Nasty, Brutish & Short

« Previous · Home · Next »

Not exactly what you expect from the NYT's "Vows" Column

August 20, 2007 04:48 PM

I started out wanting to make fun of this, but I ended up rather impressed.  Here's the NYT profile on newlyweds Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd:

In 1987, Mr. Andrews was sentenced to life in prison for murdering a man on the troubled streets of West Baltimore, where Ms. Boyd, a former junkie, said she got high on heroin and exchanged sex for other drugs....

This is not, by the way, how the typical NYT "Vows" Column begins.

Their first conversation took place on Jan. 21, 1993. The connection had been set up by Edward Burns, a former Baltimore homicide detective whom Mr. Andrews had surrendered to in 1986, and David Simon, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who had written about Mr. Andrews’s criminal activities....

They had a hunch Mr. Andrews, who was turning his life around by earning a general equivalency diploma, taking college-level courses and studying the Bible, could influence the life of Ms. Boyd, who was still nodding out in the old neighborhood. They gave Mr. Andrews her phone number.

“From that very first call, I could hear in her voice that she wanted help,” said Mr. Andrews, who was in the Federal Correctional Institution in Phoenix. “She was looking for a way out.”

Mr. Andrews, also a former heroin user, understood her struggle and her pain. His first wife was murdered three years after he went to prison. He began calling Ms. Boyd frequently. Their conversations were sometimes “four and five hours long,” he said. After a $2,900 phone bill, limits were set on their calls. He used less expensive communication, too, sometimes writing three or four letters a week.

Okay, this is getting to be a nice story of redemption, but can we just pause a minute and ask why prison officials were allowing such excessive phone time in the first place?

“I was often in bad shape when I answered that phone, but no matter what I did or what I said, Donnie never criticized me,” Ms. Boyd said. “He just kept giving me reasons why I should be doing something else, saying that if he can change, I can change. Through the worst of times, I kept holding on to that.”

Indeed, there was little else that Ms. Boyd could hold on to for 28 grueling days later that year at the Baltimore Recovery Center. For six of those days she said she “lay on a cold, hard floor, all alone, just shaking and detoxing.” “On that sixth day, I got up and took a shower,” she said, “and that was that.”

Two years after they were introduced, their relationship turned a romantic corner, and the telephone soul mates decided to exchange photographs. When his landed in her mailbox, she pulled the photo from the envelope and peeked at it through her fingers. “I thought, ‘Dear Lord, please make this man be good looking,’ ” she said, laughing. “When I saw how nice looking he was, I just said, ‘Thank you, Jesus.’ ”

By now, Ms. Boyd had fallen hard for Mr. Andrews, but she was afraid to be in love with him.

“I didn’t want to be one of those woman in love with a guy in prison who was never coming home,” she said. “But I knew that Donnie really cared about me and that we were in this thing together, so letting him go was no longer an option.”

In the ensuing years, Ms. Boyd, guided by the steady influence of Mr. Andrews, began standing firmly on her own feet. She became a guardian for two nieces and a nephew, while providing for her own two sons. She began doing outreach work for drug addicts at New Hope Treatment Center in West Baltimore, a methadone clinic associated with Bon Secours Hospital. And she began visiting Mr. Andrews....

In April 2005, Ms. Boyd’s unwavering love and loyalty was rewarded with Mr. Andrews’s release after 17 and a half years of time served.

The roads that took Mr. Andrews from central booking to central casting, and Ms. Boyd from heroin to heroine, led to their wedding at the Forum, a Baltimore catering hall. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Baltimore, the church where Mr. Andrews is head of security and works doing anti-gang outreach programs.

“Love never fails,” Mr. Reid told the nearly 200 guests, “You see with all the tragedies of their lives that love brought them up.”

Awwwwwww!  It sounds like these two have completely turned their lives around.  Best wishes to the happy couple.


Inspiration from the strangest places, eh? Thanks for noting this one.

Jill   ·  August 20, 2007 07:10 PM

Post a comment

Potential comment conditions listed here. Oh, and you may use basic HTML for formatting.

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)