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A letter to the dead

Making amends for murder

By Chip Drago
Mobile Bay Times
“After all these years I have come to you. It is me, Jamie, the girl who took your life,” so starts a letter that accused killer Jamie Letson allegedly wrote intending to read at the grave of Katherine Foster, a University of South Alabama
coed whose murder on campus
in 1980 has remained unsolved
for 30 years.

Letson, whose murder trial
opens in Mobile County Circuit
Court this week, composed the
letter as a “step” in her
program toward recovery from
substance abuse, authorities
contend. Unable to find
Foster’s grave, Letson read the
letter in the Pascagoula cemetery
while her Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor waited in the car, according to a Mobile police detective.

Letson’s trial in Circuit Judge Michael Youngpeter’s eighth floor courtroom
at the Mobile County
Courthouse is expected
to last two weeks.
Lawyers spent most of
Monday striking a jury.

Authorities believe
Letson lured her
longtime friend into
some woods on the
USA campus and shot
Foster twice in the head with a handgun that Letson had stolen from her grandmother. Letson was jealous of Foster over her boyfriend, say police. Detectives were pointed toward Letson at the very beginning of the investigation, but a foul-up over the day when Foster was reported missing caused forensic scientists to miscalculate the time of death which in turn served to substantiate Letson’s alibi.

Prosecutors Will Dill and Don Valeska hope to introduce the letter into evidence against Letson this week. Defense attorney Chris Klotz of Pensacola has sought to suppress the letter, but pre-trial rulings make it probable that the letter will be admitted as evidence for jurors to weigh in determining Letson's guilt or innocence.

The hand-written letter continues:

“I don’t know where to begin. I was your friend, but I was obsessed with Tom, and you were in my way. For what it is worth, Tom hated me after your death ... although no one could ever prove that I shot you, everyone knew that I was obsessed with Tom, that I had manipulated my way into his life, and I think many people suspected that I killed you.”

Letson’s life unraveled in the years after Foster’s death.

“I am wanting to tell you how my life was shattered after this. In some ways, in this one horrible act I destroyed two lives – yours and my own. But as I write, I realize that even now, when I come to here to sort things out with you that I am being selfish."

Letson, 49, was arrested at a Jackson, Miss., shelter in 2008 after police reopened the investigation into the dusty cold case. A more explicit confession that Letson purportedly gave to detectives has been disallowed because she had asked for an attorney before making the statement.

"Kate, I am acutely aware of what I did that day. In ending your life, I robbed your family and loved ones of a future with you. Only God knows what you might have contributed. At the very least I robbed you of the chance to experience a full life – no children, no fulfilling career – and the opportunity to continue on the path you were on and to grow in God’s love. You were a good girl. A good Catholic. You care about people. You were going to Ireland to work with children in the war zone to try to bring peace to the communities. You had traveled to Mexico to help the poor in Saltillo.”

Foster would be almost 50 had she lived. Her aging parents and numerous supporters are attending the proceedings.

“I wiped out all the good in one evil, selfish moment,” the letter reads.

“I came here to make amends to you, but there is no way I can make an amends for killing you. There is no way to make things right. But at least I want you to know that I realize what a horrible thing I did.”

Authorities believe the first shot to the head staggered Foster but did not fell her. She lurched stepping in her own blood before a second, kill shot in the back of her head finished her, they assert.

The letter goes on: “And also, for what it is worth I want you to know that I live my life every day under this and I realize that no good will ever really come of me because I have this mark on my soul from when I killed you. My children are affected. It is a sickness that grows and affects everyone I come in contact with.

I have thought, Kate, that to make things right I should take my life, but I am too afraid and I think that even as broken as I am that my children need me.”

Letson’s criminal history includes a skein of drug, petty theft and forgery charges.

Attorneys for both sides are expected to deliver opening arguments tomorrow.

The letter goes on: “So, Kate, I am sorry for what I robbed you of and the pain I caused your family, especially your mother, Joanne, who is probably the greatest woman I have ever known.”

Mrs. Foster sat with prosecutors Monday as they questioned prospective jurors in the course of seating a jury.

The letter ends: “I don’t know what else to say Katie. So, goodbye.”
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