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Why Do Murderers Get Mailbags Full of Love Letters and Marriage Proposals?

Murder suspect Joran van der Sloot has been bragging about receiving a deluge of attention from women since confessing to the murder of Stephany Flores. What gives?

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All is about lost for [Katrina] when out of nowhere comes a real handsome white man with hair on his barrel chest and a heart of gold. He pulls up drinking Night Train and smoking non-filtered cigs, looking very manly, like Babyface Malone. Slick dog written all over him. She spots him. She knows deep down this is worth living for. Worth killing for! He sweeps her off her feet. They fall deeply in love, have kinky sex, make five pure white Nazi lowrider kids, living happily ever after.

They became a couple after his release, but one night in 1992 Merriman raped her in front of two fellow skinheads, then stabbed her in the neck. Today he's on death row.

Katrina Montgomery fetishized a killer before he became a killer — her killer. But unlike Stephany Flores and Laci Peterson, who didn't realize that the men they craved were capable of violence, Montgomery pursued Merriman while he was in prison for violent crimes. Unlike Carole Boone, who married Ted Bundy and conceived his baby after he was convicted for serial murder because she believed he was innocent, Montgomery knew Merriman was dangerous. That's what got her hot.

My friend who works with the prison system knew a female attorney "who was barred from San Quentin because she developed an intimate relationship with one of her incarcerated clients." The pair made sexual contact through a mail slot, my friend says. "They were observed by guards, she was sent home, and the warden denied her future access."

Ever since being sentenced to death in 2000 for slashing a 13-year-old girl's throat, Tommy Lynn Sells "has received tons of letters from women who want to proclaim their love for him, talk sexy with him or have phone sex," says Diane Fanning, who got to know Sells while researching her book about him, Through the Window (St. Martin's, 2007). "It baffles me a little, because he's not your typical good-looking killer. He's just your good-old-boy rednecky type" — who claims to have slain dozens of men, women and children since he was 16.

Sells showed Fanning the letters.

"They were all 'your body' this and 'your body' that and 'I want to do this to you' and 'I want you to do that' — your typical soft porn. But you could see that each of these women thought she was his one and only."

The senders were clearly responding to detailed erotic missives from Sells. Fanning says some of these women sent her death threats when they learned how much access she had to Sells while researching her book. She wonders what else he told them about her.

"It's hard to tell where the truth ends with these psychopaths. They're such liars and manipulators."

Those lies convince correspondents to aid in escape plans, commit other crimes, and send cash — all in the name of what looks like love and the antidote to loneliness.

"These women think, 'He's mine and since he's in prison there's no possible way he could cheat on me,'" says my friend who works with the prison system, "although of course he can."

According to Fanning and Aamodt, victims of domestic violence are among the most avid seekers of relationships with incarcerated killers. Why? Shouldn't they of all people condemn the amoral, the violent, the vile? Are they conditioned to repeat their pain?

With incarcerated killers, abused women "get a chance to control a relationship, maybe for the first time ever," Aamodt explains. "When you're dating an inmate, he needs you more than you need him. You can leverage power over him by threatening not to visit or write. This is interesting because it reflects mixed motives: the desire to nurture, but also to control. And if he's on death row, it's forever."

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