true crime

Margaret Palm was abducted by a serial killer in 1981. Then they became friends.

Content warning: This story includes descriptions of domestic violence that may be distressing to some readers.

In 1981, Margaret Palm was on her way home to her husband and two kids when she stopped at the shops to pick up some Christmas presents.

As she returned to a car, a man shoved a gun into her back and abducted her.

He was shaking and crying like a "rabid dog". He was Stephen Morin, a serial killer who had been on the run for 20 years, somehow escaping authorities who wanted him for the rape and murder of 40 women.

Watch: We lose one woman every week in Australia to domestic violence, but that's just the tip of a very grim iceberg. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

Margaret Palm was set to be his next victim. And then she did something that changed the course of fate.

She became his friend.

How did Margaret Palm escape Stephen Morin?

In an interview with the now 72-year-old, Palm tells Vanity Fair what really happened on the evening that would go on to shape the rest of her life.

Morin had been in the carpark of Kmart in Austin, Texas, mustering up the courage to take down his next victim after terrorising and brutally murdering women for many years. When he saw Palm walking to her car, he had decided she was next.


Stephen Morin. Image: Vanity Fair.

As he held her at gunpoint, Palm saw her life flash before her.

"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,'" she told Vanity Fair.


In a moment of calm, which Palm describes as the spirit of God 'growing mighty' within her, she turned to Morin and asked his name. She then placed her hands over his and began to pray.

"I take authority over every demonic force in this man. You know that I serve the Lord Jesus Christ and I declare right now, you have no dominion over this man," she recalled. "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."

While his initial reaction was to call Palm a "religious freak" he slowly started to feel her kind energy as she pulled out a book of scriptures to read with him.

He then came completely undone, buckling under the gravity of his crimes.

"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," said Palm.

The pair then drove around while Palm convinced him to get on a bus to skip town. They had to wait 45 minutes until the bus departed so they headed off to McDonald's to grab a bite to eat and pass the time. 

"By this time we were friends, and we sat in that parking lot eating our hamburgers," she said. "I told him that you cannot use these weapons anymore, you can't use your guns or knives anymore because you have been fighting a spiritual demonic force."

And with that Palm had made a connection with a man who had become one of the most wanted serial killers in the country. He let Palm go and waited for his bus knowing that he had made a friend.


How was Stephen Morin captured?

When Palm eventually made it home, she told her husband Bart what had happened, and he immediately called the FBI. "My wife knows where he is, he's in the bus station in Austin waiting for the bus to go to Fort Wort," he spoke into the phone.

Margaret with her husband and kids right after the abduction. Image: Vanity Fair.


Apparently the FBI didn't believe their claims so instead they called the local Austin Police. Shortly after they swarmed the bus stop where Morin was quietly waiting for the bus reading the very book of scripture Palm had given him.

Despite being investigated for the murder of 48 victims he only stood trial for eight and was ultimately found guilty, receiving a death penalty sentence. He lived out the rest of his years on the Ellis 1 Unit on death row in Huntsville, Texas.

What became of Margaret and Morin's unlikely friendship?

After Morin's arrest and subsequent imprisonment he continued his relationship with Palm via handwritten letters and phone calls. While their unlikely friendship continued, Palm maintained Morin deserved the punishment he received for the brutal murders he committed.

"It's like a wild animal," she said. "Try to tame a wild animal and they might be sweet for a while. Then they bite your head off. He lived so long in that dark place. I imagine that the thoughts he lived with for so many years would come back."

As his judgement day approached, Palm visited Morin one last time, the day before his execution.

"He was happy," she recalled. "He said, 'I'm ready to die. I feel good. I'm gonna be with the Lord.'"

Margaret visiting Morin the day before he was executed. Image: Vanity Fair.


Shortly after being administered with a lethal injection Morin died on March 13, 1985.

While many won't be able to make sense of the friendship, what we can agree on is that Margaret Palm had the kindness and strength to change the fate of a man who may have gone on to claim many more victims.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature Image: Vanity Fair.