Amanda Debs

The evil Amanda Debs

Amanda Debs (Barbara Baxley; 1923-1990) is the main villainess from "Jessica Behind Bars," episode 2.09 of Murder, She Wrote (airdate December 1, 1985). She is the deputy warden of the West Barrington Institute for Women, though she mostly runs the prison during Warden Elizabeth Gates' absences due to her campaign for state senate.

Debs had applied to become warden years ago, but after she was turned down, she began looting from the prison. In the 20 years that have passed, and leading to the episode's events, Debs became the evil mastermind of a ring of corruption in the prison, which included physician Irene Matthews and grocery delivery driver Mrs. Mims. However, Gates hiring a new nurse for the prison posed as a threat to the corruption, and it led to Matthews committing suicide to avoid being caught. Matthews left a note, but killed herself before she could finish, as she heard someone coming. She activated the alarm before committing the deed, which prompted Debs and others to enter the office. During the panic, however, Debs saw the note and took possession of it, covering up the suicide and making it look like a murder.

Later in the episode, the evil Debs colluded with inmate Kathryn to kill Mims, after her plan to escape was thwarted by the riot. She had Kathryn shut off the lights in the prison, and that allowed Debs to kill Mims with a knife. Jessica Fletcher revealed that Matthews' death was a suicide, while also revealing Debs and Kathryn as villainesses. Debs berated Matthews' decision to kill herself, calling her a coward, while boasting that all Jessica can only get her on fraud. Jessica, however, was able to prove Debs' role as Mims' killer, while revealing her and Kathryn's plan to escape and leave the rest of the inmates on the receiving end of a police shootout. Debs was relieved of her position and arrested (off-screen) for her various crimes.

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