Photo of serial killer's inaccurate 'death row' tattoo made public

Published: Jul. 30, 2014 at 11:47 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2014 at 2:22 PM EDT
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This photo of Gibson's tattoo was made public on July 30, 2014. The tips of his handlebar...
This photo of Gibson's tattoo was made public on July 30, 2014. The tips of his handlebar mustache are visible on either side of his neck. (Source: Indiana Office of the Courts]
This mugshot of William Clyde Gibson was taken after his arrest for Christine Whitis' murder in...
This mugshot of William Clyde Gibson was taken after his arrest for Christine Whitis' murder in 2012. (Source: Floyd County Jail)

NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) - An image of a disturbing -- and inaccurate -- tattoo on serial killer William Clyde Gibson's head was made public on Wednesday.

The tattoo, which reads "Death Row X3," covers much of the back of Gibson's head and is an obvious reference to his convictions in three murders; however, Gibson can only be sentenced to death twice. He was given the death penalty for killing his mother's best friend, 75-year-old Christine Whitis, in 2012. After making a plea deal in the 2002 murder of Karen Hodella, he received a 65-year prison term for her death. The sentencing phase of the third murder case currently is underway. Although Gibson pleaded guilty to Stephanie Kirk's 2012 murder, he could be sentenced to death for her killing.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Gibson pleads guilty, displays new death row tattoo]

The tattoo has not previously been seen widely by the public because cameras are not allowed inside Indiana courtrooms. The Indiana Office of the Courts released the photo on July 30 as part of evidence logged in by police and presented to the court by the Floyd County Prosecutor's Office.

Gibson's tattoo is particularly controversial because he got it while in police custody, although no one has come forward claiming to know exactly when or where it was done.

A picture that a representative for the Indiana Department of Corrections said was taken in December 2013, shortly after Gibson arrived at the Indiana State Prison's Death Row, shows Gibson with short hair. When he returned to the Floyd County Jail on March 14, 2014, his hair was even shorter -- closely shaven -- and the tattoo was visible.

"He left our facility without it and returned with it," said Floyd County Jail Commander Andrew Sands in a March interview.

Indiana Department of Corrections staff members said the tattoo was not noted when Gibson arrived on death row. A spokesperson for DOC speculated that perhaps the tattoo was covered by hair. The Floyd County sheriff disputed that assertion.

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

Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson wants 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," Henderson said in March.

DOC says if anyone had noticed a new tattoo on Death Row, Gibson would have been written up for disciplinary action. Because he wasn't, a DOC spokesperson suggested Gibson got the tattoo at another facility, such as the Floyd County Jail.

"This didn't occur in our facility," said Mills. "He was in a single cell by himself the whole time [he was here]. One person could not have obtained those tattoos doing it themselves."

To date, the mystery of Gibson's tattoo remains unsolved.

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