Gibson pleads guilty, displays new death row tattoo

Published: Mar. 20, 2014 at 9:56 PM EDT|Updated: May. 4, 2014 at 9:56 PM EDT
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William Clyde Gibson
William Clyde Gibson
Floyd County Jail Commander Andrew Sands
Floyd County Jail Commander Andrew Sands
Sheriff Darrell Mills
Sheriff Darrell Mills
Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson
Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson
Stephanie Kirk
Stephanie Kirk

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A guilty plea in a murder case involving a suspected serial killer leads to more complications in a different case.

William Clyde Gibson pleaded guilty Thursday to killing Karen Hodella in October 2002. In exchange, he will be sentenced to 65 years in prison and prosecutors cannot use the conviction against him in any pending case.

Gibson is already serving time on Indiana's death row for killing his mother's best friend, Christine Whitis, in 2012.

When he arrived back in Floyd County March 14, he came with a tattoo reading, "Death Row x3" covering the back of his head.

Cameras are not allowed in Indiana courts so no public pictures of the tattoo exist. No one can say for sure how the tattoo got there, but you can bet there more than just a few people who want to know.

A picture Indiana Department of Corrections says was taken in December, shortly after Gibson arrived the Indiana State Prison's Death Row, shows him with short hair. When he returned to the Floyd County Jail on March 14, his hair was much shorter, closely shaven and a tattoo proclaiming his death row status was clearly visible on his head.

"In this case, he left our facility without it and returned with it," said Floyd County Jail Commander Andrew Sands.

Indiana DOC staff members agreed the tattoo was not noted when Gibson arrived on death row. A spokesperson speculated perhaps that's because it was covered by hair. But the Floyd County Sheriff says that's not true.

"When they took him to corrections and released him over to them, his head was completely shaved at that point and no tattooing was visible at that time," Sheriff Darrell Mills said.

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson would like to know how an inmate who is supposed to be segregated 23 hours a day could get such an elaborate tattoo.

"Quite frankly, I think there needs to be some explanation from the Department of Corrections on how that could occur when somebody's on death row in Indiana Department of Corrections," he said.

DOC says if anyone would have noticed a new tattoo, Gibson would have been written up for disciplinary action. Because he wasn't, a spokesperson said perhaps he got the tattoo in another facility, one like the Floyd County jail, for instance.

"This didn't occur in our facility," Mills said. "The reason that we know that is that didn't occur here is we've had him in an isolation cell. He was in a single cell by himself the whole time. One person could not have obtained those tattoos doing it with themselves."

Now there's a bigger problem: What will a jury seated to decide if Gibson also killed Stephanie Kirk make of such a large death row statement?

"If he continually shaved his head, you're going to be able to read the tattoo," said Mills. "It's very plain and very large."

"I believe that the judge has ordered him to be withheld from haircuts so that can be covered up because that could prejudice a jury," Henderson said.

Gibson's tattoo is not only mysterious in its origins, it's also now inaccurate. Because of his plea deal Thursday, he will never face the death penalty for Karen Hodella's murder. He will be sentenced to 65 years.

That means his maximum number of death sentences would be potentially two, not three.

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