Why Are Women Marrying Murderers?

Tamara West's wedding ceremony was traditional in many ways. She and her groom were married by a preacher and the familiar "Wedding March" was played before they took their vows. But after the ceremony, the new Mrs. West left without her husband. Troy West is serving a life sentence for murder at the Louisiana State Penitentiary.

Tamara West admits it's not the ideal situation. "This is not a place that anyone wants to be married. But if you truly love someone it doesn't matter," she told "20/20's" Lynn Sherr.

And it doesn't seem to matter to hundreds of other women every year.

"20/20" once watched while Rosalie Martinez, who left a husband and four children behind, married a convicted serial killer by speakerphone just before he was sent to death row.

Today, more than a dozen Web sites connect prisoners with potential mates, through personal come-ons as enticing as any on Match.com.

Attempted armed robber Eric Vasquez is a Taurus, who says he knows how to treat a lady. And murderer William Paxton likes cooking, lifting weights and R&B.

Write-a-Prisoner.com gets 10,000 hits a day, according to the site's founder Adam Lovell.

And the inmates are finding a receptive audience. "On a daily basis, we do receive correspondence from inmates asking to have their ads removed because they found that special someone," Lovell said.

But apparently, no dating services are necessary for infamous prisoners like Scott Peterson, who is on death row at California's San Quentin State Prison.

"Ever since he arrived, he's received an inordinate amount of mail. I've actually have saw (sic) three proposals of marriage to Scott Peterson," said San Quentin Public Information Officer Vernell Crittendon.

Both Erik and Lyle Menendez, who murdered their parents, got married behind bars. Erik's wife, Tammi, spoke to "20/20's" Barbara Walters.

"I'm very much in love with him and he's very much in love with me, and it's just something very special that I never thought that I would ever have," Tammi Menendez told Walters in a 2002 interview.

But why would anyone marry a convicted killer? Forensic expert Janet Warren, who studies prison relationships, has a few explanations.

"You look at it, and you say, 'well this really works, in a certain kind of well, pathological way.' ... If you are involved emotionally with an individual who everybody knows about, who's notorious, you become something special through that relationship," Warren said.

Asha Bandele, poet, author and executive with a nonprofit foundation, begs to differ.

"We don't all look like the nut on Jerry Springer," she said.

At 39, Bandele has been married for 10 years to Zayd Rashid, who is serving 20 years to life for murder. She wrote a book about what she calls their love story in order to break down stereotypes about women who choose prisoners as husbands.

Bandele grew up a child of privilege in Manhattan, and was married and divorced as a young woman. She met Rashid when a college professor invited her class to read poetry to inmates, and said she felt something right away.

"I liked him immediately ... He was just very gentle, very soft-spoken, very humble," she said.

But how did she get past the fact that she was interested in a man who murdered someone? For Bandele, Rashid was more than just his criminal past.

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