Readorama: Memoir tells a death-row love story in letters

06/26/2014 12:32 PM

06/26/2014 12:32 PM

Lorri Davis and Damien Echols married in December 1999, three years after they first met by mail.

They had their first conjugal visit later that month at the Tucker Maximum Security Unit in Arkansas.

Echols, at 19, had been convicted, with two other teenagers, in the 1993 murder of three young boys in West Memphis, Ark., and sentenced to death. Davis, a New York landscape architect, first had written Echols in 1996, after having seen the first of several documentary films on the case.

After a high-profile campaign aided by celebrities such as Pearl Jam vocalist Eddie Vedder and others, all three gained their freedom in 2011. In a new trial, they pleaded guilty to charges through an Alford plea, in which defendants maintain their innocence but concede that prosecutors likely could prove the charges against them. The judge released the three, and since then Echols and Davis have lived very public lives, touring in support of Echols’ 2012 prison memoir “Life After Death.”

One question: Has domesticity been a challenge?

No, said Echols, because they haven’t had time to live any kind of routine, everyday life.

“We’ve been running nonstop since I was released,” said Echols in a recent interview. “We’ve been in hotel rooms all over the country and the world.”

“I am looking forward to having a home in a little while,” Davis added.

But that must wait because Echols and Davis now are promoting “Yours for Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row,” which collects the correspondence they maintained while Echols was still incarcerated.

If the letters are frank and even intimate, Davis said they serve to answer the questions so often asked following Echols’ release.

“A lot of people wondered how we survived as a couple and how we made our relationship work,” Davis said.

“This book was a project we got to work on together, and it also meant some kind of closure to that period of our lives,” Echols said.

In addition to the correspondence, the authors add the occasional revealing postscript. In one, Davis details how, soon after Echols’ release, her refrigerator soon filled up with scraps of aluminum foil. Echols couldn’t set aside this habit, given how foil had proved useful in prison for protecting food from rats.

“It might take me five years to adjust to life outside prison,” Echols said.

Echols and Davis will speak at 7 p.m Tuesday at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th St. For more information, go to rainydaybooks.com.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to bburnes@kcstar.com.

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