KNOXVILLE - A federal court has denied a request to release and overturn the death penalty conviction for Christa Gail Pike, a former Knoxville resident who was sentenced two decades ago for the brutal torture and murder of a fellow co-worker that included carving a pentagram into her chest and bashing her skull.
She is Tennessee's only female death row inmate.
Pike had previously drained all her state appeals. She filed her latest appeal in U.S. District Court in October of 2012.
The next step for Pike would be to make an application for appeal to the 6th Circuit Court to Appeals, located in Cincinnati, Ohio.
If denied there, she could ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
Pike, who turned 40 on Thursday, was a teenage girl when she and her boyfriend, Tadaryl Shipp, murdered Colleen Slemmer on Jan. 13, 1995.
Shipp, who was 17 at the time of the killing, also was convicted. He is serving a life sentence at the South Central Correction Center in Clifton, Tenn. He is eligible for parole in 2031.
No execution date has been set for set for Pike.
Pike, in her request to overturn her conviction, claimed that she was provided with ineffective counsel, that the death penalty is unconstitutional and that she suffers from mental illness and brain damage that – under the 8th Amendment – would prohibit the death penalty for her.
In his 61-page order issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Harry S. Mattice notes that Pike contends the death penalty is unconstitutional, but failed to cite an authority holding it unconstitutional. He also noted that Pike failed to provide "cause and actual prejudice" backing up assertions that her counsel was ineffective.
"After reviewing each of (Pike's) claims, the court finds that reasonable jurists could not conclude that (Pike's) claims are adequate to deserve further review, nor would reasonable jurists debate the correctness of the court's procedural ruling," Mattice wrote in his order.
Slemmer, 19 at the time, was a student at now defunct Knoxville Job Corps when she met Pike and Shipp. Pike believed Slemmer was trying to steal Shipp and lured her into a violent trap they set up at the University of Tennessee Agricultural campus.
Pike bashed slashed Slemmer's throat with a box cutter and bashed her head with a chunk of asphalt and kept part of her skull as a trophy.
She later bragged about it to fellow co-workers.