Christopher," Milke said. "The hardest thing I'm dealing with now is when I see people his age."
Christopher would have been 37 in 2022.
"When I see young men that are in his age group, it really … it's hard to deal with," she said.
Women on death row
According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, the three female death row inmates are Wendi Andriano, Shawna Forde, and Sammantha Uriarte.
According to the Death Penalty Information Center, a group that describes itself as a "national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment," there are, as of Jan. 1, 2022, 50 women on death rows across the U.S.
The number is based on reports by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and it should be noted that one of the women listed was sentenced to death as a male, and transitioned to female while on California's death row.
The state with the most number of women on death row is California, with 22.