A former inmate who spent more than 20 years on Death Row in the US told yesterday of his plans for a new life – as husband of a young British barmaid.
Nick Yarris, 51, faced the electric chair after being framed in 1982 for the rape and murder of a woman in his native Pennsylvania.
He spent 8,057 days behind bars – much of it in solitary confinement – before DNA evidence finally cleared him and he was released in 2004.
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Nick then wrote a book about his life on Death Row called Seven Days To Live which barmaid Jessica Stubley was given to read one day by her boss.
Pretty Jessica, 23, from Moulton, Lincs, was captivated by his harrowing story and sent him a message of support via Facebook.
She was astonished when Nick replied personally and told her he had moved to Britain where he was now divorced and living alone with his dogs.
The pair struck up an unlikely love – even though he had been on Death Row for EIGHT YEARS before she was even born.
They moved in together eight weeks after first meeting and three years on are now planning to wed.
Philadelphia-born Nick said: “When I was first set free I didn’t know where home was going to be, but now I know it’s where people love you and I’ve found that here.
“I couldn’t believe someone so lovely could risk having her own life blown apart to be in love with me.
“Her parents were worried and we had to go through a lot to be accepted but the support from her family since has been overwhelming.
“It is three years now and in that time I have done nothing but try hard to show that I don’t deserve what happened to me.
“I inherited a hard work ethic from my dad and I now work six days a week doing deliveries.
“We have a humble home and money is tight, but I am happy in Lincolnshire.
“I feel safe here. It is not like America, there are no guns on the streets.”
Nick, now a delivery driver for B&Q, added: “I never put it out there what I have been through.
“But when something that big has happened you can’t hide from it, but neither can you be defined by.
“It is part of who I am, but look at what I developed from it.
“I found a sense of peace in hell – in the person I was – while they were trying to murder me, and calling me rapist and murderer.”
In 1981 Nick, then a 19 year-old drug addict and alcoholic, was arrested in a stolen car when he jumped a red light.
In the scuffle with police the officer’s gun went off and he was charged with attempted murder.
While in custody he read a newspaper report about the rape and murder of a young mum and decided to make up information about it in a bid to bargain his way out of jail.
He accused a man, who he believed to be dead, of beating, stabbing and raping 32 year-old Linda Craig in a churchyard on the borders of Pennsylvania.
But his plan backfired when he found himself accused of the crime and then tried and convicted on flimsy evidence and sentenced to death in 1982.
Nick spent the next 23 years fighting his conviction and suffered brutal beatings at the hands of cellmates.
He sat in his cell with a razor blade as he contemplated suicide but then decided to turn his mind to education.
He devoured books and took distance learning courses in an attempt to “make my mind beautiful”.
He was only freed when he became so ill with hepatitis C in prison that he begged for the state to kill him.
A judge ordered DNA evidence to be re-tested and he was subsequently cleared – 8,057 days after he was thrown onto Death Row.
And although he still suffers from physical pain Nick has said that the survivor’s guilt is harder to bear.
He said: “For more than 20 years my identity was bonded with those people on Death Row, I cared about them.
“I believe life imprisonment is far worse than the death penalty.
“But as long as I have love I have hope and Jesse has proved that.”