NACOGDOCHES, Texas — They make an unusual engaged couple, separated by a pane of bulletproof glass. But a Texas man serving a life sentence without parole hopes to marry a woman who sat on the jury that convicted him last year of capital murder, KTRE reported.
Lester Butcher, 56, of Chandler, was found guilty in October 2018 in the murder of 40-year-old James Steitler, who had been beaten, stabbed and shot on April 9, 2017. Mary Martin, 56, of Nacogdoches, sat on the jury.
“There was no attraction during the trial. In fact, I looked at him thinking he may have done this,” Martin told the television station.
After the verdict was read at the Nacogdoches County Courthouse, Martin wrote a letter of apology to Butcher.
"I said, 'I'm juror number 10. Mary Martin. I'm so sorry. I need you to grasp how terribly hard this was for me,'" Martin told KTRE.
“And I wrote back, ‘No, don’t worry about it. It’s not your fault. Don’t hate yourself. You tried your best. You did, you know,'” Lester told the television station.
As time went on, a romance began to blossom.
"I feel like I'm in it with him to the end," Martin told KTRE. "I really don't want to do that with a glass in between us, but I know I may very well have to."
Martin drives four hours to visit Butcher at the Allred Unit in Iowa Park, Texas. Their letters have been warm and affectionate.
“I told her in one of the letters, I said, ‘I can’t promise you that I’ll love you for the rest of your life,’ but I said, ‘I can promise you I’ll love you for the rest of mine,’" Butcher told the television station.
"I felt like on the day Lester was sentenced to life without parole, I was sentenced, too," Martin told KTRE.
After exchanging letters and prison-approved emails with Butcher, Martin began visiting Lester at the prison. At their first meeting on Dec. 1, Martin proposed, the television station reported.
"I did," Martin told KTRE. "And he, in return, said 'Yes' and asked me, and then said, 'I guess we're just both crazy, huh?'"
“It was kind of a shock,” Lester told the television station.
Martin has the marriage license and clergy to perform the vows, which she hopes will take place Feb. 20. She wears an engagement ring, and is choosing a dress. Her meeting with Butcher on Saturday will be their fourth at the prison.
"I'm kinda hooked on him a little bit," Martin told KTRE. "Guilty or innocent, I still feel like I played a part where he's at, and I'm going to be there for Lester for the rest of his life."