Accused murderer and reformed skinhead Curtis Allgier called longtime friend Erika Herrera from a Utah jail this month and asked her to marry him.
"He just asked nonchalantly," Herrera said. "He said, 'I would get married again and you're the person I would want to marry. Would you marry me?' I was taken aback at first, and then I was like, 'Yea, why not?'"
Allgier, 31, is a maximum-security prisoner at Salt Lake County Metropolitan Jail who is accused of murdering corrections officer Stephen Anderson with his own gun in 2007, for which officials will pursue the death penalty.
His face is a mosaic of tattoos, including swastikas. On his chest is an inky version of Adolf Hitler. Both are physical reminders of his upbringing by a family of skinheads.
"He is a low-life," said Anderson's daughter, Michelle DeHaan, a stay-at-home mother of five in Mount Pleasant, Utah. "He has made terrible choices in his life and he's hurting other people because of his choices."
But to Herrera, Allgier is her soul mate: an old friend who shares her passion for tattoos and sends her "stacks upon stacks" of love letters from jail.
"I love him to death and he deserves nothing but the best," she said. "No matter where you are in life, homeless or what your situation may be, I do believe that you deserve to be happy."
They are set to marry inside the jail, where Allgier has been an inmate for four years. The wedding ceremony will take place Aug. 8, Herrera said, although the request is still being processed, according to the Salt Lake County Sherrif's Office.
Any ceremony will lack visitors, rings and even a kiss because the couple will be separated by a glass window, Lt. Mike Dinero said.
"It's just a legal ceremony, not a celebration," he said.
Herrera: 'He's a Million Percent Innocent'
Herrera, who is half-Hispanic and half-Hawaiian, said she met Allgier through mutual friends, pre-facial tattoos, in 1999. Ever since, the two have stayed in touch, supporting each other through abusive marriages and Allgier's previous engagement behind bars.
Herrera, 33, describes her fiance as a "kind, loving and caring" man who is "a million percent innocent" of the 2007 murder charges.
"There's other factors in the case," she said. "It could be self-defense. It could be a number of things that people don't know because we weren't there. I guess it will all come out in the case."
Herrera also believes that with her support, the former white supremacist has changed, agreeing to remove or cover up the offensive tattoos on his body.
"If he was so racist, he wouldn't be with someone with my background," she said. "He thinks [skinheads] are weak because they need someone to fall back onto. He is his own individual person.
Love Letters From an Accused Murderer
The physical loneliness hits her at night, said Herrera, who lives in California. But countless love letters, cards and drawings bridge the distance, drawing the couple closer emotionally, she said.
In a letter to his fiance, Allgier wrote, "You inspire, uplift, empower, encourage and perfect me. ... Nobody can even fathom, comprehend or understand the way that we are and the way that we are meant to be together."
Herrera said, "We could not know each other anymore than we already do. The best way to learn about somebody is to talk to them for years upon years because you learn about that person so much more."