DALTON, GA — While growing up, Janice Buttrum, the youngest woman ever sentenced to death in the state of Georgia, knew only violence, neglect, and sexual terror.
Shuffled throughout childhood between her impoverished, fatally alcoholic step-parents and a series of despicably abusive foster “caregivers,” Janice acted out early on, desperately hoping promiscuity would lead to some manner of escape. In a terrible way, it did.
In 1978, 15-year-old Janice partied with and, in short order, married Danny Buttrum, a 26-year-old divorced father of two prone to his own violent outbursts (over the course of their two-year union, it’s estimated that Danny severely beat Janice 15 to 20 times).
Danny also grappled with warped carnal impulses so overwhelming he once checked into a psychiatric facility over fears he would rape someone. Unfortunately, those fears proved correct.
In late summer 1980, Danny and Janice moved into the low-cost Country Boy Motel with their 19-month-old daughter, Marlena. Janice, then 17, was also pregnant at the time with the couple’s second daughter.
Upon settling into the motel, the Buttrums befriended Demetra Faye Parker, a 19-year-old fellow resident who had just relocated from Georgia.
Demetra took to Marlena immediately and happily babysat while Janice and Danny went out to get wasted and cruised for other women with whom they could have group sex.
While Janice actively participated in these threesomes and other kinky activities, she came to harbor jealous rage toward Demetra, fearing that Danny might dump her for their new friend.
After unsuccessfully attempting to pick up a three-way partner on the night of September 3, Janice and Danny returned to the motel and set their sights on Demetra. At approximately 4 A.M., they grabbed Marlena and pounded on Demetra’s door.
Frantically, Janice said the baby had gotten sick and they needed to come inside. Naturally, Demetra welcomed them. Danny also burst in behind his wife and daughter and, in a flash, blocked the door to prevent Demetra from getting away.
After putting baby Marlena down on the floor, Janice and Danny erupted on Demetra. The couple tore off her clothes, held her down, and simultaneously beat, raped, and sodomized her without mercy.
The Buttrums’ sick, sadistic act culminated with Janice whipping out a pocketknife. She then stabbed Demetra 97 times with the small blade, ripping a long, cross-shaped wound across her stomach while Danny watched. Baby Marlena watched, too, crawling around the room as her parents subjected her beloved babysitter to these unspeakable horrors.
After a motel worker discovered Demetra’s body the following day, witnesses said they saw the Buttrums enter the room in the middle of the night. Police picked up Janice and Danny immediately.
While behind bars, Janice wrote a letter to the local sheriff taking full responsibility for the crime. She explained that she flew into a murderous rage because she walked into the room and found her husband “fixing to have sex” with Demetra. That story fell apart during the couple’s two separate trials.
Juries found Janice and Danny guilty of first-degree murder. Both were sentenced to die in the electric chair. Danny couldn’t wait, though. A week after his verdict, the 28-year-old dad of four hanged himself in his prison cell.
Janice, who gave birth to daughter Maria while behind bars, remained on death row until 1989.
Citing Janice’s minor age status and feeling considerable pressure not to execute a teenage mother, the state of Georgia commuted her sentence to life without the possibility of parole. Janice Buttrum has since become a born-again Christian.
Watch the all-new series premiere of Kiss of Death on Thursday, August 24 at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery!