true crime

'A warm, kind, patient man': The women who fell in love with murderers.

“Warm, kind, patient.” Those were the words Carole Ann Boone uttered in a Florida courtroom, when probed about her partner, Theodore, in 1980.

This man, whom she’d been dating for several years, is better known to the world as Ted Bundy, America’s deadliest serial killer.

Though he later confessed to murdering 30 women, back then Boone was wholly convinced her “warm, kind, patient” man was innocent, and the pair even wed in that Florida courtroom after Bundy discovered a loophole that a marriage declaration in the presence of a judge was legally binding. A stunned jury watched on as they exchanged vows, the same jury that hours later recommended Bundy be executed for murder.

Boone is not the only person to have fallen for a monster. Several murderers, serial killers and violent felons have begun relationships after their crimes became public. Among them, some of the world’s most notorious criminals.

Charles Manson and Elaine ‘Star’ Burton.

Images: Getty and CNN

More than four decades after he was jailed for the killings of actor Sharon Tate and eight others, Charles Manson, then 80, became engaged to a 26-year-old woman named Elaine Burton. The couple reportedly struck up a relationship after years of correspondence, which began when Burton was just 17. According to Rolling Stone, Burton had written to the cult leader after a friend introduced her to some of his environmental writing.

"People can think I’m crazy,” she said. “But they don’t know. This is what’s right for me. This is what I was born for.”

In 2014, the couple obtained a marriage license, but it was never filed. Manson died in 2018.

Richard Ramirez and Doreen Lioy

Images: Getty and KRON4
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In 1996, a woman named Doreen Lioy married the 'Night Stalker' Richard Ramirez, an American serial killer who was behind bars for murdering 12 people. Lioy first saw Ramirez's face on television the day before his arrest in August 1985, when a soap opera she was watching was interrupted with a news bulletin about the police search.

"They showed his mug shot in the middle of Dallas, and I saw something in his eyes. Something that captivated me," she later told the Los Angeles Times.

Ramirez died in 2013, at the age of 53.

And countless more...

The Menendez brothers, who were convicted in 1994 of murdering their parents, both got married in jail. As did the "Hillside Stranglers", who claimed 10 lives in the US in the late 1970s.

Even Josepf Friztl, the Austrian rapist who held his daughter captive in a cellar for 24 years, reportedly received hundreds of love letters after his arrest in 2008. Like Boone, Burton and Lioy, some of Fritzl's fans believed him to be either innocent or simply misunderstood, according to The Daily Mail.

But there are others for whom the criminal's guilt is at the very centre of their infatuation. There are blogs, websites, social media pages and forums in which they declare their devotion to these men.

Why women fall in love with murderers.

In some cases, women who are attracted to these monsters are diagnosed with something called Hybristophilia, a psychological disorder more commonly referred to as 'Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome'. This means their sexual arousal is contingent on the knowledge that a partner has committed a crime.

As one self-identifying hybristophile told Broadly about her attraction for notoriously violent British armed robber Charles Bronson, "I imagine him as a pretty primal man, and that's a huge kicker for me: erasing the social standards and people being stripped of their polite, groomed ways. [Men who commit violent crimes] give in to the animal, uninhibited selves, and I love the rawness of that."

There is no comprehensive research to show how common Hybristophilia cases are, but experts suggest the phenomenon is rare.

Forensic psychologist Dr Katherine Ramsland also noted in Psychology Today that the motivation isn't always sexual, that women fall for killers for a number of different reasons.

"Some believe they can change a man as cruel and powerful as a serial killer," she wrote. "Others 'see' the little boy that the killer once was and seek to nurture him. A few hoped to share in the media spotlight or get a book or movie deal."

What they all have in common, she argued, is a fierce sense of protection over the relationship.

Shiela Isenberg, author of Women Who Love Men Who Kill, developed another view while researching her book. Speaking to CNN, she explained that of the three dozen women she interviewed, almost all came from abusive backgrounds.

"I came up with a theory that if you are in a relationship with a man who is behind bars for life or on death row, he can't hurt you," she said. "You are in the driver's seat and in control for maybe the first time in your life."

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