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I fell in love with a convicted murderer who was sentenced to 100 years in prison after seeing him on TV – our first date was a prison rodeo

When Carla Ferreira's mother first spoke to her new boyfriend, she was shocked to learn that he was a convicted murderer.

But there was another surprise in the same phone call: Joseph Ward asked for her daughter's hand in marriage – while he was serving a 100-year prison sentence.

Carla fell in love with convicted murderer Joseph Ward after meeting on a rodeo datePhoto credit: HotSpot Media
The 26-year-old now wants to marry her prison lover after he proposed to her during a prison visitPhoto credit: HotSpot Media
He was imprisoned for aggravated robbery, kidnapping and manslaughter for a crime he committed when he was 17 years old.Photo credit: HotSpot Media

The couple had only been in a relationship for three months – after having their first date at a rodeo within the walls of a Louisiana prison.

Ward, now 41, was sentenced to 100 years in prison in October 2000 for aggravated robbery, kidnapping and manslaughter after a woman was shot and killed in Louisiana.

He only escaped the death penalty because he made a deal.

Despite his dark past, 26-year-old Carla from Tennessee fell in love with Ward after watching a prison documentary about him.

Now the unconventional couple, who have an age difference of 15 years, are planning to get married in a ceremony in prison.

Carla says: “Most people are shocked when they find out I'm dating a convicted criminal, but I see him differently. He's really loving and has such a kind nature.

“He truly regrets his past actions and has had plenty of time to repent and turn his life around. I believe everyone deserves a second chance.”

'Soulmate'

In September 2023, Carla saw inmate Ward in a documentary about life in prison. He worked as a horse trainer, a job awarded to prisoners with exceptional behavior.

She says: “He was only 17 at the time of his crime, so very young. I felt sorry for him, so I decided to contact him and write him an email.”

The two started talking and immediately understood each other.

Carla claims she has always been interested in older men – her ex was 20 years older than herPhoto credit: HotSpot Media
Carla believes her lover is remorseful and is working hard to turn his life aroundPhoto credit: HotSpot Media

I spent £60,000 on my husband when he was in prison – people say he's using me but I know it's true love

Within a week, Ward confessed to Carla that she was his “soul mate” and declared his love for her.

Twice divorced Carla says she has always been attracted to older men.

Her last relationship was with a man 20 years older than her, so the 15 years between her and Ward didn't bother her.

He truly regrets his past actions and has had plenty of time to repent and turn his life around. I believe everyone deserves a second chance.

Carla Ferreira

The following month, they met for the first time at a rodeo event at a public prison stadium in Louisiana.

Carla says: “Joseph hugged me and introduced me as his girlfriend to his sister and mother who were visiting. He even told some of the security guards. It felt completely natural and we kissed all day long.”

But there was one thing Carla really wanted to know: the story behind Ward’s conviction.

Eventually, Ward told her that when he was 17, while high on drugs, he and his friend Robert Smith kidnapped and killed Smith's 24-year-old sister, Christy.

Although Ward claimed during the trial that he shot Christy, Carla says he now insists he did not pull the trigger.

Ward faced the death penalty, but accepted a manslaughter plea deal and was sentenced to 100 years in prison.

According to Carla, he has served 25 years of his sentence and has worked hard to turn his life around.

Carla says: “He regrets his actions every day and wishes he had never been there. But he had a hard childhood and was abused himself. He will carry guilt forever.”

After their first date, the two continued to talk on the phone every day.

And in December last year, Carla visited her 58-year-old mother to confess that the man she was with was a convicted criminal.

She recalls: “I gave Mom my phone and told her that Joseph was on the other end and wanted to talk to her. But then I explained to her that the call was being recorded because he was in prison.

“Her mouth dropped open and she couldn't believe it, but she talked to him anyway.”

During their conversation, Ward asked for permission to marry Carla, which her mother granted him.

Carla says: “At first, Mom was shocked and of course this is not the ideal union that parents would want for their child, but she saw how much we loved each other and gave her blessing. I was so happy.”

British prison brides

  • Tracey Bottomley married double murderer Ernest Otto Smith in the US after they met through a pen pal initiative in prison. Tracey, from West Yorks, knew he had been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole
  • Rebecca Shortfrom Oxfordshire told her family that she would be vacationing in the United States in 2022. Little did they know that she would marry double murderer Manuel Ovate Jr., who was on death row.
  • Paula Williamson, an actress who appeared in Hollyoaks and Emmerdale, married the infamous Charles Bronson in 2017 after they became pen pals
  • Karen Charves married Kenny Richey in 2014 while he was on death row. He was convicted of setting a fire in 1986 that killed his ex-girlfriend's two-year-old daughter. Karen and Kenny's marriage did not last long and she claimed he was abused.
  • Naomi Wisefrom Essex married Victor Oquendo, nicknamed Animal, while he was serving a 24-year sentence in a US prison. She only met him 12 years after the romance began in 2022. They separated soon after.

Trolled with comments on the topic of “sex offenders”

Joseph proposed to her after receiving the blessing of Carla's shocked motherPhoto credit: HotSpot Media
Carla says her relationship has been scrutinized by friends and online trollsPhoto credit: HotSpot Media

In January, Ward proposed to her during a prison visit. But not everyone is happy with Carla's choice of partner.

Carla thinks her friends think she is making a big mistake.

She says: “Some people think I'm going to regret being with him and I'm crazy for having a relationship with someone behind bars. They worry about how he's going to be when he gets out of the institution.

“But I assure you that our love is real and worth waiting for.”

Strangers also regularly troll Carla on the Internet.

She says: “Whenever I post a picture of us together on social media, I often get asked if he is a sex offender, which is horrible.

“They say our love is disgusting and that I'm throwing my life away with an older man behind bars. One time someone said he would probably kill me when he got out. It's awful.”

Carla tries to endure the terrible judgments.

She adds: “Joseph was a teenager at the time of his crimes, but he assures me he did not pull the trigger that day. He made a huge mistake by not telling the police and trying to cover it up, but he deserves a second chance at life.”

He regrets his actions every day and wishes he had never been there. But he had a hard childhood and was abused himself. He will feel guilty forever

Carla

Once a month, Carla makes the ten-hour round trip to visit him in prison.

They plan to marry in the next few months and hope to start a family one day. Ward's first parole hearing is in October and the couple hopes he will be released.

Carla says: “Our relationship may be unconventional, but Joseph is the love of my life.

“I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with him.”

Carla says she tries not to be discouraged by the comments she gets onlinePhoto credit: HotSpot Media
The couple plans to get married in a few months and hopes that he will be released from prison soon.Photo credit: HotSpot Media
Carla believes that despite the severity of his conviction, Joseph deserves a second chancePhoto credit: HotSpot Media