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Finding Eternal Life on Death Row

Pamela Perillo was on death row waiting for execution by lethal injection when she found Christ.

Pam grew up in the 1960s in Los Angeles. Two adults and five children struggled for living space in a tiny two-bedroom rental house. Church and the Bible were unknown. Her mother had a fiery temper and Pam always felt that she cared the least for her. That feeling led to a spiraling loss of self-esteem. When Pam was nine, her mother ran off with the cook where she worked as a waitress. She died in a car wreck shortly thereafter.

Pam’s father was an alcoholic who molested her. When the police investigated, her father and brothers convinced them that it was just a bad dream. She felt so isolated that at age 10 she ran away from home. She spent the next three years running away from foster homes and being sent to juvenile hall.

Pam writes:

At age 13, I met Sammy Perillo, who was 19. We crossed the border into Mexico and married in “quickie” fashion. Just like Sammy, I started shooting up with heroin. After he went to prison, I delivered his twins, but only one survived. I never saw Sammy again.

To support her drug habit and her son, Pam danced at a strip joint. She then teamed up with a man named Mike to rob a frequent customer. Fleeing California with Mike and his wife, they hitchhiked to Houston, Texas, where they were picked up by a stranger. Mike noticed that the man had a roll of money. High on PCP, they murdered him and his friend and left for Colorado.

When Pam realized she could no longer withstand the emotional upheaval within, she confessed to the police. She was extradited to Texas, where she had been indicted in absentia for capital murder. A swift trial followed, then a verdict of death by lethal injection.

Pam writes:

While I waited in Houston before my execution, a woman involved in prison ministry visited. This angel talked about Christ and his path to forgiveness and I recited the sinner’s prayer. After 24 years of being tossed about like a dry chunk of dirt, God poured in the waters of life and began molding me for his purpose.

When I first accepted Jesus, I felt a change, but I found it hard to believe the change was for real. How could God ever forgive me for the horrible crime I had committed? My soul was in torment.

Then Pam met Karla Faye Tucker on death row. Karla Faye’s redemption was dramatic and the subject of movies. Her commitment to Christ resounded throughout the world before her execution. And her magnificent conversion was the spiritual cement that Pam needed. She said, “I knew then that in Christ, God can forgive anyone, no matter how severe their transgressions.”

Pam says:

In 2000, I received welcome news: My sentence had been reduced from death to life in prison. And today, after nearly 40 years of incarceration, I give thanks for how God directed my path to salvation. As grateful as I am to have escaped death row, I am a thousand times more grateful for the promise of eternal life. Fortunately, the Texas prison system allows for church and Bible-study groups, and I have shared my testimony on many occasions.

Editor’s Note: Today Pamela Perillo trains service dogs for disabled veterans through the Patriot PAWS program.

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