A loved up Brit says you ‘can’t help who you fall in love with’ after falling head over heels for an American killer.
Tracy Bottomley, 42, is planning to marry Ernest Otto Smith, 53, who is serving life in prison after committing two murders within a week.
The divorcee, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, admits her future husband has ‘committed a few murders’ but says she ‘understands the risks’ after accepting Smith’s marriage proposal.
The US serial killer robbed, shot and killed James Dillingham in Toledo, Ohio, on January 2, 2005, Manchester Evening News reports.
Five days later, he brutally murdered his companion Cathy Barnett while on the run in Kentucky for fear she would report him to the police.
The crazed fugitive tried to break her neck before beating her to death with a tree branch and he was later arrested.
Smith was convicted for the murder of Mr Dillingham in March 2006 and sentenced to 32 years in prison.
Ten years later, after confiding in his parole officer about Ms Barnett’s murder, Smith admitted the crime in court in March 2016 and was handed a life sentence.
But Tracy said she isn’t scared of marrying a confessed double murderer.
Speaking to Real Fix podcast, she said: “Ernest doesn’t scare me. I’ve never been someone who gets frightened easily.
“Yes he is a serial killer. He’s committed a few murders, but I understand the risks of what could happen and I still love him.
“At first I had slight intuition that these things could happen to me. He’s killed these other people.
“As time went along, we started getting close and trusting each other more to feel secure.”
Smith, who is serving life in prison at Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, proposed to Tracy on a voicemail from prison and they plan to get married this year.
In his phone proposal, Smith said: “Please you have got to figure out a way for me to marry you.
“It’s hard. You make me a very a happy person, more happy than I have been in years.
“You’re crazy just like me so we should be married. What do you think?”
Tracy, who is unemployed, started talking to Smith after seeing an advert for him on a prison pen pal Facebook page back in 2018.
The pair soon struck up a friendship and emailing one another three times a day as they bonded over bad experiences they both endured years ago.
Speaking over the phone, their relationship blossomed as they confided in each other.
In May 2019, the pair confessed their feelings for one another and Smith popped the question.
Tracy said: “I’m still in shock that Ernest proposed. I didn’t see it coming at all, but I love him so obviously I said ‘yes.’
“You can’t help who you fall in love with no matter what the circumstances. Just because it’s a situation like that, it doesn’t mean you are deluded.”
Tracy says Smith’s crimes were influenced by his troubled childhood, which led to him using drugs to combat depression and anxiety.
She added: “He got me in touch with a few members of his family.
“They were explaining that deep down he did have problems in his past but he’s never literally gone out of his way to hurt somebody.
“I connected to his problems and I was interested in finding out more about what he’d been through.
Tracy shared her story with the team at the Real Fix podcast where people tell personal and extraordinary stories in their own words.