SPRINGFIELD, Mich. (WOOD) - The first known victim of a convicted killer said she is conflicted about his suicide.
John Douglas White beat 24-year-old Rebekah Gay with a rubber mallet and then strangled her to death with a zip tie in the early morning hours of Halloween Day 2012. He dumped her body in a wooded ditch not far away from the Mount Pleasant-area mobile home park where they both lived.
The 55-year-old White pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to between 56 and 85 years in prison under the terms of a plea agreement, meaning he would likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
But Wednesday morning, White hanged himself at the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia.
Gay wasn't White's first victim. He was also convicted of assault with intent to murder in 1981 after stabbing then-17-year-old Theresa Etherton 15 times in the basement of his Battle Creek home.
Her name is Theresa Morris now. And she said she has mixed feeling about White's death.
"I wanted him to suffer a little bit. I wanted him to think about it every day while he was in there," Morris told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday. "I wanted his personal being to suffer, which I guess he suffered to his limit. I guess he couldn't take any more."
"He was given a choice and he took his own way out. It's just too bad he didn't get to feel a little bit of what he had given out," she continued.
She hopes that White was thinking about the evil he had done -- and not just to her.
"I'm told that there's a chance if you hang yourself and you commit suicide, those last few seconds are regrettable: 'Oh, no, I don't want to do this.' I kind of hope that was what was going through his head: 'I don't want to do this,'" she said.
As a taxpayer, Morris said, she's happy.
"I'm on the taxpayer's side and I'm a taxpayer. I don't want to pay for his survival any more than I want to pay for any of the others," she said.
Morris has worked hard to put the attack behind her.
"I'm here. I'm able to enjoy my grandchild, my family. I was lucky. I was very, very lucky," she said.
She also said she feels bad for White's family. He does have children. She hopes she no longer has to worry about the emails she was getting from his family.
"I think he was a coward," she said. "But I also thank him, because I literally have no reason, no reason to worry about him ever hurting anybody in there, hurting somebody out here if somebody were for some reason to let him out."
White was let out of prison two years in July 1983 after attacking Morris when he appealed the conviction.
And he pleaded guilty in 1995 in Kalamazoo County to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Vicky Sue Wall. In that case, he was released from prison in 2007.
"Some sick part of me inside is doing the yippee dance. That's a very small, sick part of me. It's the part that keeps me human," she said.
Thirty-three-year-old Ronald T. Smith II was grew up in Warren.
Is tonight the night? Maybe it's tomorrow. Or even Sunday.
Two other people, who were inside the residence at the time, escaped safely.