Romina Deeken, 24, a classic beauty from Germany, bonded with a Texas death row inmate last year, says the Dallas Morning News. After more than 50 letters posted back and forth across the Atlantic, mutual feelings grew. Each month, dozens of travel-weary, love-struck European women arrive in Livingston, Tx., for visits with condemned inmates, a pair of four-hour chats through Plexiglas. There is no touching. Experts say many of the women have been scarred by violence or sexual abuse, though that’s not the case for any of the women interviewed for this story. Others say the women are motivated by compassion and a desire to nurture, or an attraction to the baddest of the bad boys.
Their relationships with inmates typically begin when women join anti-death penalty groups like Amnesty International, or during Internet research. Pen-pal groups like LostVault.com post free personal ads based on letters and pictures from death row inmates. Many people who live in Livingston say the European visitors are naive. Death penalty opponents counter that even the pathologically violent and vile deserve a dignified life. Terri Ray works the desk at The Lake Livingston Inn, which is recommended by an anti-death penalty group in Switzerland. She books about 10 international reservations a month. “They’re so gullible, you just want to shake them and say, ‘Are you women that stupid?’ ” she said. “Those guys over there are running a game. They’ve got 10 to 20 women at a time they’re romancing.” Life on Texas’ death row is austere and isolating. condemned men spend 23 hours a day in a cell the size of a walk-in closet. Each day, they are allowed one hour alone for recreation, and a shower.