Titusville woman may meet death row
The state thinks 44-year-old Margaret Allen deserves to die for her role in the 2005 torture and murder of an acquaintance she thought stole her purse and $2,000.
Prosecutors will pursue a conviction for first-degree premeditated murder and kidnapping, saying the Titusville woman hit Wenda Wright, 39, again and again -- then poured bleach, nail-polish remover and ammonia over her face and choked her with a belt.
Allen's trial is scheduled to begin as early as Monday, with jury selection. A guilty verdict could send Allen to death row, where she'd be one of only two women currently facing execution, compared with 390 men.
Although female death-row inmates are rare, their executions are even rarer.
Experts say the system doesn't favor women: They just commit fewer crimes that make them eligible.
"You have to commit an aggravated murder," said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C.
He said women commit about 10 percent of murders in the country, but only about 1 percent of those executed are women.
Women rarely kill a stranger, or torture and kill someone, Dieter said.
"They have only had 11 executions of women since 1976. It is a rare phenomenon."
According to the Florida Department of Corrections, two women have been executed in the state, including suspected serial killer Aileen Wuornos -- the subject of the 2003 movie "Monster," starring Charlize Theron.
Sixteen women have been sentenced to death in Florida, dating back to 1926, according to the department, but 13 of the original sentences were commuted.
Nationwide, there are 61 women facing execution, making up less than 2 percent of the total death row population.
Wright was reported missing on Feb. 8, 2005, and Titusville police began their investigation.
Two days later, two people not involved with the crime went to the police department and told officers Wright had been murdered.
Then Quinton Allen, Margaret's nephew who is now 24, came forward and told police Wright was killed in his presence.
Police served a search warrant at Margaret Allen's house, 415 S. Robbins Ave., where the murder allegedly occurred. She and James Martin, now 60, were arrested.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to discuss the Allen case with FLORIDA TODAY, but court and police documents paint a grisly picture.
Allen's purse was missing and she suspected Wright, her housekeeper, who kept denying she had taken it.
At some point during the confrontation, according to documents, Allen started hitting Wright: "Quinton Allen said he was directed to help hold the victim, while Margaret Allen used a cloth belt to bind the victim's legs, and then he was instructed to hold the victim's hands and keep her from getting up . . ."
Police said he feared for his safety because his aunt was carrying a semi-automatic handgun.
Allen then put her knee on the victim's neck and started pouring the bleach and other chemicals on Wright's face.
"The victim was gagging on the chemicals, crying and begging for her life," the documents said.
Margaret tried to put adhesive on her mouth but "the tape would not stick due to the chemicals," Quinton Allen said during a prior hearing.
Wright stopped moving. She was unconscious, Margaret Allen told her nephew, according to records. A day later, she picked up Quinton Allen and told him he would have to help dispose of the body.
A medical examiner's report said the primary cause of her death was homicidal violence and cocaine intoxication.
According to reports, Margaret Allen, her nephew and Martin had trouble getting rid of Wright's body, which weighed more than 300 pounds. They buried it in a shallow grave near State Road 46 in North Brevard.
"Quinton Allen took us to the scene and the grave was located," a police report said.
Quinton Allen pleaded to a second-degree murder charge and is expected to be released from prison in 2019, while Martin pleaded to a charge of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder and served about five years. He was released in October 2009, but is back in jail on a violation of probation charge.
Both received reduced charges and sentences for agreeing to testify against Margaret Allen, whom police believe was the ring leader in the Wright slaying.
She had been convicted of numerous felony charges before the homicide, including possession and sale of drugs and aggravated assault.
In 1991, she faced a charge of first-degree murder, but was found guilty of battery and aggravated battery. Records on that case weren't available.