Brit engaged to sick killer says she ‘doesn’t frighten easily’ and declares love

A Brit who plans to marry an American killer serving a life sentence says she "understands the risks".

Tracy Bottomley, 42, has fallen head over heels for imprisoned killer Ernest Otto Smith, 53.

He is serving life without parole after he brutally murdered a man and woman 15 years ago, Manchester Evening News reports.

Smith robbed, shot and killed James Dillingham in Toledo, Ohio, on January 2, 2005.

He was accompanied by Cathy Barnett, who he murdered whilst on the run in Kentucky on January 7 of the same year, after fearing she would report him to the police.

Smith tried to break Ms Barnett's neck before he beat her to death with a tree branch and went on the run until police arrested him.

He was convicted for the murder of James Dillingham in March 2006 and sentenced to 32 years in prison.

Then, after confiding in his parole officer about Cathy Barnett's murder, Smith pleaded guilty to the crime in court in March 2016 and was handed a life sentence.

But Tracy, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, has told a podcast that she has accepted his proposal of marriage – and isn't scared of marrying a confessed double murderer.

"Ernest doesn't scare me – I've never been someone who gets frightened easily," she said.

"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.

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"As time went along, we started getting close and trusting each other more to feel secure."

Smith, who is serving his life sentence in Ohio State Penitentiary in Youngstown, Ohio, proposed to divorced Tracy on a voicemail from prison, and they plan to get married before the year is out.

He said in his phone proposal: "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?"

Unemployed Tracy started talking to Smith after seeing an advert for him on a prison pen pal Facebook page back in 2018.

She and Smith soon struck up a friendship, emailing each other three times a day as they bonded over the bad experiences they'd both endured when they were younger.

Chatting over the phone, their relationship blossomed as they confided in each other.

In May 2019, the pair confessed they had developed feelings for each other and got engaged.

Tracy says Smith's crimes were influenced by his troubled childhood, which led to him using drugs to combat depression and anxiety.

"He got me in touch with a few members of his family," she said.

"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.

"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."

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