In Texas, Death-Row Gold Diggers Reportedly Marry Texas Inmates for Life Insurance

It's a curious phenomenon, the "death row groupies" who become enamored with men who committed some of the most vile crimes you can imagine. When Scott Peterson arrived at California's San Quentin State Prison fresh off a conviction of murdering his wife and unborn child, he received a marriage proposal within the first hour.

"These are usually women who would love to date a rock star or rap idol, but if they wrote to a musician, they might get a letter. Here they could get a marriage proposal," as Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin, author of Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder, explained to D in 2011.

In Texas, these proposals have often resulted in actual nuptials carried out (if not consummated) through a practice called proxy marriage, in which the inmate signs an affidavit allowing them to wed without being physically present. But with proxy marriages virtually banned during the previous legislative session, and because the Texas Department of Criminal Justice won't allow prison weddings, death row and other inmates no longer have the chance to formalize their unions.

See also: Dallas County Is Now the Death Penalty Capital of Texas

The state's de facto ban on prison marriages is only temporary. The Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that prisoners have a right to marry. Besides, state Representative Trent Ashby, the author of Texas' proxy-marriage limitations, has said repeatedly that it was meant to cut down on fraud, not prison weddings.

Still, the matter has provided a glimpse at a specimen related to but distinct from the death row groupie. Via The Dallas Morning News, meet the death-row gold-digger.

[Polk County Clerk Schelana] Walker wrote to Ashby to support the bill after watching a parade of women troop through the courthouse to marry condemned inmates on nearby death row. Some seemed sincerely in love, she said.

"They would show up in a white wedding dress with flowers. It was a big deal," she said.

Others, particularly those from Europe, seemed more businesslike.

After obtaining the license, most brides-to-be went down the hall to be married immediately by a local justice of the peace.

Walker said the JP often asked them "what drew their interest" to death row.

In her letter to Ashby, Walker said the JP was "advised by many of these women that they will go back to their country and get a life insurance policy on the absent applicant because their country doesn't recognize the death penalty."

Walker said in an interview that one woman married a death row inmate who was executed in a matter of months.

"And within a few months after that," Walker said, "she was back getting a marriage license to marry someone else."

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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My Voice Nation Help

Very informative content !

Going to read more of your articles

This has got to be total nonsense. Life insurance works wildly different in Europe compared to the way it does in the US. You cannot simply go and get life insurance on someone else's life, let alone if that person is in a different country (and incarcerated!). And I know of no insurance company that would pay in these circumstances. I really think this is BS.


Okay, so I see what's in it for the wife that collects upon the inmates death. I am wondering what the inmates motivation is to marry. I can't come up with reasons for the convicted to want to do this. Conjugal visits, is he being offered a bribe to marry, bragging rights? If he has children on the outside does that affect the new bride at all. Not sure I get that part. It sounds like those visits were not a part of the deal. Maybe they were, but either way it doesn't look possible now. 


Interesting story. A more interesting story would be how a life insurance policy can bought on a person with an literal clock ticking on them. Saying, "because their country doesn't recognize the death penalty" doesn't really satisfy this curiosity.


So, European pharmaceutical companies have stopped selling US states the chemicals used in executions, purportedly on ethical grounds.  Meanwhile, European insurance companies are getting soaked, paying out benefits when we execute our convicted murderers?  Mind-boggling. 

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Great band name alert: Death Row Gold Diggers.


You'd think any profit derived from anyone on death row should be directed to victim's relations, not Eurotrash.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

The insurance lobby seems to have more pull than the Supreme Court hereabouts. 


@ruddski  If they are overseas, who would police that? They are taking out insurance policies in other countries. 


I'm not a lawyer, dunno how, but my sentiment stands.

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