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Dana Sue Gray: Killing for a Shopping Spree

Dana Sue Gray is a serial killer who is hard to categorize. She was a nurse, but she did not kill her patients. She killed elderly women, but she did not poison them as so many nurse killers are wont to do. Her serial murders were violent, but she did not have a male counterpart helping her as many female serial killers who commit violent murders do. She is not unique, though. She had a clear motive, a modus operandi that could be compared to those of other serial killers and she had a lack of remorse that is all too familiar in the world of serial killings.

Dana Sue's parents divorced when she was two-years-old. Her mother raised her, though she died of cancer when Dana was still a teenager. Rumor has it that she tried to live with her dad, but that she could not get along with her stepmother. She graduated from high school with average grades and behavior. From there, she went to nursing school.

While Dana Sue Gray was in nursing school, she dated athletic men and became something of an athlete herself. She dated a skydiving instructor and became a proficient diver herself. It is said that the couple conceived two children together, but that Dana aborted both. Her next boyfriend was a windsurfer, who also taught her his craft. In 1981, she graduated from nursing school and went to work as a nurse. Her career was uneventful. She worked in all of the gruesome situations that nurses find themselves in, but she did not reveal the true person lurking underneath her athletic blonde exterior.

In 1987, Dana Sue married William Gray, a man with whom she had gone to high school. The couple was married for roughly six years when a petition for divorce was filed. Dana was still technically married to William when her life fell apart. She went into debt, started dating a man who lived in a trailer with his son and started killing elderly women for money. They were not divorced until she was behind bars, but that was still roughly one year away when the petition was filed.

Dana's stepmother maintained a relationship with her mother-in-law from her first marriage. The elderly Norma Davis was ailing, but living on her own with a little help from Dana's stepmother. On February 14, 1994, someone broke into Norma's house and stabbed her 11 times with two different kitchen knives. She was also strangled with a telephone cord. A friend found her body with the two knives still sticking out of it two days later and reported it to police. The initial investigation pointed nowhere near Dana Gray.

Fourteen days after the Davis murder, 36-year-old Gray tricked June Roberts into letting her into her home. She then strangled June with a phone cord. She stole two credit cards and a bankbook from the deceased 66-year-old woman and went on a shopping spree. First, she just spent money on the credit cards. Later, she withdrew 2,000 dollars from Roberts' bank account, a feat she tried again, but was refused the second time around. Salespeople remembered Dana Sue Gray as happy. She spent her shopping hours with her boyfriend's son and told clerks they were having a shopping day.

On March 10, 1994, Dana Gray went into an antiques store and attacked 57-year-old Dorinda Hawkins in the back. She strangled her with nylon rope until she was unconscious. She then stole roughly 25 dollars from the premises, left and went shopping with the Roberts' credit cards again. She believed Dorinda Hawkins was dead, but she was wrong.

While Dana was spending her murder victims' money, Dorinda was describing her to the police. The drawing and descriptions from sales clerks led law enforcement to Dana Sue Gray on March 16, 1994. While they were detaining her at the police station, they received word of another murder. Earlier that day, Dana tricked her way into 87-year-old Dora Beebe's home. She beat Dora to death with an iron and stole her credit cards. She went on another shopping spree, but this would be the last of her life.

Police and prosecutors were sure they had enough to put Dana away forever or even get the death sentence. She initially said that she merely found the woman's credit cards and bankbooks. After a while, it became clear that farce was not working. She did admit to having a shopping addiction and, to this day, money is believed to be the motive behind these sick crimes. When the trial began in 1995, Dana changed her story from not guilty to an insanity plea. Three years and long proceedings later, she finally entered a guilty plea for two of the murders, but was not charged with Norma's murder.

Today, Dana Sue Gray is carrying out a life sentence in the California Women's Prison.

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