Most of us look for a lack of a criminal record when seeking “the one,” but some people are drawn to bad boys, people with checkered pasts, and yes, even convicted murderers. A majority of those attracted to inmates are women and not nearly are as crazy as we’d imagine. As author Sheila Isenberg explains, “Although some have been victims of abuse and violence, many of the women vulnerable to these relationships know exactly what they are getting into, but their capacity for denial and their need for a safe, idealized, romantic fantasy of love transcends judgment.” Recently, notorious wife-killer Scott Peterson has reportedly received a number of marriage proposals, and spoiled Aruban sociopath and alleged murderer of Natalee Holloway claims women are knocking down his door begging to be Mrs. Joran Van Der Sloot. Here is a look at fifteen people whose marriages took place in a jailhouse.
El Paso-born Richard Ramirez terrified all of Los Angeles county from June of 1984 up through a blazing hot summer in 1985. A tall, lanky devotee of The Satanic Bible author Anton Lavey, Ramirez stealthily broke into people’s homes in the dead of night and brutally attacked (with guns, knives, and hammers) murdered and raped them, earning him the moniker “The Night Stalker.” At the scene of the crimes, he often left behind pentagrams drawn in blood on the walls or carved into victims’ thighs. When he wasn’t prowling the night, he was often smoking marijuana, stealing cars or listening to hard rock and heavy metal (his favorite artists included the Stones and AC/DC, who had ironically recorded a tune called “Night Prowler”).
On August 31, 1985, Ramirez returned to Los Angeles from visiting his brother in Tucson, Arizona, only to find his face plastered on the covers of newspapers lining news stands. Fearing his jig was up, he went to steal a car and hightail it out of town, only to find the mechanically-savvy owner beneath the vehicle. A neighborhood-wide chase ensued that culminated in Ramirez’s capture and arrest. He was found guilty of thirteen murders, five attempted murders, eleven sexual assaults and fourteen burglaries, and was sentenced to death for each count of murder. His response to his sentence was to shrug and say, “Big deal. Death always came with the territory.”
Almost immediately, Ramirez was bombarded with letters from women proclaiming their love and devotion to him, but it was a freelance magazine editor and self-proclaimed virgin named Doreen Lioy who made the cut. Over the course of eleven years during which she wrote him seventy-five letters, Lioy successfully convinced Ramirez to marry her, and the two were wed in a San Quentin Prison visiting room on October 3, 1996 in a ceremony witnessed by the prison chaplain, one journalist, and a number of very dangerous men.
Susan Atkins, alias Sadie Mae Glutz, the weak link in the infamous, cultish Manson Family, died in 2009 at the age of sixty-one, but during her time behind bars married not once, but twice. Atkins was arrested in connection with the murder of Gary Hinman, a Manson acquaintance, in 1969 and wasted no time in regaling her cellmates with stories of other brutal murders in which she had participated. Her fellow inmates, disturbed by Atkins’ assertion that she had tasted the blood of her victim (Sharon Tate, actress and wife of famed film director Roman Polanski), told authorities on her, and eventually Atkins was questioned in connection to Tate’s murder as well as five guests present at her house the evening of August 8, 1969. What followed was one of the most sensational and highly publicized trials in American history, well-documented in the popular book Helter Skelter by Manson prosecutor, Vincent Bugliosi. Charles Manson, Susan Atkins and three other members of the Family were sentenced to death on March 29, 1971.
While in prison, Atkins’ death sentence was commuted to life and she converted to Christianity. She married alleged millionaire Donald Laisure of Texas in 1981 but had the marriage annulled when she learned he lied about his assets and also had been married thirty-five times before her. In 1987, she married Harvard Law graduate James Whitehouse who represented her at subsequent parole hearings and still maintains her website.
James Whitehouse wasn’t the only one to pursue a former Manson Family member; on September 7, 1979, Charles “Tex” Watson married twenty year old Kristin Svenge, with whom he had corresponded and who moved to San Luis Obispo, California at Watson’s request. Watson had the distinction of being the only male present the night five people (and one unborn child) were slaughtered at the residence at 10050 Cielo Drive and was thought by many to be Charles Manson’s right hand man. Before the raid at Spahn Ranch, Watson fled to his homestate of Texas. After finally being extradited to California and undergoing thorough psychiatric evaluations, Watson was tried and convicted separately from the other Manson family members.
Like Atkins, Watson became a born-again Christian in 1975 and an ordained minister in 1983. Watson and Svege were granted a honeymoon in a trailer on the grounds of the California Men’s Colony in San Luis Obispo, and through conjugal visits the couple managed to have four children but the marriage was annulled in 2003. Watson continues to operate his Abounding Love Ministries. Get in line, ladies!
Carol Ann Boone
Necrophiliac, serial killer, erstwhile fugitive –– and husband. One of America’s most infamous and prolific criminals, Ted Bundy seems an unlikely choice for Mr. Right, particularly after he was arrested in connection with more than thirty brutal murders of women whose corpses were found alternately strangled, beaten, bludgeoned and cut up into pieces in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. After two unsuccessful escapes from jail and a bloody romp through a Florida sorority house, Ted was finally captured, held in an Orlando jail and gained a cult following of women. Many of these women, according to author Ann Rule, were adamant that Bundy was not guilty, while others remained frightened of him even while enamored. One woman, Carol Ann Boone, moved to Florida to marry and be close to Bundy, who somehow managed to get her pregnant despite the fact that conjugal visits were supposedly forbidden.
While imprisoned, Bundy was interviewed by numerous psychologists, authors, evangelists, lawyers and law enforcement officials and was described as a foot fetishist, pornography addict, manic-depressive, and born-again Christian. By the time Bundy was executed in the electric chair at Raiford Prison on January 24, 1989, Carol Ann Boone had divorced him, taken their daughter and fled the state. Both retain a low profile.
It’s difficult not to react to the death of Carol Spadoni with a shrug of the shoulders and a “Well, she… asked for it?” Spadoni did, after all, meet her husband, Philip Carol Jablonski, while he was at San Quentin prison for murdering a former wife. Before he was released from jail, Carol Spadoni told his parole officer that she was afraid of him and did not want him to return home to live with she and her mother, Eva Peterson. Jablonski was released anyway. While on parole, he murdered community college student Fathyma Vann. She was found having been shot and sexually mutilated with the words “I Love Jesus” carved into her back. The next day, Jablonski murdered Spadoni and her mother. Their bodies were found on April 26, 1991. Both had been gagged, stabbed and shot. Peterson was only half clothed, while her daughter’s breast had been sliced and a silicon implant exposed.
Jablonski was convicted and sentenced to death. His most recent appeal was denied. He spends a lot of time corresponding with penpals, with whom he discusses his lack of remorse and the fact that he regrets not having killed his mother when she visited him in prison. Let’s hope there are no future Mrs. Jablonskis waiting in the wings.
On August 20, 1989, handsome, clean-cut brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez shot their parents Jose and Kitty while they were asleep in bed at their plush, Mediterranean-style Beverly Hills mansion. They weren’t initially suspects, but their ostentatious spending sprees after their parents’ murders raised more than a few eyebrows. Eventually Erik, the younger Menendez, confessed to his psychiatrist, who was legally capable of blowing the whistle once Lyle threatened him, and the brothers were arrested.
Toward the end of the Menendez brothers’ highly-publicized first trial (at which their lawyer claimed a lifetime of horrible abuse was the catalyst for the murder), model and Playboy Playmate Anna Eriksson saw Lyle on TV and felt compelled to write him. “I am,” she told People Magazine in 1996, “a fabulous letter writer.” The two began writing back and forth and eventually Eriksson moved to Los Angeles to be closer to Menendez. She visited him in L.A.’s Men’s Central Jail and they decided to wed. They were married during a telephone ceremony on the day of the sentencing, but Eriksson has since divorced him after learning he was corresponding with another woman. He married another prison correspondent in 2003.
Tammi Saccomon’s marriage to the younger Menendez brother was comparatively more successful than Eriksson’s was to the elder. Saccomon also met her future husband after writing him during a difficult period in her own life, and the two were married in the waiting room of Fulsom State Prison in 1997. Since their marriage, Tammi has been anything but shy in the face of the press. She has written a book about their marriage entitled They Said We’d Never Make It. She was also the subject of an A&E documentary in 2010 in which she discussed life without sex and her weekly 150-mile drives with her ten-year-old daughter to visit her “Earth Dad.” What?!
Until 1996, Rosalie Martinez was married to a lawyer from a prominent Tampa, Florida family with whom she had four daughters. They lived in a nice home and she drove a Mercedes 300. Then Rosalie, who worked as a mitigation specialist, met Oscar Ray Bolin, aka “Bolin the Butcher,” who was jailed in connection to the 1986 rapes and murders of three young women. Bolin had been through trials, convictions, appeals and retrials by the time he met Rosalie, upon whom he obviously cast quite a spell because she left her cushy life in order to marry a man whose first meeting with her was anticipated (with enthusiasm) to be like “Hannibal Lecter.” Since their marriage (service performed over the telephone), Rosalie has stood by her husband through eight subsequent murder trials and a death sentence, making sure to outfit him in Armani suits pre-court.
Perhaps the oddest part of this story is that Rosalie continues to work in the legal field. Rosalie worked for a private investigation firm helping lawyers overturn death penalties. This past summer, public defender Matt Shirk announced he’s cutting ties with Bolin due to the media attention her situation attracts. Rosalie continues to fight to overturn Oscar’s death penalty, citing him as her cause. “Some people have whales,” she says, “I have Oscar.”
German waitress Dagmar Polzin first saw Bobby Lee Harris’ visage in an advertisement for Benetton clothing featuring men on death row. Something about his freckled, bald dome and droopy dolt eyes made Polzin certain. “I knew he was the one,” she said.
Harris and his co-worker, Joe Simpson, were arrested in 1991 for the murder of their boss, John Redd, whom they stabbed repeatedly. The co-worker, Joe Simpson, copped a plea and got his murder charge dropped, but Harris was sentenced to death. The discrepancy in punishment led two justices of the North Carolina Supreme Court write dissenting arguments, citing Harris’ low IQ (73, just two points above the level of mental retardation), serious drug problems and childhood rife with abuse as possible mitigating circumstances. Regardless, his execution was stayed in January of 2001. By this time, Polzin and Harris were engaged and she had moved to the United States to be closer to her gentle, “forgotten son of God.” Both their prayers were eventually answered as Harris was re-sentenced to life in prison. No marriage announcement was officially made for the happy couple, however, as Polzin herself stated to ABC News that even if Harris was granted clemency, “We will marry, but it will not be announced.”
Asha Bandele met Zayd Rashid, now her husband of over fifteen years, after a college professor invited her class to read poetry to inmates. She’s not the main demographic of women attracted to inmates; born and raised in a well-to-do Manhattan family, Bandele is highly educated and the author of three books, including a memoir of her romance with Rashid entitled The Prisoner’s Wife.
Rashid was born in Guyana and raised in the Bronx, New York, where despite his academic achievement and promise, he was lured into the world of street crime. At seventeen, he shot a man to death and was subsequently convicted of second degree murder, armed robbery and gun possession. He has always been upfront and remorseful about his actions; in addition, he’s been a model prisoner, volunteering and earning a degree in theology. He and Asha, who has appeared on the Oprah show to talk about her book, have conceived two children while married (New York is one of six states that allows conjugal visits for prisoners. Ladies, take note.) According to a recent episode of 20/20 on WE, however, the couple has since separated.
Christine Kizuka may not be the first woman to become smitten with another while still married, but she may be one of very few who spotted a rival for her affection in the jail cell neighboring her husband’s. Even more bizarre is the fact that the man Kizuka found so intriguing was none other than Angelo Buono Junior –– a self-described “Italian Stallion” and devotee of rapists who was in prison for being one-half of the notorious duo collectively known as the Hillside Strangler. Angelo was likely the ringleader of the two, a wannabe pimp with a harem of young women and a penchant for red silk underwear who taught his cousin and eventual murder partner Kenny Bianchi to “never let a c–t get the upper hand.” After a long police hunt and belabored legal proceedings, Bianchi was eventually found guilty of the murders of nine young women (the youngest was twelve years old) in 1983.
Buono met Kizuka when she was visiting her then-husband and father of her three children at Folsom State Prison in 1986, and the two were married shortly thereafter. They would never consummate their marriage due to the heinous nature of Buono’s crimes against women. Buono passed away of a heart attack on September 21, 2001, in Calipatria State Prison.
It’s hard to say who got the better half of the Hillside Strangler combo, Christine Kizuka or Shirlee Book, who married Kenneth Bianchi after a three-year courtship. Book wasn’t exactly a looker, but she certainly scraped the bottom of the barrel when it came to potential spouses, having first hit up Ted Bundy before moving on to Bianchi. Book’s zealous pursuit of Bianchi (she reportedly bought invitations and her wedding dress before Bianchi had even proposed) is perhaps the least disturbing thing in this whole story. While Bianchi was in prison and awaiting trial for the ten murders believed to be committed by him and his cousin Angelo Buono, he convinced a pen pal named Veronica Compton, a twenty-three year old aspiring actress and playwright, to murder a girl in the manner of the Hillside Strangler in order to convince the police the killer(s) was still at large. Compton’s criminal skills were about as abysmal as her acting skills, however, and it took very little time for the authorities to connect her to the failed strangling attempt. After her arrest, Kenny made it clear he was no longer interested, so Veronica took up with another imprisoned serial killer named Douglas Clark, who sent her a Valentine’s Day card with a picture of a woman’s decapitated corpse on it.
Book, originally from Louisiana, began corresponding with Bianchi after seeing him on television. Despite feigning mental illness as part of his defense, coercing Compton into attempting murder, and pleading guilty to five counts of murder in California (as well as having been convicted of two counts of murder in Washington), Bianchi attracted Book, who met him only through letters and telephone calls before their fifteen-minute wedding ceremony in September of 1989 in the chapel of the state prison in Walla Walla, Washington. By that time, Bianchi had become –– you guessed it –– a born-again Christian.
The story of the alleged murders of Ben Smart, 21, and Olivia Hope, 17, of New Zealand is something like the plot of the movie Dead Calm starring Nicole Kidman, though in the real-life version, neither one of the pair makes it out alive. According to New Zealand authorities, Smart and Hope were seen boarding the yacht “Blade” owned by one Scott Watson, a New Zealand native with forty-eight prior convictions. Hope and Smart were never seen again, and their bodies have never been found. After an eleven week trial in 1999, Watson was convicted and sentenced to seventeen years in jail without parole.
Watson reached out to Branch after getting her contact information from a “mutual contact,” and the two began a relationship. Branch, who had four children by four different men, didn’t realize at first who he was, but wasn’t too dismayed when she found out. “It didn’t matter,” she split from Watson in 2007 after three years of marriage because she learned he was “two-timing” her with another woman behind bars. Their marriage was never consummated, and in 2007 she was approved to foster the child of two other inmates, prison escape artist extraordinaire Arthur Taylor and his wife Carolyn, whom he impregnated by secreting his frozen sperm to her while she was out on bail.
Phil Spector is the only man on this list to be notorious for something other than his criminal career. He was, after all, a famous and successful music producer responsible for the style known as the “wall of sound” and the acclaimed girl group The Ronettes, whose lead singer Veronica was formerly his wife. Just weeks before he murdered Lana Clarkson, whose death he claimed was accidental, Spector, a well-known gun enthusiast, told British journalist Mick Brown that he was “relatively insane.”
So why would sometimes-model and twenty-something Rachelle Short, who previously posed for Playboy, marry Spector while he was out on bail awaiting trial in 2006? (The marriage even took place in the foyer where he shot Lana Clarkson.) All the evidence points to dollars and publicity, though Short will lash out at anyone who claims ulterior motives. She loves Spector and even went so far as to tell the Los Angeles Times she misses copulating with her much-older husband. Just this past summer, Rachelle released her debut album Out of My Chelle, produced by none other than her afro-ed hubby. “I talked to my husband yesterday,” she told fameblab.com, “and he’s more excited about this project than he was about the Beatles or Tina Turner.” Um… RELATIVELY insane?
Gea Storey is one of a growing number of European women drawn to American men behind bars. She began corresponding with Walter Timothy Storey, better known as Tim, after he had already been convicted of the murder of a popular teacher and neighbor of his. (Storey slit her throat, broke six of her ribs and inflicted injury on her face and head.) Gea traveled across the pond to visit him, and was planning to inform her husband she had fallen in love with him upon her return, but he beat her to the punch by moving out a day before she arrived back in Holland. They were officially married in May of 2003 with Gea’s son and daughter serving as best man and ringbearer, respectively. After the wedding, the family returned to Holland, where Gea continues to lobby for Tim’s release.