Monique Stallworth, 33, first met her now-husband Arthur Alexander Mccall through a mutual friend last year and was not put off by the fact he was behind bars.
Monique – who is mum to Rodney, 13, and Malaysia, six, from a previous relationship – says she never expected to fall in love with Arthur.
But she couldn’t help developing feelings for him after he charmed her and showed his willingness to reform.
Arthur is serving a total of 60 years minimum at Kern Valley State Prison, California, after being convicted of first-degree murder.
The couple – who have been dating for 10 months – spent four months speaking on the phone before meeting in person for the first time during a prison visit in June 2019.
They officially became a couple and a month later, Arthur proposed after getting Monique to visit his grandmother’s house, where she was given a family heirloom ring.
They tied the knot in a ceremony in prison this year with Monique’s children, Arthur’s son, and the pair’s siblings in attendance in February 2020.
Monique donned a white wedding dress, with all attendees in smart shirts, although Arthur still had to wear his prison scrubs.
Monique, a nail technician, from Sacramento said: ‘As soon as I heard his voice, I instantly melted and had butterflies.
‘I only started speaking to him as I thought he might be lonely and could do with someone friendly checking in to see how he is getting on and what he’s been up to.
‘I’m good friends with Arthur’s half-sister, Shaundra, and I was at her house one day when he called her for a chat.
‘He heard me talking in the background and asked her to put me on the line – it just spiralled from there.’
Soon they started talking regularly and Sharon says she realised how ‘gentle’ Arthur is.
‘He doesn’t scare me, Arthur is a gentle giant. He is a changed man and is a very caring soul. He wouldn’t harm a fly now.
‘We are perfect together. I’m so proud to call him my husband.’
Arthur may be put forward to the parole board in one to four years – so he could be released earlier meaning he and Monique can be together in real life.
At first, when Arthur and Monique started talking, his sister Shaundra wasn’t too happy.
Monique added: ‘I was there when Arthur called his sister again and he asked to speak to me – only this time he was asking if he could call and write and at first, I just wasn’t interested, I turned him down.
‘His sister explained to him how it was disrespectful for him to keep trying to flirt with me.
‘Arthur eventually apologised to me during our third phone call and bought me flowers to make it up to me.
‘He asked if he could put money on my phone so he could call and if he could write me a letter.
‘I accepted and told him he has to send a letter to his sister’s house first.’
Arthur and Monique soon struck up a relationship – phoning each other several times a day as they bonded over their love of family and religion.
They wrote up to five letters a week to each other and Monique would top up Arthur’s prison phone allowance so the pair could talk as much as possible.
‘I couldn’t wait to talk to him and to receive letters. I wanted to do cartwheels every time I got a letter. I still do,’ she said.
Monique has introduced both of her children to Arthur, who have accepted him into the family, and they often come to visit him alongside their mum.
‘It had been months of getting to know one another emotionally, spiritually, mentally and sexually through letters and phone calls,’ Monique added.
‘Before he proposed, we started calling each other husband and wife, it just felt right.
‘In July 2019, he called me in a frantic state and told me to go to his grandmother’s house – who I hadn’t met.
‘I arranged to go over there and when I got there, to my surprise, he spoke with his grandma about wanting to marry me and how he feels bad that he couldn’t buy me a right ring at the moment.
‘His grandmother instructed him to have me come over and when I did, she presented me with a beautiful 14k gold ring that she had owned for some time but couldn’t fit it anymore.’
Monique was brought to tears by the gesture, and instantly decided she wanted to marry Arthur in any form of ceremony that they could.
She even had his initials tattooed on her ring finger during the wait to set a wedding date.
After months of waiting, the pair were granted a wedding ceremony by the prison.
Monique said: ‘It just felt right, even though it couldn’t be in a church ceremony like I had always dreamed of. We had red heart balloons behind us, and looking into Arthur’s eyes, I couldn’t have been happier.
‘My children were there too, and we took plenty of photos.’
She continued: ‘With me coming into Arthur’s life, he expressed that I gave him hope, love, security, a family and purpose. Now, he has an improved outlook on life and its purpose.
‘He’s more focused on doing all the right things while incarcerated – getting his college degree, attending groups, writing a book, our marriage, starting a family, and living happily ever after.
‘The challenge we face is him being in prison altogether. But with each other’s love, comfort and support, we will make it through on top.’