By Charles deGravelles and Feltus Taylor, Jr.
Feltus Taylor, Jr., was born in Manhasset, N.Y. His mother, a prostitute and drug addict, gave him up for adoption. He was raised primarily by an adopted grandmother, Mrs. Henrietta Rowan, in Baton Rouge. He spent 10 years of a 15-year sentence at Hunt Correctional Institute for armed robbery.
He was later convicted of the 1991 murder of Donna Ponsano and sentenced to execution. He is the author of an unpublished autobiography, “Waiting to Die,” edited by Ronlyn Domingue, and a book of collected essays, “Letters to Young People from Prison,” edited by Charles deGravelles.
Charles (Charlie) deGravelles is a deacon in the Episcopal Church. He is the founder of the Episcopal prison ministry at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola (now the Chapel of the Transfiguration) where he has been a volunteer chaplain since 1990. A former newspaper and television journalist, deGravelles is a chaplain and teacher at Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge. He is married to Angela Winder and has three children and one grandchild. His poems and short stories are widely published in literary magazines and anthologies. He is the author of a book of poems, “The Well Governed Son,” 1984, New Orleans Poetry Journal Press.
Charlie and Feltus met on Angola’s Death Row in 1997. Charlie became his spiritual advisor and friend until Feltus was executed by lethal injection on June 6, 2000. Charlie was with him.
In the beginning (Charlie)
I grew up in a south Louisiana household without guns. Many years before, my dad, as a boy, made his first and final kill, a mallard duck shot in a marsh south of Thibodeaux. The kill had not excited but saddened him. He stared into the glistening eyes of the creature, limp but still alive and fluttering in the mouth of a retriever. It was his last hunt. He justified to us his lack of enthusiasm by telling us often that guns were more likely to kill someone in the household than an intruder. A hard-core conservative and staunch Republican, he nonetheless had no use for guns. As he did with all of the important lessons he wanted to impress on us, my dad clipped newspaper stories — in this case, accounts of innocent people accidentally killed by friends or family — and taped them to the refrigerator.
So naturally, my brother and I, at our first opportunity, surreptitiously bought guns. They were BB pistols, one apiece, shiny and with a container of copper BB’s in each box. We bought them and extra BB’s with money earned from chores at a Sears and Roebuck down the street, and we carefully hid them in our closet. Read More…