17 years in prison have passed, but a lifetime of love awaits

At the age of 17, Kellie was convicted for her involvement in a heinous murder. She was only a senior in high school, and she had to accept the fact that her life would never be the same.

For the next 17 years, Kellie fought for her life within the prison system. She endured physical, mental and sexual abuse throughout her sentence, and sometimes didn’t wish to see the next day. On several occasions, when her freedom seemed too far from reality, she attempted suicide.

Kellie’s destiny was not to die within the prison walls, and that rang true in 2015, when she was released. She explained that she was shocked she made it out alive.

“When I was released, I was overcome with disbelief. I had served 17 years, and I was still alive. I didn’t think I would have survived prison, but I did. When I accepted the fact that my life had finally started, I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know how to live on my own, use a credit card, write a check, use the Internet or a cell phone, and all the  social media sites. It was overwhelming.”

Kellie moved back home with her parents, excited to truly start living. She got a job, learned the importance of good credit, and joined all the popular social media sites. Being the artist that she is, she was initially drawn to Instagram — here is a site that was based around photos, the perfect places to finally show the world her art.

The art pieces she was posting and emotional quotes she was writing immediately caught the eye of DC. He was drawn to her and knew he had to take a shot.

“I kept being drawn to her page. Kellie was so incredibly artistic and was posting just profound, emotional statements. I knew she was something special from the very beginning. I sent her a very simple message with my phone number. I asked her to give me a call, and I was lucky enough to receive a call.”

Kellie and DC talked for hours on the phone. They talked until the late evening, and then into the early morning. They talked about anything and everything. Countless times, their conversations were cut short by their alarms in the background, “waking” them for work. They had an immediate connection, and because of that, Kellie knew she needed to be honest with DC.

“When you have a past like mine, you can’t hide it. When you do try to hide it or you just don’t bring it up, it can really make people mad. Because of that, I really try to be honest in everything that I do. I was honest with DC, and I let him ask me any questions that he had. I didn’t want to be defined by the horrible decisions I made when I was a teenager, and the only way to do that is to be open and honest about where I’ve been and what I’ve done.”

Kellie and DC discussed her past, spent time talking about it, and moved on. DC was open to what Kellie had to say and wanted to move forward with the special connection they had.

They continued their friendship into the holiday season. Kellie’s family traveled from near and far to celebrate her first holiday of freedom.

In the chaos of the family reunion, Kellie was able to convince  her father to get a tattoo to commemorate the passing of her big brother, Chris. When Kellie was 12, Chris tragically died from an AIDS-related brain tumor. Kellie and her father broke away from the full house and went to get the red AIDS ribbon tattooed on their arms. After returning home with their fresh ink, Kellie received a text from DC.

“He wanted me to come over and hang out, but I told him I was just going to hang out with my family. Well, my house started to get a little overwhelming — you have to remember, I wasn’t use to all this attention and all the hugging. For 17 years, I was in a no-touch facility, so it was kind of hard to get touched by everyone. I love my family more than life, but I needed a little breather. I texted DC for his friend’s address, and I ended up joining them for their game night.”

Game night went wonderfully and ended with a date scheduled for the next day. Their first date included a casual dinner followed by a wonderful evening surrounded by the light of the local botanical garden. It went perfectly, and DC just couldn’t get enough of Kellie, so he invited her out the next evening, New Year’s Eve. It would be Kellie’s first New Year’s since prison, and she knew she wanted to spend it with DC.

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The next day, before the date, Kellie chose to go for a casual run. The afternoon took a dark turn when Kellie tripped and broke her femur. DC definitely thought that Kellie was blowing him off, trying to get out of their New Year’s Eve date.

“I thought she was just trying to get out of the date, but then I realized that she really had broken her leg. I texted her the entire time, and I told her to call me if she still wanted to go out. She ended up calling me, and I went to pick her up. Her leg was in an immobilizer, but I managed to carry her to my car, and I just carried her the rest of the night.  It was a funny sight, but the night was perfect.”

They continued to date for the next year, and on their one-year anniversary, DC knew he needed to pop the question. Being the hopeless romantic that he is, he scheduled a private helicopter ride for the evening of their anniversary. He made a special point to have the pilot hover over the botanical gardens. While they reminisced about their first date, DC asked Kellie to marry him. She was completely blindsided, but of course she said yes.

Their love has continued to grow ever since their romantic proposal, but it hasn’t been an easy journey. Kellie explained that although she has found the love of her life, she still has to fight for her place in society.

“It’s not easy to live with the stigma that I carry around. I can’t be any more sorry for what happened when I was 17; no one can punish myself more that I have. I can’t take it back, but I wish I could. Because of what I did, I can’t find a decent job now that I’m free. I received multiple college degrees in prison, but it really hasn’t helped me to find solid employment. Because I can’t find a job, DC has to work even harder. It’s not fair for him to have to pay for my past, but he does.”

Kellie feels an enormous amount of guilt for her past and her present, but DC doesn’t mind helping her carry that burden.

“Jesus forgives; He was a man of forgiveness. If you put hate out into the world, hate will grow. If you put love out into the world, love will grow.”

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Kaitlyn Winey About the author:
Kaitlyn Winey is an associate videographer/editor for Rare. Follow her on Twitter @TheWineyWrapUp.
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