Grace Marie Purnhagen
June 3, 1974 - June 13, 1990

Grace Marie Purnhagen was born at 2:30 am on June 3rd, 1974.  She weighed in at 4 and a half pounds.  She had beautiful light blue eyes and no hair.  She was a healthy baby who slept through the night from the moment she was brought home.  I think she was born with a smile on her face.  She rarely cried.

When she was three, she took ballet and tap with her older sister Stacy.  Before her recital, she cut her bangs totally off her head.  She was so scared to be on stage that before their dance number was over, she had basically inched herself behind the stage curtain.

Gracie and Stacy were very close.  They were constantly getting into mischief and Gracie, being younger, was usually left holding the bag.  When her brothers and little sister came along, she learned how to make that work to her advantage.

She was very protective of her brothers and sister and usually was put in charge of them after Stacy got married.  She usually always had Tiffany with her, but still had time with her friends.  And there were plenty.  Girls AND boys.  In fact, before Stacy got married, she liked the fact that Gracie drew so many people to her.

She was also close with her brother Artie.  They were only 17 months apart.  Artie was 5' 10" at age 14 and she loved to introduce him to friends as her "Big Brother".

To Teddy and Tiffany, she was the typical big sister.  She brought them along even when she didn't want to and took care of them while we were at work.

We learned never to ask her why she did anything or why something happened.  The result would be a long explanation that, by the end of it, would leave your head spinning and saying "Huh!?"  She could double talk with the best of them.  Saying alot without saying anything, which leads me to believe she would have eventually become a politician!

To us she was a source of joy and we knew there would never be a dull moment in our lives with her around.  We miss her terribly, but we thank God that he blessed us with such a dynamic spirit like Gracie, if even for a short time.  She will always be in our hearts and minds.  She gave us many happy memories and she will always be our daughter.

Tiffany Elena Purnhagen
February 4th, 1981 - June 13th, 1990

Tiffany Elena Purnhagen was born at 12:30 in the afternoon on February 4th, 1981.  She was 4 pounds, 4 ounces and bald.  She had huge brown eyes and looked exactly like her older sister Stacy.  I told people they were twins born nine years apart.

She was a very loving child and usually mild-mannered.  Being the youngest, she was usually teased by her older sisters and brothers.  I called her "Mouse" and she would call me her "Mouse Mommy".  She was our baby.  When I wasn't working, we were definitely joined at the hip.  She was good in school and all her teachers loved her. 

Where her sister Gracie was outgoing, Tiffany was extremely level-headed for her age.  She was also generous with her hugs and kisses.  She was always doing things to help around the house and anywhere she could.  She was always concerned about your feelings and was very tactful for a little girl.

But, she could hold her own if she had to.  Once, when her brother Artie teased her just a little too much, she picked up an object and chased him out of the house with it.  She was 8, he was 14!

She was always very proud and wanted to show everyone when she learned something new.  I can still see and hear her when she learned how to hold her breath under water.  It was something every child says, but the memory is so precious to me.  "Mommy, Daddy, Watch!  Watch what I can do!" as she took a deep breath and put her head under the water.  Then as she came up, "Did you see?!"

I miss the hugs and kisses.  The way she looked and talked.  I miss when I would tuck her in at night and lay down with her.  She would put her little arm around my neck and snuggle up against me and say "I Love You" - "Goodnight Mommy and Daddy".

We miss you more than words can say but we are so glad God brought you into our lives if only for a little while.

Words from a grieving mother:

"My two daughters were murdered on June13th 1990. Their 10th year anniversary just passed. They were murdered by Dennis and Delton Dowthitt in Montgomery County Texas, behind the Imperial Oaks subdivision. Delton murdered 9yr old Tiffany and he admits to it. Dennis, his father, murdered Gracie. She had just turned 16 on June 3rd. Before he murdered her, he sexually mutilated her with a beer bottle and then ripped her throat out, literally. Dennis is on Death Row in Huntsville waiting for a second date to be set. Delton will be eligible for parole sometime in the next five years. This amazes me because since he was incarcerated he has been in solitary confinement because he is too dangerous to be among the other criminals, yet they may give him parole just because of, whatever. I will need help keeping him in prison for as long as I can. His sentence was for 45 years because he testified against his father and he was ineligible for the death penalty because he was 2 weeks shy of his 17th birthday when this occurred."

"I am having a very hard time writing this. 10 years is like a blink of the eye right now. I also cannot believe that I can't remember if Delton was charged with murder or capital murder. I think it was just? murder. I miss my girls soo much. I've always wanted to get involved and help others. I just can't seem to get myself past what happened to me. Selfish, huh?!"

"Sorry for venting again. Feb 4th will be Tiffany's 20th birthday. Yet she will not be here for it. It is another milestone she won't reach here on earth. She was brutally murdered when she was 9 years old along with her sister Gracie who had just turned 16.  March 7th 2001 their murderer, Dennis Dowthitt is supposed to be put down. There is always a chance, probably good, that he will get another stay of execution. It just makes me so mad that he is still here and she isn't. Also that he can get another chance to beat death when they couldn't. There seem to be so many people so worried that "He" will be executed. Where were they while my babies were being executed? Just wondering."

February 15th, 2001

To the Board of Pardons and Parole

We understand that Dennis Dowthitt's lawyer has asked you for a commutation of sentence from death to life and a 60 day reprieve. We would hope that you will not do this and continue on with the execution. He murdered two of our daughters, Gracie and Tiffany. Gracie had just turned 16 and Tiffany was only 9. This was in 1990. We have waited long enough for his execution and this plea for his life is just unacceptable.

Gracie was sexually mutilated with a beer bottle and then had her throat ripped out. Tiffany was strangled so hard with a rope that she was basically decapitated. How you could allow this man to live this long boggles our minds. Please don't forget about what he did to our daughters. They were real people also and barely lived the life that they should have because of him.

We are begging you, please refuse this lawyers suggestion and carry out Dowthitt's sentence. Otherwise, you stand the chance of inflicting his kind of brutal attack on some other child should he get out. Let Gracie and Tiffany rest in peace and make the world safe from at least this one particular predator.

Thank you for listening to us.


Linda and Art Purnhagen

My wish for all of you
Wed Jun 13, 2001

This is an extremely difficult time for myself and my family. This week mirrors the week of June 13th, 1990 in that June 13th then was also a Wednesday. Gracie and Tiffany were murdered that night. We were told they found their bodies on June 17th, Father’s Day. This Sunday will be Father’s Day also. And it goes on and on; their funeral was Wednesday. June 20th. These wishes and prayers are for all of you as a tribute to my girls. 

For All the Victims - I pray and wish that you have eternal piece with God, and for you to know that you are always in our hearts and minds. I ask that God let you watch over the future victims and alleviate their fear.

For All the Future Victims - I pray that God will send his angels to take you quickly into the light away from any and all pain. 

For All the Survivors of Murder Victims - I pray that God will send you his Comforter to heal your broken hearts and give you the strength to go on living for your loved ones.

For All Future Survivors of Murder Victims - I wish for you the same.

For All Executed Murderers - I pray that God makes you watch over any future murderers and he gives you the ability to reason with them and stop them from committing their horrible crime.

For All Future Murderers - I pray that God gives you the ability to listen to these voices and stop from killing anyone.

For the Families of the Executed - I pray God brings you peace and healing and understanding.

For the Families of the Future Murderers - I pray God gives you insight into their problems and the ability to act and get them help before they commit their horrible crime.

For Everyone - I pray that God gives you all peace, harmony, understanding, and tact for all of us who have had tragedy touch our lives.

~Linda Purnhagen

Written in Memory of
Grace Marie Purnhagen
June 3, 1974 - June 13, 1990
Tiffany Elena Purnhagen
February 4, 1981 - June 13, 1990


Dennis Dowthitt was executed on March 7, 2001

For more details about the murders, read the articles 
from the Houston Chronicle below.

Photo Album


Fifth Circuit Court ruling on Dennis Dowthitt's appeal

The painting, Side By Side, is the work of artist Greg Olsen.

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