DEATH-ROW DEBBIE NO ONE WANTED TO BELIEVE SHE COULD KILL HER CHILD.

SHE CONVINCED THEM SHE DID.

THE DAY AFTER Christopher's disappearance, Debbie Milke traveled from Phoenix to her father's home in Florence with her stepmother and stepsister. "I was going crazy at my apartment," Debbie says. "The police had the phone tapped in case Christopher or someone called. I just thought I'd go down there for a while."

Debbie ate a sandwich and drank part of a beer. She then went to a bedroom to take a nap. "I put her in bed, took her shoes off, pulled the blanket over her," recalls her father. "That's what fathers are for."

It was Sam Sadeik's last paternal act toward his oldest daughter. While Debbie was sleeping, Roger Scott was singing. He confessed to Phoenix Detective Armando Saldate in the late afternoon and led him to Christopher's body.

A few hours later, a Pinal County sheriff's deputy knocked on the Sadeiks' door. A cop from Phoenix wanted to talk to Debbie, the deputy said. That cop was Saldate. By 8 p.m., Saldate says, Debbie Milke had confessed to him.

The next time she saw the detective was at her murder trial, where, Debbie grudgingly agrees, she didn't make a good impression on the jury.

"Maybe I should have put a show on," she says of her four days on the stand. "I have a hard time crying in front of people, especially in a courtroom setting where everybody is looking at you. I was concentrating so hard on the legalities, I didn't want to get emotional. This stuff is personal. Then there's my family. They killed me . . . "

She's referring to the fact that her father, sister, stepsister and stepmother all testified against her at trial. "She knew she could not handle Christopher," Sandy told the jury. "From the day she had Christopher, she knew she was not cut out to be a mother. She felt sorry from the time she had Christopher that she had him. She knew she wasn't mother material."

Debbie spews as much venom in her sister's direction as she does against Armando Saldate--"the liar"--and prosecutor Noel Levy--"He made me feel like a black widow."

"My trial was Sandy's perfect chance to stab me in the back after all these years," she says. "She says that when Christopher was born, she took care of him. Sandy made it seem at my trial like I'd work, then party all night while she watched Chris. Our sons were born a month apart. Sandy was a single mother and she had nowhere else to go. I sat there thinking, `You bitch, how could you do this to me?'"

Debbie's ill feelings toward her sister and other family members had been festering long before Christopher's murder. "Sandy is a devious little bitch," she wrote to Mark Milke in 1988. "I have no use for her. My father is a damn hypocrite. They can all kiss my ass. I'm tired of living up to their expectations. My whole family makes me sick. I can see clearly now what they're all like."

DEBBIE MILKE HAS settled into a routine in her one-woman death row at the state's Perryville prison, about fifteen miles west of downtown Phoenix.

Like Arizona's 95 condemned men, she's almost always locked up, but claims not to mind it. As always, she has a lot on her mind, and the solitude, she says, has been good for her mental health.

Debbie's appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court won't be heard for months, or years. No one knows if the state's highest court will order a retrial or move Debbie a step closer to the gas chamber.

She tries to imagine eating buffalo wings at a Dirty Drummer or going to an AC/DC concert at Veterans' Memorial Coliseum, even of driving on the Squaw Peak Parkway at rush hour. She speaks dreamily of "having a normal relationship with a guy, just a regular guy."

But Debbie continues to have those horrific nightmares: In one, she says, a frightened Christopher clings to her neck and won't let go. In another, all of Christopher's toys are boxed up and the only things left in his room are "his empty shoes."

"It's gotten to a point where it hurts so much that I've thrown up," she says. "Sometimes it feels good to imagine going to sleep and not waking up. I'm this body that just exists, but no soul, no person, because of the way I've been publicized. I cry a lot."

Debbie is asked for whom she weeps, her murdered four-year-old son or herself. "For both of us," she responds. "It's one thing that he was killed, but to be arrested and accused of participating in it is another. That's just as tragic as the first. Especially with me being the mother. I can't think of anything worse."

Debbie says that for the first time since her son's death, she can look at his photographs in private without breaking down in tears.

"I enjoy looking at them," she wrote to New Times in a letter dated March 22. "I have a huge bulletin board in my room, so I hung them up. The doctor here told me that's a good sign."

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