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ONLY ON 3: Former Chattanooga police officer visits with death row inmate before execution

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HAMILTON COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -

The only woman on Georgia's death row was executed early Wednesday morning.

Kelly Gissendaner was pronounced dead at 12:21 a.m. after a flurry of failed last-minute appeals. She was the first woman put to death in the state in 70 years.

A jury sentenced Gissendaner to death for orchestrating the 1997 murder of her husband, Doug. The stabbing was carried out by Gissendaner's lover at the time in Gwinnett County.

But those close to Gissendaner knew a different person -- an example of someone who had been rehabilitated during her time on death row.

Retired Chattanooga Police Officer Marcus Easley shared with Channel 3 his unique experiences with Gissendaner. Easley said she touched many lives during her time in prison -- and changed them for the better.

"She said, 'Look. The only reason I'm in prison is me. The only person that put me in prison is me. I didn't have a bad judge. I didn't have a bad lawyer. I didn't have bad police officers. It's my fault'," Easley recalled one of the first times meeting Gissendaner in prison.

A criminal admitting her own guilt were not words the former officer was used to hearing.

But, he says, Gissendaner -- the only woman on Georgia's death row --
was different.

"There was no BS factor with her. She was so upfront," said Easley, who got to know Gissendaner during visits to state prisons with local schools' at-risk youth.

He explained how Gissendaner's cell was a regular stop. She was known as a model inmate at Metro and Lee Arrendale State Prisons, and wanted young people to learn from her mistakes.

Over the years, the two became close friends.

Easley was there during the 47-year-old's final visit with her children.

"Monday was like a family reunion, it really was," he said.

On Tuesday, Gissendaner's kids had to choose between visiting with their mom or pleading with authorities at her final appeal hearing.

They chose to fight -- but to no avail. So easley promised he would deliver their mother's final message.

 "It was simply 'I love you. I love you. I love you. Mama is so proud of you'," Easley smiled.

Simple, yet significant. It's how she signed all of her kids' letters from prison.

The family of Gissendaner's murdered husband, Doug, supported her death sentence.

While gissendaner didn't fail to admit her own guilt, Easley never forgot what her daughter once said.

 "She said, 'My father has been murdered. My father's been killed. And now the State of Georgia is gonna fix my problem by killing my mother'."

Doug Gissendaner was stabbed to death by Gregory Owen. He pleaded guilty to the murder and is currently serving a life sentence. He becomes eligible for parole in 2022.

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