Dangerous Romance: A Cautionary Tale about Long-Distance Love Affairs
Tom (not his real name) a reader of Filipina Images sent me this email and thought I might find use for the article. I have met Tim once in a forum . Names have been changed. The purpose is really to prevent others from experiencing this ….Tim adds “This guy and everyone like him need to be stopped, and need to be made examples of so that other ill-intentioned men realize they’ll be found out. We’re both furious about this; Ellen (not the real name of Tom’s wife) for reasons I’m sure you can relate to better than I can explain them, and me because as a man, as an American, and out of general respect to women I can’t abide this sort of person, nor am I going to put up with someone — especially someone of this caliber — disrespecting my marriage, my wife, and trying to break up our home.
I realize it’s a long story, but I had to make sure I told it completely and accurately. Maybe you can find a use for it on the Filipina Images page? That was my first thought, but you may do with it whatever seems best. If it can help someone avoid trouble and a needlessly broken heart.
Here is Tom’s story
“Dennis was really my first boyfriend,” Ellen1 explains, gently touching a thick stack of letters she has brought to the interview. “For a long time I never really admitted that to anyone, but it’s true. How could I not be in love with him? I was young. And his letters were so romantic.”
“Yours were mushy,” Tom, Ellen’s American husband of six years, says playfully, earning a rap on the shoulder from his wife. “What?” Tom says, feigning injury. “I always thought it was a cute story.” He stops and thinks for a moment, then adds, “At least until lately.”
“Dennis” was Ellen’s pen pal, whom she met in 1988 after signing up for a friend-matching service advertised in a magazine. Fresh out of high school, the young college student from Mindanao was “swept off her feet” by the older, debonair man from Utah showering her with long letters filled with charming prose and romantic poems. “At first I didn’t know he was in prison,” Ellen recalls, “And sure, I guess I was a little shocked when he finally confided in me and told me the truth. But he was such a good writer, and very proper, too – never talked about sex stuff or anything like that. A gentleman, you know. And good-looking, too. So when he explained what happened, I believed him. Everybody makes mistakes, and I thought, well, that’s all it is, and he’s actually a good person.”
According to Dennis, he had run afoul of the law in Utah because of a love affair. He had been seeing a woman who had an abusive marriage, and they had planned to run away together. But on the day of their romantic escape, she had second thoughts and fled the house; in desperation, Dennis had jumped in the nearest available vehicle – which belonged to the woman’s husband – and chased after her, but soon crashed into a tree and was arrested. The problem, he said, was that the scorned husband was a policeman, and had arranged to have Dennis charged with all manner of crimes and sentenced to a lengthy prison term out of spite. It was, he explained, “a crime of passion.”
Ellen’s long-distance romance blossomed for several years, with Dennis occasionally sending gifts and small amounts of money. “I was so naive,” she laughs. “He sent me a check once for ten dollars. I had no idea what a check was then, so I sent it back.” The relationship went so far that Dennis even proposed marriage. “He told me he’d buy a ring and send it to me, and I could just wear it,” Ellen recalls. “But I kind of hesitated. I didn’t want to get married, and besides, he was still in prison….” Several times, Dennis had promised he’d be released soon; he was appealing his sentence, and there was a chance of parole. But nothing happened, and Dennis remained behind bars in America. “I just drifted away,” Ellen explains. “It was around 1995 when I last heard from him or wrote to him. I had a real boyfriend here by then, I had my job, and well, life goes on I guess.”
Tom and Ellen met in 2004, and were married later the same year. “We have our problems sometimes, but we tell each other everything,” Tom says. “When Ellen told me about Dennis, I think she thought I’d be jealous, but I wasn’t. I mean, everyone’s got a past, right? So when she got curious one day [sometime in 2007, as Ellen remembers it] and decided to see if she could locate him, I thought sure, why not? I’ve done the same thing. We have fun telling each other all the stories about ourselves; I’ve met one of her old boyfriends, actually get along really well with the guy, and Ellen’s even talked to my ex-wife on the phone. So it was all just harmless curiosity as far as I was concerned.” After some research through the Internet, Ellen located Dennis through the help of VINElink, a crime victims’ information and notification network in the US. Dennis was still in the Utah State Prison, but was due to be paroled to a community treatment facility soon.
“I had to explain to the VINElink that I really wasn’t his victim,” Ellen says, “But they were very helpful anyway, and signed me up to receive notifications of Dennis’ whereabouts.” Initially, she says, she was not inclined to contact him. “So much time had passed, and I’m married now with my own life and family,” Ellen explains. “I was happy to have found him, and to learn that he was doing okay, but that was as far as it went then.” Through VINElink, Ellen was informed when Dennis was released to a halfway house, and then later when he was paroled into the community. “Finally I wrote him a postcard sometime in 2008,” Ellen says. “He didn’t answer right away. A couple months later, I finally got an e-mail from him, which I was happy about. We e-mailed back and forth a few times, nothing serious, just catching up with what was going on, not even talking about the past. It all seemed pretty normal, really.”
Tom rolls his eyes in mock exasperation. “I teased her about it,” he chuckles. “Of course it didn’t bother me, but it was kind of amusing. She was happy to have reconnected with an old friend, and I was happy for her sake. But then things started to get really out of hand.” The trouble began in early June, when Dennis located Ellen’s Facebook profile and invited her as a friend.
“We started chatting online,” Ellen explains, “And right away he starts courting me. And I just let myself get carried away, too, but honestly, he was affecting me. We chatted for something like 14 hours the first night, and then for hours and hours every day for a week or more.”
“At first it was okay, but it went entirely too far,” Tom adds. “I got angry, and we got into an argument about it. Here’s a guy who is doing his best to actually steal my wife, and what’s worse, she’s actually falling for it. Not a good situation.”
“I admit it: I was having some thoughts,” Ellen says. “But Dennis was really coming on strong, and I was just starting to feel a little suffocated. I tried telling him, ‘maybe you should calm down, and we should just be friends right now,’ but he was so persistent. Then Tom found the website.”
The website Tom found is called SONAR – Sex and Kidnapper Offender Notification And Registration. “We were having a heated argument about this clown, and she makes some comment about he was an okay guy –” Tom begins to explain.
“I said, ‘If I really thought about it, he was a romantic guy that could give me a good life.’” Ellen finishes. “And you said, ‘A guy on the sex offender list with two counts of aggravated sexual assault could give you a good life?’ and then you showed me the website.”
“Right,” Tom agrees.
“I was shocked,” Ellen adds.
“Needless to say, that spell was broken,” Tom says, a little smugly. Ellen confronted Dennis online and demanded an explanation, pointing out that the story she had been led to believe did not reflect what Dennis’ public record said. Dennis replied with the following e-mail:
I have an Anxiety Disorder
It is why I have a Veteran Pension
We never get to talk about that part of my life
I feel pressured, and so I can’t sleep
I have to mail you my side.
Please stop this, do not dig anymore
if you continue to worry about this it is going to destroy our relationship
I need to be able to put the past behind me in my own way, and bring it into the open my own way.
Please care enough about me to leave this alone.
Viki and I knew each other
She was in a bad marriage, but felt trapped
I was in a bad relationship (after divorce), also trapped
Occasionally we would meet and talk and comfort each other
My failed marriage drove me to that weak state of mind I had.
One day Vikki called me to meet her at the carwash
We took her car to a remote place
We comforted each other
Details of what we did together are private and I will not describe them
When we started to leave, the car was stuck in the mud.
A towtruck would have to go pull her out.
She could not explain to husband what she was doing in that remote place
We thought fast and made up a bad idea story that she had been kidnapped.
Everything went wrong.
I was not thinking clearly then and now I pay for the rest of my life
I cannot explain why I was stupid then, only that I was stupid
The charges and counts do not matter
that is my concern and I will handle it by myself later.
Accept this or don’t accept, but please stop making me remember it all the time.
It is hurting me more than you can imagine.
If you continue to burden me with the remembering, it will hurt our relationship too.
My mistake with her costed me half of my life.
I do not want it to also cost me the rest of my life.
While Ellen dealt with Dennis, Tom continued his online investigation and discovered that Dennis had been charged and subsequently convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping, one count of aggravated robbery, and an additional count of kidnapping in the incident, in which he kidnapped “Vikki” and her 18-month old son, drove them to a remote area, and then bound, sodomized, and robbed the woman. Sentenced to a minimum of 20 years in prison, at a parole hearing in 1988 Dennis was declared a danger to society and told he would not be considered for early release until 2006.
Ellen has since cut off any further contact from Dennis, and has even had to cancel her Facebook account and change e-mail addresses to ensure her safety. “I don’t think I have to really worry about it,” she says. “I mean, now we know the real story, and he knows we know, and he’s far away. So he’s not really a threat, but… He really used my emotions, and for how long? He tried to break up my marriage, for God’s sake.”
“The worst thing is, he’s all over Facebook and God knows where else on the Internet, chatting with women here, and I guarantee none of them have a clue about this guy,” Tom adds. “What was it he told you about that other gal he corresponds with, what’s her name?”
“Gina,” Ellen answers. “Oh, he said that since I wouldn’t accept him ‘I guess Gina is my best option to come here and get married.’ Can you believe that?”
“And she has a teenage daughter, too, doesn’t she?” Tom says. “That’s scary. And the sad thing is, when Ellen tried to contact her [Gina] to warn her, she just took it wrong and thought Ellen was just making trouble to steal her ‘boyfriend’ away.”
Ellen and Tom shared some final tips for ladies looking for long-distance love. “I know there are a lot of women who get into these kinds of relationships, and I can understand that,” Ellen says. “I did the same thing, once…”
“That’s how we met,” Tom interrupts. “Although we tell everyone we met at the airport.”
“…Whatever,” Ellen laughs. “Seriously, though, you can’t let your emotions get in the way of your good sense. The Internet makes it easy these days, you can check up on people you meet. It might sound cold-blooded, but you have to look out for yourself.”
What are some danger signals?
“Well, for one thing, no man is going to be professing his undying love and proposing marriage within a few days of meeting you,” Tom replies. “If he does, he’s got other motives besides meeting a friend or a mate. What he will do pretty quickly, however – if he’s having serious thoughts about you – is tell you everything he thinks you won’t like about him.”
“Maybe not everything,” Ellen says.
“Well, maybe not all at once,” Tom agrees. “But he will be making an obvious effort to be open. You can tell, because he won’t make excuses. Like this Dennis guy did: ‘Oh, I have anxiety disorder,’ or ‘I was in a bad relationship.’ As a matter of fact, that right there is a huge warning signal that a guy is maybe not relating well to women: the bad relationship thing. No guy that wants to meet someone wants to give a gal the idea that he has ‘bad relationships.’”
“There are a lot of good guys out there,” Ellen adds, giving Tom’s hand a squeeze, “And even though you might feel kind of sneaky, the ones who are will actually be kind of flattered.”
“That’s true, too,” Tom agrees. “Bottom line is: if something doesn’t seem right, don’t ignore it. Risking a little bit of misunderstanding or wounded feelings is a tiny price to pay, compared to what might happen if you’re not careful.”