Warning: Disturbing content

They killed neighbours, children, lovers and strangers, they dismembered victims and buried people alive.

The 51 women on death row across America are just as brutal as the males who outnumber them awaiting execution in the death penalty states across America.

In the last decade, five women have been executed and putting females to death by lethal injection or electric chair always generates more publicity than for the men.

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Since the beginning of last century, just 54 women have been executed in the US.

But only eight states — Texas, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, North Carolina, Arkansas and Virginia — have executed female prisoners in the past three decades.

The last two American women to be put to death were Kelly Renee Gissendaner in Georgia in 2015 and Lisa Ann Coleman in Texas the year before.

Gissendaner was put to death by lethal injection, the first woman executed in Georgia since 1945, for murdering her 30-year-old husband when she was just 28.

In 1997, she convinced another man to force Douglas Gissendaner into a car at knifepoint, drive him to the woods and stab him to death, whereafter Kelly hid his body.

She became a Christian in prison and launched multiple appeals but was finally executed as she prayed and sang Amazing Grace.

In September 2014, Lisa Coleman became the 15th American woman executed since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

The 38-year-old Texan was lethally injected when the US Supreme Court rejected her final appeal for a stay. She was among the 22.7 per cent of women on death row in the US who were African-American.

In 2004, Coleman was arrested after the starvation death of her lover, Marcella Williams' son, Davontae, whose body was found in an Arlington apartment weighing just 16.3kg.

Court documents indicated the 9-year-old boy had been restrained and repeatedly beaten before dying from malnutrition with pneumonia.

Davontae's emaciated corpse had 250 separate injuries, including burns and scars, and a blood stain suggested he had been struck with a golf club.

Marcella Williams reached a plea deal and is serving life.

More than half of the women facing capital punishment in 16 states and the federal prison system are white.

One woman on federal death row is Lisa Montgomery who murdered pregnant Bobbie Jo Stinnett before delivering and kidnapping Stinnett's unborn baby.

While California is the state with the most women on death row, 22, it along with North Carolina (which has two death row females) hasn't executed anyone since 2006, and Oregon (one) not since 1987.

Texas has six women on death row, Alabama has five, Florida and Arizona have three each and Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Tennessee each have one female inmate on death row.

So who are these women?

Christa Pike

She was arrested on her 18th birthday for the torture murder of a fellow college girl from which she kept a grisly trophy, a piece of the victim's skull in her jacket pocket.

Pretty young brunette Christa Pike became the youngest woman in America to be sentenced to death, when she was condemned to be executed just days after her 20th birthday.

In the 22 years she has spent on death row in Tennessee, Pike has asked to be executed by electrocution and then changed her mind,

In 2008, she changed her mind again and asked for a new trial, but was turned down and she returned to death row.

That was Pike's final throw of the dice under Tennessee state law and in 2014, her case entered the federal court system.

Now aged 42, Pike has not had an execution date set but a federal court has denied Pike's request to vacate and overturn her death penalty conviction.

In 1994, Pike was a high school dropout attending a college job training course in Knoxville, 100km east of Tennessee's music capital, Nashville.

She had a crush on an African American boy, Tadaryl Shipp, one year younger than her, and together they indulged in devil worship.

But Pike became jealous of another young woman, fellow trainee Colleen Slemmer, who was 19.

She became convinced Colleen was trying to steal Shipp's affections and with girlfriend Shadolla Petersen, she lured Ms Slemmer to an isolated spot on the promise of some shared marijuana.

Kept skull piece as trophy in jacket pocket

On January 12, 1995, the three young women and Tadaryl Shipp signed out of the University of Tennessee campus dormitory and went to the woods by an abandoned steam plant.

Once there, and with Peterson acting as a lookout, Pike and Shipp set upon Slemmer.

Over 30 minutes, they verbally taunted her while they beat her and cut her, carving a pentagram in Slemmer's chest.

Pike then picked up a piece of asphalt and smashed in Slemmer's skull.

After delivering the fatal blow, Pike took a piece of Slemmer's skull as a souvenir.

Back at college, Pike showed off the piece of skull to classmates.

The following evening, police arrived at Knoxville to arrest Pike, Shipp and Peterson.

They found the piece of skull in Pike's jacket pocket and a satanic Bible in Shipp's room.

Pike insisted they were merely trying to scare Slemmer and it got out of control, but in 1996 was convicted and sentenced to death.

Shipp got life in prison and Peterson, who had turned state informant, was placed on probation for being an accessory.

Twenty years after the murder, in 2015, Slemmer's mother May Martinez said she was still waiting to bury her daughter because part of her skull was locked away in Tennessee as evidence.

Tiffany Cole, 33

Cheerleader and girl scout, Tiffany Cole played the flute in the school band and had not spent a night behind bars before her arrest for burying alive a middle-aged couple.

Now aged 36, she is the second youngest woman facing execution in America — bumped up a notch after her Florida death row mate Emilia Carr, 33, had her sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Cole claims to have been sexually abused as a child and then, aged 24, met the wrong man, who was her boyfriend of three weeks when the murder that put her behind bars occurred.

Tiffany, Michael Jackson and two other men hatched a plan to kidnap, rob and kill a couple who were neighbours and friends of Tiffany's family.

Tiffany Cole (left) in an 2015 interview with Emilia Carr (right) who has since left death row to serve life imprisonment. Photo / ABC News
Tiffany Cole (left) in an 2015 interview with Emilia Carr (right) who has since left death row to serve life imprisonment. Photo / ABC News

Carol and Reggie Sumner, 61, had moved from Cole's South Carolina neighbourhood to Jacksonville, Florida in March 2005, selling a car to Tiffany before they left.

In June that year, Cole and Jackson went to complete the paperwork on the car, staying at the Sumner's new house, where the young couple began planning the robbery and kidnap.

Meanwhile, the pair and the two other young men dug a grave in a remote spot in Charlton County, Georgia.

In early July, Cole and Jackson returned to the Sumners' home with Alan Wade and Bruce Nixon. Wade and Nixon knocked on the door and asked to use the phone.

Inside the house the men bound, gagged and blindfolded the Sumners with duct tape, and put the couple into the boot of their own Lincoln town car.

Bound couple hugged each other as they died in shallow grave

The terrified Sumners were driven across the border to Georgia, followed by a car containing Cole and Jackson who planned to get deliberately pulled over for speeding if police got close.

At the site of the freshly dug graves, the men demanded the Sumners' bank account details and personal identification numbers.

The trussed and blindfolded couple was then pushed into the grave and buried alive.

Afterwards, Tiffany Cole used the Sumners' ATM card to withdraw $1000 and pawned jewellery and other items stolen from the couple's home.

Bound, gagged and blindfolded, Carol and Reggie Sumner, 61, managed to free their bonds but could only hug as they asphyxiated in a shallow grave. Photo / ABC
Bound, gagged and blindfolded, Carol and Reggie Sumner, 61, managed to free their bonds but could only hug as they asphyxiated in a shallow grave. Photo / ABC

In the back of their car, Cole and her boyfriend posed for a gleeful photograph — Tiffany with a bank note between her teeth — with cash and a bottle of champagne.

Three of the group were arrested in a South Carolina hotel after police tracked them via the Sumners' ATM card.

Bruce Nixon willingly led police to the Sumners' grave, but it was too late.

Investigators later revealed the couple had managed to get their bonds free, but could only hug each other in their final moments.

Tiffany Cole later claimed she was unaware of "what was coming", and thought the grave was to bury items stolen from the Sumners.

But the damning photograph of her celebrating after the murder swayed a jury.

"I am not the same person any more," she told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in a 2015 interview.

In that interview, along with her then death row neighbour at Florida's Lowell Correctional Institution, Cole claimed they looked at their plight in a positive light, calling it "life row".

But Carr has since been reprieved from the death sentence, leaving Cole as one of three women facing execution in Florida.

Her ex-boyfriend Michael Jackson and his cohort Alan Wade also await execution, while Bruce Nixon was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

Cole spends 24 hours a day in her cell, except for three times a week she is allowed to spend two hours in a concrete pen for air and exercise.

Lisa Jo Chamberin

The court sending Lisa Jo Chamberlin back to death row showed more sympathy than the killer herself did to the couple she murdered, dismembered and stuffed into a freezer.

In the end, the US Circuit of Appeal voted 9-5 to reject Chamberlin's appeal that a jury sentencing her to death had been racially biased.

Chamberlin, now aged 45, argued that when prosecutors struck black potential jurors from her murder trial they had violated her rights because she is white.

At that trial, a former cellmate of Chamberlin's Martha Petrofsky, said in prison conversations Chamberlin showed no remorse about the killings, only sorrow she was caught.

"She was really upset because she said they should have disposed of the bodies better, like feeding them to the hogs," Petrofsky testified.

Chamberlin's legal appeal was overruled in June this year.

The ruling put Chamberlin back where the families of her victims want her, on a date with death in the Mississippi execution chamber.

Her reinstatement to death row makes her the only woman among 42 waiting for execution dates in that state

Her ex-boyfriend Roger Gillett, 44, had his death sentence overturned and is now in limbo awaiting a new hearing.

In late March 2004, Gillett and Chamberlin travelled to Hattiesburg, 140km southwest of the state capital, Jackson.

She and Gillett came to Hattiesburg "to make some dope and some money and leave".

Lisa wished she'd fed the bodies to the hogs

They stayed for a few days at the Hattiesburg home of Gillett's first cousin, Vernon Hulett, 34 and his girlfriend, Linda Heintzelman, 37.

When Chamberlin and Gillett tried to steal money from Mr Hulett's safe, a fight broke out.

Hulett was hit in the head with a hammer, and his throat slashed, after which Ms Heintzelman was strangled and stabbed.

Chamberlin and Gillett left the home for an hour and returned, to find her lying on the floor still breathing.

Chamberlin later testified it was Gillett's idea to "finish what we started" and that she gave him a plastic bag with which he suffocated Linda Heintzelman.

Chamberlin in a videotaped confession to Kansas investigators described how she had gone from Hulett's Hattiesburg home for an hour and returned to find Hulett dead and Heintzelman alive and lying on the floor at Gillett's feet.

The two couples had spent several days together before the killings, authorities said.

Chamberlin said on the videotape that she and Gillett left the house with Heintzelman alive but Gillett said, "Let's go back and finish what we started."

She said she gave a bag to Gillett who used it to smother Heintzelman.

The two then decapitated Hulett's body and dismembered both victims and stuffed the parts in a freezer.

Gillett and Chamberlin took the freezer and drove to an abandoned farm house near Russell, Kansas, where they were arrested.

Gillett and Chamberlin were each sentenced to death in separate capital murder trials.

Darlie Routier

Darlie Routier was 26 and married to Darin and lived with their three young sons, Devon, Damon, and Drake in Rowlett, in Dallas county, Texas.

At 2.30am on June 6, 1996, Routier made a 911 call to report a break-in and the stabbing attack of sons Devon, 6, and Damon, 5, and the slashing of her throat by a home invader.

Paramedics found Devon already dead, stabbed all the way through his torso.

Damon had been stabbed in the back and was still gasping for breath, but died soon afterwards.

Darlie Routier still hopes new DNA tests will prove there really was an intruder at her home 22 years ago. Photo / AP
Darlie Routier still hopes new DNA tests will prove there really was an intruder at her home 22 years ago. Photo / AP

Husband Darin and seven-month-old Drake were upstairs asleep, a screen in the garage had been cut.

Routier's wound, thought near her carotid artery, was superficial and she was soon released from hospital.

Eight days later, local TV cameras captured Routier and family holding a graveside party for Devon's seventh birthday.

With bleached blonde hair and chewing gum, Routier laughed and sprayed her sons graves with Silly String as she sang "Happy Birthday".

Later, Routier said, "He wanted to be seven.

"I did the only thing I knew to do to honour him and give him all his wishes.

"How do you know what you're going to do when you lose two children?"

Just days later, Rowlett police arrested Routier and charged her with five-year-old son Damon's murder.

It was revealed that Routier was deeply in debt, unable to afford her materialistic lifestyle and her sons interfered with the life she wanted to live.

With her husband Darin's support, Routier maintained her innocence throughout her trial.

She said a man wearing dark clothes and a baseball cap attacked the boys and escaped through the garage.

But the garage window sills had layers of dust, and the flower beds between the garage and the back gate was undisturbed.

At Routier's trial, the jury watched the "Silly String" video and convicted her.

In 1997, she was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Prosecutors testified blood spatter on Routier's nightwear showed she had raised the knife over her head as she stabbed again and again.

Now a 48 year old, Routier still hopes new DNA tests will prove there really was an intruder at her home 22 years ago.

Erica Sheppard

On death row for almost 24 years, Sheppard has outlived her co-accused James Dickerson, who died on death row of AIDS in 1999.

They were both 19, when Sheppard, already a mother-of-three young children and unemployed, was staying with her brother in a Houston, Texas, apartment on June 30, 1993.

She and Dickerson planned to steal a car to drive back to her home town of Bay City.

The pair saw 43-year-old Marilyn Sage Meagher near the apartment unpacking her black Mazda 626.

Meagher, a mother-of-two, had left her front door unlocked as she unpacked the car and Sheppard and Dickerson sneaked into the flat and waited for her.

Erica Sheppard was arrested for the murder of 43-year-old Marilyn Sage Meagher. Photo / AP
Erica Sheppard was arrested for the murder of 43-year-old Marilyn Sage Meagher. Photo / AP

When Meagher entered the apartment and the intruders demanded her car keys, she refused, and they grabbed a large knife and stabbed her five times.

Then Dickerson picked up a 4kg statue and began bludgeoning her as Sheppard held her down and Ms Meagher begged for mercy.

Sheppard later claimed that although she was there to steal a car, she did not stab or beat the victim.

One of Meagher's daughters found her body.

Sheppard was convicted of murder and robbery and sentenced to death in 1995.

In prison, Sheppard "found the Lord" and has been visited in prison by American civil rights activist, Reverend Jesse Jackson.

She continues to fight for a new sentence and have the death penalty repealed in her case.

Marilyn Sage Meagher's daughter Kelley Watts believes Sheppard was the ringleader in her mother's murder and has said, "I'm done with them."

Sheppard is housed in the Mountain View unit in Gatesville where Darlie Routier lives, each in a 5.6sq m cell with a window.

Each female inmate has a radio, but access to a TV is dependent on compliance with prison requirements.

Whether they will be put to death is subject to their individual appeals process, but Texas is a high execution state.