More from the series
Missouri’s child brides
This state has the most lenient law in the nation for 15-year-old brides. Some may have even married their rapists.
Wedding over, Haylee Salas’ mom scripted “Just Married!” all over her new son-in-law’s truck.
“He went straight to the car wash and washed it off,” Haylee said.
The couple married in September 2014, down in the Bootheel.
“We said our vows and we were laughing,” Haylee recalled. She’d worn yoga pants and a T-shirt. “It was shocking, you know? We were actually getting married.”
Hard to believe because they were just kids, 15 and 18.
They loved each other, yes.
Haylee was pregnant, a freshman at Senath High School. Her Facebook page displays a picture of Ricardo in his baseball uniform with Haylee at his side. She’s holding a baseball in her left hand inscribed with an announcement: “It’s a Girl.” In her right, she holds a sonogram of their yet-to-born daughter, Dora Alicia, who recently turned 3.
Age 18 now and with a new son, Garrison Rawling, Haylee looks happy.
“Honestly,” she said, “we have two kids and I would hate for my babies to grow up that quick, even though I did. I hope she doesn’t throw that on me, ‘You did!’ Because I really don’t know what to say.”
Ricardo does: “If you don’t have to do it, don’t do it. You still have a lot of learning and stuff.”
And fast. With the pregnancy, Ricardo said his family insisted he do the right thing. They bought wedding bands at Walmart. With Herculean effort they’ve made things work.
Three and a half years later, they have bought land and plan to build their own house. Ricardo has a good job at a steel mill.
“He literally worked night shifts and went to school during the day,” Haylee said. He went sleepless. “We saved, saved, saved.”
In photos they look happy. Ricardo stands tall and husky, thick black hair and downward crescent eyes. Haylee stands at about his shoulder, with petite features, long brown hair and careful red lipstick.
She is working toward getting her GED Her greatest regret is dropping out of high school when she reached the 11th grade. She had to make a choice: quitting school or putting her daughter in day care.
“We had to grow up,” Ricardo said.