By Walton Golightly
On May 11, 2011, Rachel Pittman, 16, hid a wooden-handled kitchen knife in the waistband of her shorts and carried a two-litre bottle filled with petrol the short distance from her home to Market Road 991 in rural Redwater, Texas. Amanda Doss, 34, lived there with her two children, Guinevere, 11, and Texas, eight. It was about 03h00 when Rachel knocked on the door.
Amanda knew the teen well – she had babysat the children – and let her in. They talked for a while, recalled Rachel later, then she rose as if to leave. Instead she attacked Amanda with the knife, and turned her attention to the children. Next, she retrieved the plastic bottle of petrol she’d hidden outside. It was then that the badly injured Guinevere phoned her grandparents, screaming for help.
Glen and Wanda Prewett lived nearby and were pulling up outside as Rachel jumped the fence behind the burning house. As the Prewetts tried in vain to save their loved ones, suffering severe burns in the process, Rachel returned to her home and cleaned up. The Prewetts were able to pull only Guinevere’s body from the house. The other bodies were only recovered later by fire fighters.
Autopsies confirmed all three had died from violent injuries inflicted prior to the fire, which was set in an attempt to mislead police and cover up evidence.
The day after the killings, Rachel burnt her clothes and broke the knife, scattering the pieces in the woods behind her house. A week later, she returned with soap and water to the crime scene under cover of darkness, to clean the fence rail she had jumped the week before. She said later she was worried blood from a cut she got during the stabbings might be discovered on the fence, allowing authorities to identify her as the family’s killer. And she almost got away with it.
After months of investigation, investigators were stumped. Then, in August, Rachel confessed to her mother, who called the police. Rachel handed herself in and told them details about the murders that had not been made public.
Rachel told detective Roddy McCarver she killed the family because she believed it was what an adult friend wanted her to do. In her mid-30s, the woman had moved to another state five or six months before the murders, but had once boarded with Rachel’s grandmother. Rachel had a close relationship with the woman, who told investigators she thought of the teen as a little sister and that the two had often spent time together at Amanda’s home.
Rachel told McCarver she wanted to wait to kill Amanda on a night when the children were not home – but her friend was growing ‘impatient’ (or so she believed) and she finally had no recourse but to kill the mother and her children.
Reports from experts concerning Rachel’s mental state describe her as a teen descending into psychosis and paranoid schizophrenia. “Although it is evident she was aware her conduct was wrong and took steps to avoid detection, her delusional religious beliefs and belief in ‘confirmations’ from benign events and statements led her to believe not only that her conduct was not wrong, but that it was the right thing to do,” says one.
Rachel Pittman pleaded guilty to two counts of first degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison.
By Walton Golightly