A woman set to marry a murderer has said she isn’t afraid to be killed by him, despite admitting he may kill her.
Tracy Bottomley, 41, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, fell in love with Ernest Otto Smith, 53, last year after they began talking via a prison pen-pal scheme.
The 41-year-old has never met her fiancé, who was sentenced to life in prison without parole after murdering two people in 2005, but says she is prepared for whatever married life will entail.
Tracy started writing to the convicted killer after seeing an advert on a prison Facebook page, saying she joined the pen-pal programme out of curiosity after being single for three years.
She said she was attracted by Smith’s ‘honest account of his past,’ adding that they bonded over shared trauma from abuse they have both suffered at the hands of others.
Explaining how her groom-to-be was a victim of child abuse, leading him to turn to drugs to deal with his depression and anxiety, Tracy said she could relate to him because she has been in an abusive relationship in the past.
The 41-year-old had been single for three years before striking up a relationship with Smith, following a string of unlucky relationships and a failed marriage in 2003.
Now though, Tracy is just looking forward to what the future holds for the couple, with the pair planning to tie the knot next year in prison.
The 41-year-old said:
Ernest doesn’t scare me – I’ve never been someone who gets frightened easily. Yes he is a serial killer, he’s committed a few murders, but I understand the risks of what could happen and I still love him.
Being killed isn’t the best way to go, but everybody dies one day. I’m going to die eventually and I don’t mind the fact it could be at the hands of him.
The relationship blossomed after Tracy decided to send her details via the scheme – despite knowing he had been sentenced to life for killing two people – receiving an email from the convicted murderer just a few days later.
Soon enough, the pair were emailing three times a day, before they eventually started speaking on the phone regularly. Now, Smith writes Tracy letters from his cell professing his love to her, with one asking: ‘Girl do you know how happy you make me? Where have you been all my life?’.
In another, the murderer told Tracy he was ‘falling in love’ with her, and said he felt like she was ‘meant to find’ him – but not before he described how he murdered his victims, James Dillingham and Cathy Barnett, in great detail.
He told me step by step how he murdered each one of his victims and why. Hearing him talk about it on the phone, I could hear the emotion in his voice as he reflected on what he’d done.
Ernest doesn’t sound like a murderer, you can’t hear anything crazy in his voice, he regrets what he’s done.
Smith robbed, shot and killed James Dillingham in Toledo, Ohio, on January 2, 2005, alongside accomplice Cathy Barnett. However, shortly after the murder, Smith then murdered Cathy out of fear she would turn him in to the police.
He first attempted to break Cathy’s neck, before beating her to death with a tree branch. He was convicted in March 2006 in Ohio and sentenced to 32 years in solitary confinement in prison.
Tracy will fly to the US next year to marry the convicted murderer at the Ohio Department of Prisons.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).