No shortage of women who dream of snaring a husband on Death Row / Experts ponder why deadliest criminals get so many proposals
Scott Peterson, the man who was convicted of murdering his wife and unborn child, had been on Death Row barely an hour when the first proposal arrived from a woman who wants to be the new Mrs. Scott Peterson.
Three dozen phone calls came in to the warden's office on Peterson's first day at his new home in San Quentin State Prison -- women were pleading for his mailing address, and one smitten 18-year-old said she wanted to marry him.
As far as anyone knows, these women don't really know Peterson -- and unlike Laci Peterson, they certainly haven't spent any time with him, usually a requisite for getting married -- but, according to several experts on the world of the condemned, it doesn't really matter.
What matters is the allure of marrying a notorious man, regardless of the fact that he may well end his days with a state-approved needle sticking out of his arm. There's the danger of it all, and, ultimately, the safety of it: If things go wrong, the wife can walk away.
"They love the celebrity status," said Jack Levin, a criminologist who is director of the Brudnick Center on Violence at Northeastern University in Boston. Levin is co-author of the book "Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder," which explores, among other things, what Levin called "killer groupies."
"These are the same women who might correspond with a rock star or a rap artist," Levin said. When such a woman writes to a rock star, he said, "the best she can hope for is a computerized signature on a photograph." When she writes to a serial killer on Death Row, "she might get a marriage proposal."
Others give the potential prison brides more benefit of the doubt.
"A lot of women are really taken with the man's criminal case, and they overwhelmingly believe these men are innocent," said Rick Halperin, a history professor at Southern Methodist University and president of the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. "Many think the man shouldn't be alone and that even if he doesn't get out, there should be somebody there supporting him."
Prison weddings in California are a regular occurrence. In general, about 20 inmates get married in ceremonies held on the first Friday of even-numbered months at San Quentin, and usually at least one condemned inmate is among them.
And Death Row inmates have no shortage of suitors. In fact, the more notorious the murderer, the less he has to work for female companionship, San Quentin spokesman Eric Messick said.