When Candy, a second-grade teacher, was approached by a man named Jovan Collier on a sunny Florida beach, it seemed like the beginning of her happily-ever-after.
"It was a whirlwind," Candy said. "We hit it off that day. ... It was really quick. He was very charming, [a] smooth talker, sweet, you know, funny."
Candy and Collier quickly learned that they shared more than good looks. Both recently had moved to the St. Petersburg area and were trying to build a new life.
"I was looking for someone to share my life with," Candy told 20/20's co-anchor Chris Cuomo. "I was just missing a significant other that I really wanted."
They also both had coped with loss.
"I'd been through a lot of tough times, lots of deaths in my family," Candy said. "That first day at the beach, he told me that his parents had been killed in a tragic car accident by drunk drivers. He had always felt like he was missing something."
Candy knew immediately that Collier was missing a happy childhood. What she didn't know was that the man sharing her bed also may have been missing a conscience and that her romance soon would morph into a real-life horror story.
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While Collier was attractive, intelligent and ambitious, this apparent total package came with a fuzzy web of connections. He would regularly leave Florida for the Midwest to visit friends, an ex-wife and his son. Candy later found out that Collier also was reconnecting with a daughter named Nicole from whose life he had been conspicuously absent for nearly six years.
Luckily for Collier, Candy was supportive.
"I do care about his daughter," Candy said. "[She's] a very nice young lady."
These feelings worked both ways.
"It was very neat to see that," Nicole said. "I mean, my dad was getting his life back on track, settling down, hopefully for good."
As Collier learned again to be a father, he was given the chance to be a son. It turned out that the parents who, according to Collier, had died in a car crash were actually adoptive parents to whom he was given at birth.
"I honestly had abandonment issues my entire life," Collier told "20/20." "I never felt like I was part of anything. I was reminded that I was adopted a lot. I was told that my mother was a whore. You know: 'She's a horrible person, trailer trash,' and blah, blah, blah."
But his birth mother was far from "trailer trash."
She is, in fact, an attractive Atlanta realtor married to an affluent plastic surgeon. And after searching for years, she was able to track down her long-lost son.
For a while, everything was working out.
"[His relatives] were lovely people," Candy said. "We got along fine. We had good times. We spent Thanksgiving together. ... Everything seemed fine."
But in the summer of 2008, Jovan informed Candy he was no longer speaking to his mother. He said it was because she'd badmouthed Candy, allegedly saying that Collier was too good for her. But that was a lie.