The Texas debutante who saved a serial killer

Special to, February 2, 2024


Today’s headlineTrue Crime, True Faith: The Serial Killer and the Texas Mom Who Stopped Him

How did Stephen Morin become a serial killer and horrific rapist? According to the above Vanity Fair feature, it may not have been that complicated:

Morin blamed his criminal perversions on his mother sending him to a boys’ home, his witnessing of his mother’s alleged sexual abuse of his brother and her supposed sexual exploits with a friend his age, as well as being sent as a 15-year-old to prison, where Morin claimed he was sodomized.

Before his 1985 execution in Huntsville, Texas Morin claims he was forgiven of his sins after his final victim performed a spontaneous exorcism in her SUV which he had commandeered after kidnapping her four years earlier.

What sustained him before his death was her friendship and her little black book that she had given him while his captive. He had given her the bullets from his gun, released her and her car and boarded a bus.

Following are excerpts from a true story about an unlikely outcome for a dead end life and the transformative power of the Words of Life:

It was nearing eight o’clock in the evening on December 11, 1981, and the serial killer Stephen Morin was driving the SUV of his latest captive, Margy Palm, north out of San Antonio. Helicopters circled the city and police combed the streets, warning people to stay inside and lock the doors. Morin’s reign of terror was sputtering to a clumsy close after a rare mistake earlier that day. He was suspected of the murder, torture, and in some cases rape of more than 30 women in 9 or 10 states — and most of San Antonio now knew that he was on the loose in its manicured, country-club midst.


She closed her eyes to calm herself, and it came to her that the man shouting at her — who had three knives on him in addition to his gun — was not her enemy. God had put her in that car for a reason, she decided. “I was not afraid of him, not hating him anymore,” she says.

She started praying aloud for Morin.

Morin was used to easily overpowering women, but Palm caught him off guard. Suddenly feeling as though she was being guided by a force greater than herself, she did something she’d never done before and fully knows sounds bizarre. She took her hands out from underneath her, where Morin had demanded she keep them, placed them on Morin’s forehead, and attempted to cast out the evil.

“You evil spirits, go now!” she shouted. She didn’t know it, but she was externalizing Morin’s criminality — separating him from his problem. (Externalizing is a technique that therapists sometimes use on patients to make them feel less shame.) “You will not keep destroying his life and destroying mine!” she continued. “Now leave my car!”


Morin asked Palm to attend his 1985 execution, but she decided it was more important to be with her husband that day. She visited the killer on death row at the infamous Ellis 1 Unit, near Huntsville, Texas, the day before, though. The trip was long. Palm flew to Houston and buckled in for a road trip to the prison alongside a priest who waited in the prison parking lot. The red brick building was ominous, with spiraled razor-wire coils atop tall fencing, high-voltage signs, and guard towers. But inside — after passing through a security checkpoint and a heavy metal door — Palm says the warden gave her a hug and greeted her warmly. At the time, she recalls, there were open windows allowing in a pleasant breeze and the scents from a vegetable garden. She was taken to a room. Soon, Morin was led in and sat behind a glass partition. He had his Bible, a can of Sprite, and a huge smile on his face.


After telling me about this final meeting, Palm sits with me and Noelle at her kitchen counter, combing through Morin’s letters. One [sent in September 1982] …. says in part, “You once said you would never give up on me. I want to thank you for standing by your word.” In another letter, Morin expressed surprising affection, writing, “I do love you.” Even after everything I’ve heard, I am shocked to see that. I look up at Palm, expecting to see my surprise mirrored back, but she’s smiling. I ask her what she feels when she reads those words now. “It’s touching,” she says. “The fact that he went from screaming at me to saying that is pretty incredible.”

Raised an Episcopalian, Margy Palm Palm had attended a retreat in Las Cruces, New Mexico, that “awakened a spiritual interest so deep that she kept it from friends and family for fear they’d judge her.”

She felt a powerful connection — not to any particular doctrine so much as to the concept of God’s love being universal and more powerful than fear or hatred. She had been a debutante, yes, but she was also a serious thinker who spent hours absorbing scriptures, hand-copying those passages into her black notebook, and seeking out books that expanded her spiritual understanding.

On the morning of December 11, before she encountered the serial killer who would change her life, she knelt in her closet and told God she would serve him however he needed her to that day.

This column assumes as hypotheticals the substantial existence of God on Earth and the temporary reign of Satan as the “god of this world”. References: Holy Bible, Divine Principle, What I Saw at the Second Coming.

Readers are invited to download, print and sign the Book of Life Certificate.

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