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Attina Marie Cannaday

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Attina Marie Cannaday
Born (1965-09-08) September 8, 1965 (age 54)
Criminal statusGuilty (sentence reversed in 1984)

Attina Marie Cannaday (born September 8, 1965) was charged with robbery, kidnapping, and homicide and is the inspiration for the film Too Young to Die?. She was convicted of the kidnap and murder of U.S. Air Force Sergeant Ronald Wojcik and was initially sentenced to death. The guilty verdict was upheld, but the sentence was reversed in 1984, Cannaday v. State, 455 So.2d 713, 720 (Miss. 1984). Cannaday was re-sentenced to one life sentence and two 25-year sentences at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility.[1][2] She was released on parole on March 9, 2008.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Cannaday's mother worked as a stripper in Mobile, Alabama. During her childhood, Cannaday was sexually abused by her father. She was married at age thirteen and divorced by age fourteen, which gave her the opportunity to leave home. After her divorce, Cannaday worked as a sex worker and dancer.[5] Cannaday was said to be handicapped due to her IQ of 71.[6][7]


In 1982, Cannaday met and became lovers with Sergeant Ronald Wojcik, a twenty-nine year old divorcee with two children. Cannaday was sixteen at the time, though Wojcik did not know this initially. She and Wojcik separated when Wojcik found out Cannaday's true age and his military superiors discovered the affair.[6][5]

Later that year, Cannaday, David Gray, a twenty-eight year old unemployed man, and Dawn Bushart, a fifteen year old, kidnapped Wojcik and his then-girlfriend Sandra Sowash. Cannaday forced the pair into Wojcik's van and drove Wojcik, Sowash, Gray, and Bushart for a distance and at one point suggested that Gray should rape Sowash. Cannaday stopped the car near a wooded area and Sowash escaped and called the Harrison County Sheriff's Department. Initially, Cannaday told the police that Gray was solely responsible for killing Wojcik but later told a jailer of her involvement in the murder.[8][6][5]


Cannaday was charged with robbery, kidnapping, and homicide in the state of Mississippi in 1982.[9] Cannaday's trial began September 20, 1982. She, Gray, and Bushart were all tried separately. The jury found Cannaday guilty of murder and sentenced her to death by lethal injection on September 23, 1982. After an appeal, the Supreme Court of Mississippi affirmed the guilty verdict but held that the death sentence was inappropriate given the misuse of Cannaday's statement to the jailer, Cannaday's age, and the fact that Gray, who physically committed the murder, was sentenced to death himself. In 1984, Cannaday was re-sentenced to one life sentence and two twenty-five year life sentences. The state granted Cannaday parole in 2008.[6][5][7]


Cannaday's crimes and subsequent trial are partly the inspiration for the 1990 TV movie Too Young to Die?. Juliette Lewis played a character loosely based on Cannaday.[10][11]

The Cannady v. State trial has been cited as influential in its interpretation of the Eighth Amendment, the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. The United States' Supreme Court has not ruled sentencing a minor to death as unconstitutional, but the Mississippi Supreme Court's decision to reverse Cannaday's sentence in 1984 explicitly cited the Eight Amendment as the basis for its decision.[12][13][14]


  1. "Laurel Leader Call Newspaper Archives, Defendant Watched The Events". Associated Press. GULFPORT, Miss.: NewspaperArchive.com. Laurel Leader Call (Newspaper). 23 September 1982. p. 8. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  2. "Attina Marie CANNADAY v. STATE of Mississippi". scholar.google.com. Supreme Court of Mississippi. 16 May 1984. pp. 715–727. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  3. Baker, David V. (2015). Women and Capital Punishment in the United States: An Analytical History. McFarland. pp. 260–261. ISBN 9780786499502. Retrieved 27 July 2018. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  4. Dendinger, Julia M. (21 March 2017). "Belen High School students hear real stories about dangers of DWI". Staff. Belen, New Mexico: Valencia County News-Bulletin. Archived from the original on 10 June 2017. Retrieved 6 August 2018. She was paroled in 2008 and now reports regularly to the New Mexico Adult Probation and Parole Department.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Baker, David V. (2015). Women and Capital Punishment in the United States: An Analytical History. McFarland. pp. 260–261. ISBN 9780786499502. Retrieved 21 June 2020. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 O'Shea, Kathleen A. (1999). Women and the Death Penalty in the United States, 1900-1998. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 211–212. ISBN 9780275959524. Retrieved 21 June 2020 – via Google Books. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  7. 7.0 7.1 Rapaport, Elizabeth (1990). "Some Questions About Gender and the Death Penalty". Golden Gate University Law Review. 20 (3): 501–565.
  8. "The One With the Child Prostitute". Podcast. Southern Disgrace.Speaker, July 2019. Web. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  9. Streib, Victor L. (13 July 2007). "DEATH PENALTY FOR FEMALE OFFENDERS, JANUARY 1, 1973, THROUGH JUNE 30, 2007" (PDF). Ohio Northern University. Retrieved 21 June 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  10. "Festival of Films Offers Free New Movies Online for the Week of Jan. 15, 2012". www.newswire.com. 19 January 2012. Retrieved 21 June 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  11. "13 Real-Life Lethal Movie Couples". fandomania.com. 12 February 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2020. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  12. Streib, Victor L. (1986). "The Eighth Amendment and Capital Punishment of Juveniles". Cleveland State Law Review: 365–398.
  13. Hoffmann, Joseph L. (1989). "On the Perils of Line-Drawing: Juveniles and the Death Penalty". Articles by Maurer Faculty: 229–284.
  14. Berkheiser, Mary (2005). "Capitalizing Adolescence: Juvenile Offenders on Death Row". University of Miami Law Review. 59: 135–202.

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