He’d already murdered that day, and as ‘chameleon killer’ Stephen Morin jammed his .38 revolver into the back of the pretty blonde in a parking lot, he’d decided she’d be next.
Either the gun or one of his three knives would do it, ridding the planet of one more of the women he hated.
Morin – being hunted for the murder, torture and rape of more than 30 women across 10 US states after a 12-year reign of terror – forced the woman back into her Chevy Suburban.
In the car, he screamed at her: “What’s one more damn dead bitch at this point?”
With the police closing in after the earlier killing, the 31-year-old was panicked, high on amphetamines and resigned to death. They’d probably both die in a shoot-out today, he warned the unusually calm woman next to him.
But there would be no more murders that day in December 1981. Instead, two lives would be changed forever.
The woman was Margaret Palm (pictured above, with Morin inset), a 30-year-old Christian. As she left home that day to buy Christmas presents at Kmart in San Antonio, God spoke, telling her to return to the house for her book of scriptures.
As she looked into Morin’s contorted face, she was about to find out why.
“This man looked at me and he was shaking, crying; he looked like a rabid dog. I don’t know how else to explain it, but he looked satanic, and the first thing I thought was, ‘You’re gonna die today’.”
Her kidnapper noticed the Christmas presents in the back seat and began throwing them around. He never got gifts like that as a child, he shouted at her, spitting that she was a “sheltered princess” and animals were treated better than him growing up.
Palm closed her eyes, to calm herself rather than in prayer, and it came to her: the man was not her enemy. God had put her in that car for a reason, she decided.
“I was not afraid of him, not hating him any more,” Palm told Vanity Fair.
She started praying aloud for Morin.
“I take authority over every demonic force in this man,” she said, placing her hands on Morin despite his protests. “You know that I serve the Lord Jesus Christ and I declare right now, you have no dominion over this man.
“Sin shall not have dominion over him. He has dominion over you, and I have dominion over you and he will be serving Jesus Christ before this day ends.”
Morin was stunned: “Oh my God. I’m in the car with a religious freak.”
He didn’t believe her, suspecting a con in a bid to save her own life, but she produced the black notebook filled with hand-copied scriptures God had told her to take.
“You evil spirits, go now!” shouted Palm. “You will not keep destroying his life and destroy mine! Now, leave my car!”
Morin began to change. He had a love toward her, he confessed, and suddenly felt free from his lust for murder and rape.
Palm recalls: “While his hands were raised up, he said, ‘Jesus, I’m sorry for everything I’ve ever done. Please forgive me. I wanna go to heaven.’ I couldn’t believe my eyes.”
Morin began to accept God and said he felt cleansed.
He revealed his plan to escape on a bus to Texas and, in what would have seemed impossible a few hours before, serial killer and Christian waited for the coach together while sharing a McDonald’s.
It was the start of an unlikely friendship. Yes, Palm reported her new friend to the disbelieving police and gave away his location as soon as she got home, but only after admonishing him, “You can’t use your guns or knives any more, because you have been fighting a spiritual, demonic force.”
Friendship or not, justice had to be served.
“Try to tame a wild animal and they might be sweet for a while,” Palm told Vanity Fair, “then they bite your head off.”
Palm became a “lifeline” for Morin, who sent letters and Christmas cards from jail, describing her as “one of the greatest moms on Earth”. He would call the family home once or twice a week.
They remained friends until his death by lethal injection in March 1985.
“He was happy,” Palm, now aged 72, said of Morin’s final days. “He said, ‘I’m ready to die. I feel good. I’m gonna be with the Lord’.”