Clemency Letter from Don’s Spiritual Counselor

Governor DeSantis:

Thirty-odd years ago, I answered the phone for the bookstore of the church I worked at in Tallahassee. A young man was on the line. His name was Donald Dillbeck, and he was in Leon County Jail awaiting trial for the murder of Faye Vann. He had been calling around to churches to receive spiritual counseling but had been turned away by each one. I was moved by his sincerity and desperation to repent and find truth, and agreed to disciple him spiritually. The people around me told me that he was only talking to me to scam me for money. However, it was just the opposite. When he was able, he would regularly send me twenty dollars out of his canteen fund to give to people that needed it more.

Throughout his trial, I drove Don’s adoptive parents, Charles and Ada, to and from court. I held them and prayed with them through the nights they spent sobbing in their hotel room. Their love for Don was unconditional and so strongly evident. When Charles Dillbeck testified about his love for his son, there was not a dry eye in the courtroom. When Charles said that he would always love his son and that he would trade places with him, even the judge and the jurors were weeping.

Charles and Ada Dillbeck have since passed away. However, the unconditional and unwavering love they had for their son has not been extinguished — it lives on in the many people who care for Don, myself included.

All these years later, Don is like a son to me, and Don attributes the transformation in his character to my influence and mentorship. The man Don has become is completely different from the boy I met all those years ago. He is a good, good man who is overflowing with care for others. I am now 72 years old. A leg of mine has been amputated and I am wheelchair-bound. I have no children of my own, and I have been living alone since my husband passed away.

Don has been caring for me in every way that he can. While he was on death row, he used his allotted weekly five-minute calls to check on me. Now that he is on death watch, he has been using one of his two allotted social calls to make sure that I am okay. His friends check in on me and help me out because they know how much I mean to him. Even though Don is the one in dire circumstances, he still prioritizes my comfort above his own.

I have told him before, and I have told him again now, that I love him and that I am in it for the long haul just like I was all those years ago. I have got his back, and I will be there for him when he needs me, as usual. Always. Since I received the news that his execution had been set, I have been in so much pain and have felt so powerless.

But in order to keep my promise of love and support to him, and selfishly for my own sake, I am writing this letter to beg for mercy on his behalf. He means so much to me and to so many others.

Please have mercy on Don and on those who love him. Please let Don die naturally in prison.


Lou Conaway

The Rehumanization Magazine

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