Longest serving inmate tells 'terribly sad' story of why she's been in prison since she was 16
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Indiana's longest-serving female inmate revealed the tragic story of how she ended up in prison.
White explained that she had been living with a family in Indiana who had taken her in as an orphan. But she claimed that she had been sexually abused. In a bid to escape, she had set a fire in the home.
She said that her intent had been to get everyone outside and escape in the confusion, but things took a tragic turn after the fire got out of control.
In an interview with British journalist Sir Trevor McDonald, she explained: "I was abused. I was extremely abused from basically a home that I was living at. And I tried to leave. And I set a fire trying to get out. And it got out of hand. And they died in the fire."
She added: "I knew the people were there. What I was thinking was if I set a fire, then everybody can get out and I can run. That was my intentions. The fire got out of hand."
White was later apprehended while she was in hospital. She said that she had sustained bad burns after rushing into the house in an attempt to save people from the blaze she had started.
White said: "Trying to save them. That's how I got burned. I kept trying to go back into the house to get him."
But her attempts ultimately failed, and White was sentenced to six life sentences for the deaths of Charles and Carole Roberson and their four children in 1976.
White's lawyer Charles Asher has been fighting since the 1990s to get her released from jail, arguing that the sentence was entirely disproportionate given the circumstances.
Asher said: "You have to acknowledge the horror of six lives being lost, including those of four children. But at the same time, I've never seen a person with such a sad life or sad treatment in the legal system."
He added: "At some point, we have to ask: Are we really protecting society when we punish abused teenagers by putting them in prison and throwing away the key?"
She added that she has since become a mother-figure to many younger inmates who arrive in jail.
"I was never able to be a mother. But a lot of these people in here that are younger, I'm mom," she said.
Now, White says she is 'looking forward' to getting old, because it means she hasn't got much longer to live.
She said: "I am looking forward to growing old in here. Because you know, I am going to know that my life is not going to be much longer. And there's something always positive on the other side."