Salvation on Death Row: Review and Interview

Salvation on Death Row

Originally published:

January 9, 2018


John T. Thorngren


Biography, True crime

A childhood of dysfunction and sexual abuse, led to Pamela Perillo making decisions one of which would lead to her being put on Death Row.

At the age of nine her Mother never came home from work, after her older sister left she’d be the one Little Joe (her Father) Molested. A series of runaways would lead her to Juvenile Hall where she was introduced to drugs.

At sixteen she would give birth to a daughter, who would die four months later when Pamela was seventeen. The death of her daughter spiraled her out of control that same night she would attempt suicide through an attempted drug overdose and slitting her wrists.

A few years after the birth and subsequent death of her daughter due to sids, she gave birth to twin boys! Joel wouldn’t live a month Joseph would survive, but eventually in a drug fueled state she’d leave Joseph with her Father and his most recent wife, in an ill fated trip to Texas. A trip that would drastically change her life.

In 1981 Pamela Perillo was the only woman on Death Row in the state of Texas, Karla Faye Tucker would later join her there. On Death Row Pamela would give her heart to Christ, and so would Karla Faye Tucker.

A woman named Christina and her husband would adopt both Joseph and Pamela into their family, allowing Joseph to be raised in a Godly Christian home.

While on Death Row Pamela would loose her birth father.

Having been convicted of capital murder in 1980 Pamela Perillo was set to die on March 24.1996. In 1998 Karla Faye would be executed but Pamela was still alive and often faced appalling conditions in cages smaller than cages at the zoo.

Pamela would watch several of her friends sent of to die . In late 2009 Pamela signed up for the Faith based dorms that Karla Faye had implemented.

Despite unbelievable odds, and appalling conditions Pamela Perillo found Christ, and learned the power of forgiveness.

I give Salvation on Death Row five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!

Author Interview with John. T. Thorngren

Q&A with author John Thorngren

John T. Thorngren’s life has been one of varied experiences that have taken him from Paris, France, to the oil fields of Texas. He’s manufactured car-wash soap, owned a retail store, operated a chemical plant, and programmed computers. He’s the author of a book about probability and statistics and a songwriter of Southern Gospel.

So maybe it’s only fitting that an unexpected path led him to tell the story of a woman condemned to die on Texas’s Death Row, now hoping for parole in 2019. The twists and turns of his life have led Thorngren to find the value in every human soul, regardless of the journey that soul has taken.

This is the background behind Salvation on Death Row: The Pamela Perillo Story.

1. How did you come to know Pamela Perillo’s story, and what made you decide hers was a story you wanted to write?

I discovered an old friend was on Death Row in another state. Drugs were the root cause. As an effort to bring attention to his case, I decided to write a fiction novel about a woman falsely accused and condemned in Texas. Needing realism, by chance, I contacted Pamela Perillo, currently incarcerated in Gainesville. Pamela is a private person and had never allowed anyone to tell her story. We found we had a spiritual match and so began this effort.

2. Tell us about the process. How long did it take you to research the many documents and legal proceedings you cite, and how did you work with Pamela to bring her voice to the project?

Pamela and I worked on this project from 2010 through 2017.  This involved over fifty telephone conversations, 150 letters, and countless hours of research.

3. Did you ever find yourself surprised or challenged by what you learned as you wrote the book?

Yes, very much surprised. I was surprised about how political the causes for and against the death penalty have become. I was extremely surprised about the Frances Newman case. She personified the worst fear of those against the death penalty—the execution of the innocent. I and many others believe she was unjustly convicted and condemned.

4. How did this project change or affect your beliefs about the criminal justice system and, specifically, capital punishment?

I once believed that the criminal justice system and capital punishment were fair and equitable—a sort of Pollyanna viewpoint. Now, I believe that there are dark undercurrents to the contrary, and that once you are convicted and condemned, the justice system behaves like the proverbial snapping turtle that will not let loose till it thunders, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Slowly, I see our country becoming more compassionate regarding the death penalty, and I am encouraged.

5. Can you tell us a little about Patriot PAWS and why you chose that organization to benefit from the proceeds of Salvation on Death Row?

Patriot Paws was chosen on behalf of Pamela’s efforts to train service dogs. As noted in the book, Pamela’s encounters with animals throughout a difficult childhood shaped her talent in what she is doing now. She and her fellow trainers have made many service dogs available without cost to disabled American veterans and others with mobile disabilities and post-traumatic stress symptoms. Pamela plans to continue this effort after she is released. Certainly, any monies from my involvement should go to Patriot Paws, as neither Pamela nor I began this effort for profit. A beautiful video describing Patriot Paws through the eyes of Texas Country Reporter can be seen at Several scenes depict Pamela.

6. How does your own experience, as the survivor of three heart attacks and two heart surgeries, influence your thinking about the value of all people’s lives?

I am sure everyone who has had their chest cracked open like a crab will tell you how much bluer the sky looks. But I believe everyone, if they look back on their life with discerning eyes, regardless of their health, prosperity, or misery must conclude that they were put here for a purpose, that every life is precious and none worth taking.

7. What do you hope readers take away from learning Pamela’s story?

I would answer this with a short story from a personal experience. Years past, I used to write my own Christmas cards, a poem or a two-paragraph vignette. These went out not only to family and friends but to business contacts, many of whom I had never met. For several years there were no comments—good or bad. One afternoon, one of these business contacts, whom I did not know, telephoned and said the card had made his Christmas. One rarely knows what we do that benefits others, but when we do—even for just one—we leap with joy. So if the story of Pamela’s life helps but one soul, then our effort was well worth the undertaking.

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