Jana Bommersbach discusses investigation of Debra Jean Milke case
Jana Bommersbach’s investigation into the Debra Jean Milke case led to the book “A Stolen Life: The Debra Milke Story.” As the narrator of a new podcast, Bommersbach takes listeners inside one of the country’s most fascinating and infuriating criminal cases.
Debra Milke was sentenced to death for allegedly arranging for the murder of Christopher, her 4-year-old son. She spent 23 years behind bars, the only woman on Arizona’s death row, before a U.S. Appeals Court ruled she was wrongly convicted and threw out her sentence. The journalist and author talked with Ted Simons, host of Arizona Horizon.
Debra Milke was a 25-year-old single mother accused of having her son killed on his way to see Santa Claus in December 1989.
“They had to create a death row for her,” Bommersbach explained. Milke “spent 24 years on death row before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said to Arizona, ‘You either give this woman a fair trial or you set her free,'” she said.
Bommersbach explained the case ultimately boiled down to the detective’s word against Milke’s.
“It looked to us, it looked to everybody that, oh, she had to have done this,” Bommersbach said. “But when you read the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, I read it with my mouth on the floor because every single sentence excoriated Arizona.”
It was discovered that there were two men who killed Christopher. They are now on death row in Florence, Arizona. There is still a debate about which one of these men pulled the trigger.
“It’s amazing to me that she survived all that and that she came out and was not an embittered, angry, vindictive, terrible woman,” Bommersbach said. “She came out and she said, I am so glad to be free that I will do anything you want me to do.”