True Story: I Married A Convicted Murderer

Why would someone choose to marry a felon - much less a convicted murderer? Many women who marry inmates or felons are deemed 'crazy' but people who've been incarcerated are - of course - still people.

Why would someone choose to marry a felon – much less a convicted murderer? Many women who marry inmates or felons are deemed ‘crazy’ but people who’ve been incarcerated are – of course – still people. This is the story of ‘Nancy,’ her husband, and their marriage.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I grew up in California, in very normal (almost boring), middle class family.  I am in my 40’s now, have two very active teenagers and a pretty boring life, living in the Pacific Northwest.  

During the day I am an auditor for a large company.  On the weekends, I have a small hobby business to feed my creative side.  We camp, hike, mountain bike, attend local events. Kids are active in school and we are just trying to create the fullest life we possibly can.

What’s your husband like? 

He grew up with a single mother who turned 20 two days before he was born.  His dad left when he was 13 months old, the day before his younger brother was born.  A man he never met.

His grandparents primarily raised him, as his mother was young and also trying to figure her life out.  

His Grandfather was very old school as many of us in our 40s know from our grandfathers.  You work hard, take care of your responsibilities and family is everything.  All his core values he learned from his Grandfather and his love to build things.  

At the age of 13 he got involved with drugs and the law. He was arrested several times in his youth, at 22 he was sentenced to life in prison for murder.

Today, he is the most loving, loyal person you will ever find.  He will do anything for anyone.  He is strong, yet vulnerable.  Very funny, has such a strong faith and knowledge of God.  He calls his mother every day.  Is the hardest working man I have ever met. He cannot figure out how to turn a computer on for is life, but he can make me any piece of furniture I find on Pinterest.   He loves fast cars, extreme sports and coffee.

How did you meet your husband?

Its funny, I skirt around this question a lot and most the time don’t answer it.  We met online.  You always hear horror stories from online dating, and everyone tells you to be careful.  And here I go, marrying a felon I met online.

At what point did he tell you that he’d been convicted of murder? 

The first time we met, he told me.  Everything.  Not a lot of detail at that point, it came later.  He was released two months prior from prison, serving 24 years and 9 months of a life sentence for murder.  After these words I remember my heart dropping and just holding back the tears.  And in all honesty, I was in shock.

Even after two years there still are a lot of questions.  I am still asking and trying to understand. He is always been very upfront and honest.  Even knowing that what he is going to tell me I probably do not want to hear.  Most of the time he is right. I struggle with just accepting his past.  I probably always will.

For many of us, a murder conviction would be a deal breaker. Why wasn’t it a deal breaker for you?

To this day I am not really sure why I did not walk away.

When he finished, all I could say was “I can’t do this, my dad’s a cop, and my entire family and ex are cops.”    I remember laughing and holding back the tears at the same time.  I found this incredible man that I had such a strong connection with and he turns out to be the polar opposite of how I have lived my entire life. He was the opposite of what I believed in.

He asked one thing “just give me a chance.”  It was not an easy decision, I spent weeks really searching for the right direction.  I am so glad that I decided to.

Your dad worked in law enforcement and your first husband was a cop. Do you think that affected how you reacted when your husband told you about his conviction?

Absolutely.  I grew up and lived a very law abiding life.  I have never done drugs. Attended a Christian college.  My dad and ex arrested people like him.  My cousin worked undercover with the drug gangs.  My other cousin works in the prisons.  Other than a few friends with DUIs, all my friends were straight as could be.  

Your husband was in prison for almost 25 years. How does this affect him on a day to day basis?

In the beginning it was hard and there were days I did not think I had the strength to make this relationship work. Emotionally it was draining. You have to have a lot of patience – A LOT – and also realize that most of the issues have nothing to do with you.  He was starting from nothing and was always confused and frustrated.  

He was sentenced in 1992, there were no cell phones, lap tops or DVR’s. Social media did not exist. Computers were barely in schools, not homes.  Kids did not wear helmets, spanking was a form of discipline, skinny jeans did not exist. If you wanted something you worked hard for it, nothing was given to you.  

Now, you cannot do anything that is not driven by a computer.  Learning how to operate a cell phone, especially texting.   He finally has figured out the TV, but has yet to try to figure out how to work a computer.

For almost 25 years, he basically did not exist.  He had no credit, no work history, no savings, and no job experience. He struggled to find a job.  Slowly, we are working through these issues and in another six months we will be at that two year mark where you don’t have to explain why on paper you’ve been a ghost for 25 years.  

I think we have hit a point now, where present life has taken over his past life.  He is still on parole for another three years.  He cannot leave the state without permission, has to report in once a month.  We are subjected to random house visits and he cannot get a passport.  To him this is just normal, I struggle with this, not having the complete freedom to do what you want and when.  

Very few people in your life know about your husband’s past. Why have you chosen not to tell them? And how do you work around that 25 year gap in his history?

When we first started dating, I was so afraid of people finding out. I have children and his past coming out could have put us in a custody battle.  

And, how do you start a conversation? “I would like you to meet my husband, he spent 25 years in prison for murder……”?

When people ask about his past, they ask where he grew up, where he went to school – those are easy questions to answer.  It actually has been very easy to work around those 25 years.  

Do you have a plan for what you’ll say if/when people eventually find out?

Our only plan was that if it comes up, we are honest about it.  The first night I met him, I called my girlfriend and told her everything.  She had a husband that was abusive, into drugs, in and out of jail, so this was a lifestyle she knew something about.  She has been great in helping shed perspective on situations as they come up and supporting both of us in our struggles.

I have one other friend that I have told.  She was visiting me with her husband and the parole officers showed up.  Never a good time for a random house visit.   I remember being so scared, more that they would reject me and our friendship, but they were great.   They had questions that I tried to answer best I could.    In my circle, someone like my husband is not easily accepted. It was uncomfortable, but it was such a relief to have finally been able to tell someone.

In being completely honest, I know my dad knows he spent time in prison.  It is very evident just by looking at him.  I have had friends hint around for information, but no one has come out and asked and I don’t offer.  

The only plan we do have is to tell the children when they are of age.  Right now, they are young and love him for who he is.  They would not fully understand and it is not the right time, but it will come out.  They deserve to know and his story needs to be heard.   

What have you learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives?

Don’t discount someone making an impact on your life because you do not understand them or their past.  I have learned so much from my husband.  And even though I honestly don’t understand how he could have done what he did or his past.  I also know this is his past.  He spent 16 years in prison getting clean, finding God, working programs.  He spent that time changing his life so he could be the man I fell in love with.  

Three years ago I would have never even talked to a man like him, now half the people I know have been in prison for life and they are some of the most amazing men I have ever met.  

People can change, sometimes we have to be willing to give them a chance.

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Nancy. Do you guys have any questions for her? I realize that Nancy’s choice isn’t one that a lot of people would make. Respectful, articulate disagreement is always welcome here, incendiary comments will be deleted.

P.S. Two other sides to this story: True Story: I was in federal prison and True Story: My father’s in prison on child pornography charges.

P.P.S. If you’re interested in helping give inmates access to life-changing books, considering donating money or used books to Books Through Bars.

Photo by Christian Bardenhorst on Unsplash

31 Comments

Nancy

Thank you, he is and I am so grateful God brought him into my life.

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Nurul

Love this interview 🙂 And I love that she gave him a chance 🙂

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Abby

Depends on the details of the murder. I’ve met women who’ve said the same thing about a guy being kind. Then he beats her to near death. And she shouldn’t hide it if she’s worried about custody. The children’s father has a right to know who’s around his kids. Hiding that from the dad makes her a liar

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Nancy

There is much of this I agree with. If there were even a small chance I felt in harms way, I would not be here. Nor would I ever put my kids in harm way. Ever.

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Sam

You were able to look at the facts to make your choice (though it appears not all of them, not sure I would make the same choice towards wilful ignorance, but I can guess why. Are you worried you would feel differently if you knew all of the details?) but your ex wasn’t able to make that same informed choice. How would you feel if someone kept something of that magnitude around your children from you? What if their school hired someone who killed a kid- but hey, It was twenty years ago! Would you not want that information as a parent?

That being said- if he’s served his time, good for the both of you for rebuilding a life together. It must be difficult.

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Jamie

She seems really naive. She doesn’t actually know what happened? She doesn’t have all the details? Why not? Her children’s father doesn’t know he’s a murderer? That’s something he needs to know, and it’s absolutely his business. Her family doesn’t know? This is ridiculous. She’s hiding a huge part of her life and it would be so easy for her husband to just cut her off from the rest in a classic abusive scenario. She’s lying to everyone around her and claiming it’s ok. This is insane.

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Nancy

I do not feel that I am hiding any part of my life. His past is his life, not mine and his story to tell, not mine. I am aware of every crime he was charged with and those he was not. I do not need to know the details of how the crime went down, there is no reason for that for me. I appreciate that you do not agree and honestly believe that each of us require different information for our comfort level. Who he was 25 years ago, is not who he is today. His mother and I talk a lot about that.

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Anonymous

If you’re purposely withholding information from your children’s biological father, it’s because some part of you knows how bad this is. This is an unimaginable breach of trust, and that lying is something worthy of losing custody over. If you truly feel your children are safe, then what’s to hide?

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Maria

Yeah, this part of the story really bothers me. Moreover, if any dispute arises, it would be simple for your ex’s lawyer to run a background check on your husband. If my kid’s father did this to me and I found out about it years later, I’d be even more furious and would absolutely sue for custody.

Reply
M

She has to hide this because of people with preconceived notions like you, unfortunately. If she feels her children are safe and she believes in this man, who are you to “know better”?

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Anonymous

Just because being honest about your new partner is difficult and poses potential problems, does not mean you get to lie to your children’s father about who they’re living with. As a parent, and a co-parent, you have an ethical and legal obligation to be transparent–no matter how many “preconceived notions” you might run into. Not running from hard conversations is part of being an adult.

Additionally, if he has been rehabilitated, that should be easy to demonstrate. The parole officers are required to track to his progress, so there are objective parties involved who could state factually how he is doing.

Maria

I don’t claim to “know better.” He may well be the nicest guy in the world, and I don’t really care. It’s not my business. But it *is* the business of the father of her minor children, and the fact that she is hiding this from him. He has a right to know who his children are living with.

Liz

Not murder but I have a guy friend with whom I’m tentatively exploring the idea of dating. He’s had issues with addiction that led him into legal issues. Most of my friends are underaware of this. I get the struggle to balance who and how to tell.

My issues are much simpler in comparison but the stressors seem to have a similar effect in my life as in Nancy’s. I wish her continued success.

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Nancy

My husband struggled with addiction, drugs which then led to his run in with law and the murder. I have never done drugs and have no experience with addiction and struggle with understanding what he goes through. It is hard. Because you don’t know what to say, how to deal with it. Meetings are amazing and when my husband starts to struggle, it is where he turns. Good luck. It is not easy, but giving up on those we love is not always the answer.

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M

You are so right. You are both lucky to have met each other. So much to learn and so much fight against people who think they know best, just because they watch Law and Order 🙂

You should be proud, you are a wonderful person! I wish you both a happy future and don’t feel like you have to disclose the past to too many people, there’s no good in it.

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Charlotte

Hi Nancy, thank you for sharing your story. My best friend, who I consider to be my brother, is a juvenile lifer and has been in prison since he was 16, and he is 30 now. Only my husband, sister, and parents know about it, and I know how hard it can be to keep such a huge part of your life a secret. I’m always so afraid that people will find out and judge me. He sounds so much like your husband – was doing hard drugs by the age of 12, had no mother, an abusive father, and committed a terrible crime with a group of kids, but he has turned into the kindest, most caring and loyal person I know. He hasn’t touched drugs since he was 16, is a certified peer counselor for mentally impaired inmates, works 6 days a week, is a skilled artist, and loves his family (which is basically just me and my husband). Just want to let you know that you’re not alone and that I completely understand! 🙂

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Charlotte

Oh, and my past is squeaky clean like yours is too. I’m a lawyer and all of my Uncles and grandfather are cops, and my parents are both corporate lawyers.

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Ashley

I’m concerned about not being transparent and honest with closest family and friends, too. Secrecy seems like a terrible idea at best and fertile ground for isolation and gas lighting at worst. It’s not “everyone dismisses a felon,” it’s that they care about you and your children deeply. They are looking out for you. Honest discussions open doors – everyone loves a turnaround story. But it needs to be in the open.

I love the link for books behind bars! What a great program.

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Mary Osborne

I hope it continues to work for you Nancy, I really do. There do seem to be some ‘disconnects’ here but really, it’s not my business and ultimately we’re all responsible for our decisions.
One hears stories about people changing and turning their lives around 180 degrees. I hope this is the case w/your husband. It’s unfortunate that so often one hears the opposite – “they tried to change, but couldn’t” – for whatever reason.
One also hears stories of women – and men – who marry felons and I believe these men and women think they can ‘fix’ them; that is sad because the only one who can ‘fix’ you is yourself.
I wish you and your family nothing but good luck!

MaryO1230

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NellyJ

Thanks for sharing your story…Love it! I’m actually in the same situation with someone I met recently…also convicted for murder. Very awesome things have worked out for you both 🙂

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Myra Garcia

Thank you for sharing your story. I too am in a similar relationship with a convicted murderer. The only difference between you and I is our backgrounds. I’ve not told anyone of his reason for being gone almost 30 years from society, but also feel it is of a personal choice who to disclose it to. My children are grown with children of their own. His past doesn’t define who he is today and neither does mine. I’ve been married for 2 years now. I know within my heart I should’ve met him a lifetime ago. He struggles like your husband and loves to learn alot about of things he missed. I wish continued success in both our marriages.

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Stacey

What did you mean by “in another 2 years you’ll be at a point where you don’t have to explain?” Is that some state regulation? Since this article, have you tour family about his murder conviction?

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Bryanna Johnson

I too am in love with a Lifer plus 85 years. He also went in the same age as tour husband. The best blessing for the both of you is that he is a free man. One day my love will be free. Dreams do come true.
You are a strong woman.
xoxox

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Lindsay

I wish that I could sit down and pick your brain. I am contemplating starting a relationship with a guy I met at church that turned out to be a convicted felon. All I can do is ask the Holy Spirit for discernment. Great story!

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Selina

I can understand the secrecy. People are hardwired to prejudge people for their mistakes in life. Although they have changed, people still consider them to be terrible people instead of taking a look into their background and life story. Cops can just as easily be drug dealers, rapists, domestic abusers. The difference is they are better at hiding it. My thing with this is that he disclosed to you exactly what his charges were and that he had been in trouble. There are many abusers, alcoholics, drug addicts, rapists, drug dealers and more that will not out themselves because they have not been caught.

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Anonymous

Thank you , Nancy. I just meet a guy and he was convicted of murder. He was very honest with me. I thank him for his honesty.His son is a cop in my small town. He lives in another town 30 miles from here. I would like to give him a chance but I don’t want him to think he has to prove himself to me. What can I do to ensure him that I don’t judge no one?

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DC

I don’t know if anyone is still checking this but I just met a man with a very similar story. I’m really struggling with it, because I really like so much about him and it’s a really hard thing to cope with, to grasp, and to understand. Are you still checking this?

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Pinkprincess

Hey. I’m in a relationship with a guy too with a similar background. I forget sometimes that he was locked up for almost 2 decades. His past doesn’t bother me, we all have one. He told me when we met, all about his past. We were just friends first, then after 10 months of hanging out, we became a couple. We have been official for 8 months. He isn’t that emotional at times but his actions shows me that he loves me.

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Female ExCon

***PLOT TWIST*** I am a female convicted felon involved with a wonderful Retired Air Force Veteran. I won’t say much….are they any books or readings I could share with him so we can understand how different this can be. Draining at times but I want our relationship to be so strong and fortified that our relationship is empowered by our unique situation. We live together and are still trying to maneuver this circumstance in the best way possible for us to progress. It was extremely hard for both of us at first and at times. My background is soo extensive. I am accustomed to the judgement and other battles all felons face. Employment , housing, etc…i am almost 40 and my life has always been up and down. Doors open doors close. I hate he has to share in these difficulties. I will leave my story short at this point because there is so much more i would like to share. I don’t want him to suffer. Yet I don’t want to feel like I can’t be on leases or not share my story. This is just the beginning really… I dont6 want him to feel and carry my mark. Yet I can only free myself from the pain of the weight. By taking all the NOS until someone says yes by being honest. I have always been blessed. I have never been in prison. I have done probation curfews house arrests etc…So it is difficult for people to really understand how bad this mark affects me. Yet I am blessed to have survived what I have and having him in my life. Any readings would be helpful please. Geared towards a serious female felon vs. A clean upstanding man. He has worked hard to build the reputation he has. And with time I have faith…. But it’s hard.

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