This 28-year-old woman is engaged to a prison inmate whom she’s never met – and he won’t be released until 2032.
Social work graduate Kelly Jacobs has been writing to James ‘Wyatt’ Dentel in his cell in Oregon where he is serving 20 years for shooting four men – since 2019.
After many letters, emails and instant message conversations their pen pal relationship developed into a romance.
Wyatt, 32, has had several tattoos of Kelly – who lives 5,000 miles away in the Netherlands – inked on his body including a ‘K’ on his ring finger, while Kelly had the letter ‘W’ tattooed on hers.
Beating the odds: A 28-year-old woman has revealed how she fell for a prisoner after meeting him through an inmate pen pal program, then bonding over video chat
Star-crossed lovers? Kelly Jacobs, from the Netherlands, began writing to James ‘Wyatt’ Dentel in 2019. He is currently serving a 20-year sentence in an Oregon jail for shooting four men
Surprise! Wyatt popped the question over video call from inside his jail, proposing to Kelly with a ‘prison-made ring’
He proposed via video call and they plan to marry inside his prison in October of this year – over a decade before his release date.
‘He proposed with a prison-made ring, but then he had someone in the free world order a ring at a jeweler for me,’ said Kelly, who is hoping to work in psychiatry now she has graduated.
‘For the wedding I won’t wear a traditional, fancy dress, because people don’t do that for prison weddings.
‘I will probably just wear a simple white dress or white trousers or a white skirt and top.’
Remarkably Kelly’s parents have given their blessing to the relationship and the couple plan to live together and have children when Wyatt is released.
He is serving a 20 year sentence at the Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon for assault, and unlawful use of a firearm during a bar brawl in 2012.
Kelly explained: ‘He was with a girlfriend, they were at a bar and they got attacked by five strangers, he tried to protect himself and his girlfriend, he pulled a gun and shot four of them, but none of them died.’
The couple have never been in the same room, and even after they are married they will not be able to have conjugal visits, because that is not permitted in the state of Oregon.
‘Of course it is difficult,’ said Kelly.
‘He is worried that I won’t pick up the phone eventually, or that I won’t wait for him.
‘He asks me how I feel about not having sex for such a long time, he worries how I would react if someone else flirts with me.
Forever: Wyatt, 32, has had several tattoos of Kelly inked on his body including a ‘K’ on his ring finger, while Kelly had the letter ‘W’ tattooed on hers
Meaningful: After proposing with a prison-made ring, Wyatt arranged for a jeweler outside of the jail to design a real piece for Kelly
Communication: The couple speak regularly over video chat, but Kelly says Wyatt still worries that she will grow tired of waiting for him
‘But he says he’s quite confident that I will wait, because I’m not the kind of person who goes to parties or leads a crazy life.
‘If I found out that he was writing to other women that would end things for me. For me, creating a bond with someone else is also cheating.
‘I sometimes wonder if there won’t be physical chemistry when we meet in person for the first time, but I’m not worried too much.
Together: Kelly has taken several steps to feel closer to her fiancee, even holding her hand up against an outline of his handprint
‘When COVID is over I plan to move closer to his prison so that I can visit him as much as possible.
‘I had just bought my first ticket to visit him before the pandemic struck, but I had to cancel it because of the travel restrictions.’
Kelly, who began writing with Wyatt out of curiosity, had never expected to find love with a convict.
‘I used to be an intern at a correctional facility, so I wanted to know more about what it’s like to be an inmate, how they feel, what they think.’
At the end of 2019 she joined writeaprisoner.com and chose Wyatt to correspond with.
‘I wasn’t picky, I just chose someone who looked friendly.
‘After a while we started calling and having video calls and using direct messenger, we would message each other for hours every day.’
As their correspondence continued, they began to fall in love.
She said: ‘I was scared at the beginning, I didn’t want it to go that way and I tried to fight it, but it was a torturing feeling honestly.
‘But I feel like we can talk about pretty much anything, the smallest random things and more deep things, our lives are very different, so we learn a lot from each other.
Fears: ‘He asks me how I feel about not having sex for such a long time, he worries how I would react if someone else flirts with me,’ Kelly confessed
Meant to be? Kelly has had drawings made of her and Wyatt, which show what the couple might look like together when they are finally able to meet
Looking ahead: The couple are planning to marry inside his prison in October of this year – over a decade before his release date
‘We share a lot of the same preferences in food, we both love Italian and Mexican food.
‘And we share a lot of music that we listen to, we listen to it together, we send each other messages with songs and we even have a little song together, Sure Thing by Miguel. We both love Game of Thrones.
‘After a growing of feelings for each other, he admitted it to me first, he was very nervous about it, I could tell, but I said I felt the same.
‘We talked about it a lot, he described all the negative aspects of being in a relationship with a prisoner, but I said I wanted to give it a try.
‘My parents were really shocked at first but once they had spoken to him online a few times they really grew to like him.
‘They always thought that inmates were aggressive and rude, like on TV, but they now see that he is soft and warm and he has good manners. He is polite, kind and funny.’
Before Wyatt proposed he sought permission from Kelly’s father.
‘He wrote my dad a letter and my dad gave his blessing. My dad is going to come with me to the wedding,’ said Kelly.
‘My family and friends have mostly been really supportive of our relationship, I am lucky.
‘My older brother is more skeptical about it, he’s very protective of me. But he hasn’t spoken to Wyatt yet, I think once they have a chance to meet then things will be different.’
Messages: As well as their video chats, the couple correspond via mail and have exchanged dozens of letters in the two years since they became pen pals
Kelly, who lives in Heerlen in the Netherlands, will be approaching 40 by the time Wyatt is released and he will be around 44, but the pair plan to start a family as soon as they can.
‘I never wanted to get married or have children before I met him, but now I do,’ she said.
‘He’s a little worried about being an older father, but my dad was around his age when he had my brother, so it’s all possible.’
Although Kelly has received some backlash online about her unusual love affair she says much of the feedback has been positive.
‘I have received negativity online about it, people say things like, ‘how could you be with a criminal? He’ll get out and then murder you.’
‘I will never condone that what Wyatt did.
‘Even though it was an act of self defense, it is never okay to do what he did. Though I sometimes question what I would do in the situation he was in.
‘Still, he chose the wrong path of life, that led him to his prison sentence.
‘But I do not judge him as a person for his past. Being a man in prison doesn’t always make someone a bad person. Just like being a free man doesn’t always make him a good one.’