for a variety of reasons, say experts. It might be a power trip. She has all the freedom in the world, while he has none – sometimes forever. Some women swear that there is real romance in getting engaged and tying the knot in prison, even if the wedding cake is a Twinkie, which has happened at least once.
The condition of being attracted to someone behind bars actually has a name, hybristophilia. That’s been defined by psychologists as sexual arousal and pleasure from having a partner who is known to have committed an outrage or crime, such as rape, murder, or armed robbery.
Sheila Isenberg interviewed female hybristophiliacs for her book, Women Who Love Men Who Kill. “If you are in a relationship with a man behind bars for life or a man on death row, then you have a lot of control over the relationship,” she wrote. “You can decide when to make the visit, when to accept the phone call, or if you will accept the call, and you are that man’s primary link with the outside world. So as you can clearly see it’s a very powerful position to be in.”
The most incorrigible of prisoners have been sought after. Charles Manson presided over a passel of shaved-head groupies, got 4 fan letters a day and sought a marriage license in 2014 to wed Afton Elaine Burton, a 26-year-old admirer who had visiting him for nine years.
Connubial bliss never arrived for Manson, who died in 2017 at the age of 83.
Ted Bundy wound up married and becoming a father after committing at least 30 murders, despite being locked up for three decades. The fact that conjugal visits were prohibited did not somehow stop the course of true love.
Marriage proposals, love letters and nude pictures appeared regularly in his mail. Both of the Menendez brothers got married while imprisoned for the murder of their parents. Richard Ramirez, “the Night Stalker,” tied the knot with a reporter who saw his mug shot on tv. The New York Times reported that she purchased her new husband a platinum wedding band because he told her, “Satanists don’t wear gold.”
Of more interest to me are the women who research and document death row inmates’ last meal requests. I have come across two who obsess over how people have chosen to dine when they finally get a choice about the matter.
An artist named Julie Green, who died at the age of 60 last week, made a career out of it after her interest was piqued by newspaper announcements concerning the request of a recently executed man: Six tacos, six glazed doughnuts and a Cherry Coke.
She called her decades-long art project “The Last Supper,” for which she painted china plates with cobalt blue to render prisoners’ requests. It might be only two peanut butter cups and a Dr. Pepper, but it was going up on the wall. The plan was to document the meals until capital punishment was abolished, or until she had made 1,000 plates, whichever came first. She painted her1,000th plate, an oval platter with a single familiar image, this September: the bottle of Coca-Cola requested by a Texas man in 1997. Capital punishment looks to be around for the indefinite future.
So per Green we have renderings of fried chicken, birthday cake, pizza. An exhbit of her work tours the country. Perhaps you could call it an effort to salvage the humanity of society’s castoffs
Another creative type exercised her right to make something out of a dismal subject by publishing a book of recipes that duplicate last meals. Yes, she did. So one death row inmate, before dying of lethal injection in 2020, requested a dinner of sweet potatoes, spinach, a chicken patty and leg quarter, cooked apples, french fries, two oranges and an orange-flavored drink. He only got to eat one bite of this feast before being escorted to the execution chamber, but his menu lives on in “The Serial Killer Cookbook” by Ashley Lecker.
Fried chicken and chicken fried steak were common, she found, along with ice cream, which was chosen by about 80% of inmates Lecker researched. One Robert Buell, convicted for the murder of an 11-year-old girl, requested a single black, unpitted olive. What’s a cookbook writer to do? She translated the request into a single-olive tapenade recipe. Rickey Ray Rector, executed for the 1981 murder of a police officer, shot himself in the head and caused a lobotomy. He managed to summon up a request for pecan pie–but then said he’d ‘eat it later.’ Aileen Wuornos declined her last meal, saying she was too nervous to eat it.
I wonder if Lecker and Green shared notes from their research. Or if either of them had any contact with a death row individual before the inevitable end. I know that neither woman had a romantic relationship with an inmate. Food and food choices are personal enough. Me, I would order up a feast prepared by the world’s finest chefs. But I wouldn’t necessarily want the world to be privy to the one last choice I had.