What it's like to marry a convicted murderer

By Debbie Schipp

She said "yes" to a marriage proposal from a convicted killer she'd never met face-to-face.

He's in prison for life.

They married at his jail, in the US. There's only one wedding picture. There's been no conjugal visit, and she's only made the flight from Melbourne to Buckingham Correctional Centre, a 1000-man prison in the US state of Virginia, twice.

But Melbourne woman Danielle Laskie, 47, says despite what some people might think, she's not crazy.

Definitely crazy in love, but not crazy, the 47-year-old Melbourne health care worker tells reporter Peter Stefanovic in an interview to air on 60 Minutes on Sunday night.

Danielle says after exchanging four letters with Timothy Wright she felt she really knew him. Photo / 60 minutes
Danielle says after exchanging four letters with Timothy Wright she felt she really knew him. Photo / 60 minutes

In a relationship that seems all kinds of wrong, Laskie and her husband, former Marine Timothy Wright are convinced they have found all kinds of right.

Although it took friends and family a while to be convinced of that, Laskie admits to a similarly sceptical Stefanovic.

"They had trouble understanding at the start. They were looking out for me," she tells Stefanovic.

"The thing is, I felt after four letters I knew more about him than if I had dated a guy for six weeks.

"I think I'm a good judge of character ... and you can deal with some stinkers outside of prison ... you just have a gut feeling and you know."

Wright is serving a 63-year sentence with no option for parole after being found guilty of the murder of a 19-year-old man, Justin Baumgartner, in 2008.

Prosecutors said Wright shot Baumgartner, angry over a girl they were both allegedly dating.

Wright denies the love triangle and the charges. He says he was framed and maintains his innocence, pointing to the wavering testimony of his co-defendant, the son of a then-deputy sheriff.

How they met

Wright and Laskie met after she watched a documentary about American prisoners, detailing their isolation and loneliness in jail. An internet search revealed a number of websites which connect inmates to prospective partners.

Wright's simple, concise listing caught her attention: a 28-year-old ex-Marine, incarcerated for murder, serving 63 years with no option for parole, and a short list or interests.

She wrote to him and a month later received a six-page response in Wright's neat handwriting.

Old-fashioned letter-writing blossomed into phone calls, and love.

He asked her to marry him over the phone. They'd never met in person. She said yes.
"I thought I knew him ... writing letters exposes the real person," she says.

"He is probably one of the most kindest gentlest people I have ever known."

They wed last year, but the nuptials were far from conventional.

She wore pink, he a neat blue shirt. The wedding photos were taken on an old-school polaroid camera, because digital cameras aren't allowed in the jail.

There was no room for any Bridezilla antics, she laughs. His grandparents were there. She's met them, but not his parents. She has travelled twice now to the US to visit him.

She's prepared to do that until they can meet on the outside: she firmly believes in his innocence, and is working to find new evidence to reopen the case and prove he was framed.

Stranger things have happened, Stefanovic reveals: In the past two years 326 US prisoners were exonerated.

His story showcases one such release: Tyrone Hood was released after serving more than two decade for a murder he did not commit. Australian woman Barbara Santek, a mother-of-six, gave up her life in WA to base herself in the US to prove his innocence.

Is it love?

Challenged as to whether he's being honest with his bride, or using her because she's on the outside, Wright says he can't "begin to say how much she has done for me and means to me on so many levels".

He welcomes the question because "I don't want people to get the wrong idea".

He is asked: "Why marry her?" Wright says it speaks to "a powerful level of commitment".

The two speak daily, and continue to fight for his freedom. But if it came to that, would it work on the outside?

"I just know, if it can survive now, it can survive anything." Laskie says.

- news.com.au

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