British mother, 49, opens up about marrying prisoner in US jail

British mother, 49, who wed US inmate serving 75 years for murder, reveals she had to wait a YEAR to kiss her new husband – and admits she ‘doesn’t think about whether he’s guilty’

  • Heike Phelan, 49, of Huddersfield, married William Matthew Schiffert in 2012 
  • They wed in a US prison where he is serving life for a fatal knife attack in 2001
  • Heike was writing to Schiffert for 18 months before flying to the US to meet him
  • The pair spent a year married before they were allowed to have a contact visit – she’s currently banned from being in the US after outstaying her tourist visa

A Yorkshire mother who married a US prisoner serving a 75-year sentence for murder has revealed she had to wait a year after they wed before being allowed to kiss him. 

Heike Phelan, 49, of Huddersfield, wed William Matthew Schiffert, also 49, in a prison ceremony in November 2012 after years of writing letters to him in his cell.

Schiffert is currently serving a life sentence in a Texas jail for stabbing someone to death in 2001, but Heike said she ‘doesn’t think about’ whether her spouse is innocent or guilty. 

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Heike Phelan, 49, of Huddersfield, married William Matthew Schiffert (pictured together) in a prison ceremony in November 2012 after years of writing letters to him

Phelan (pictured at home in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) said she ‘doesn’t think about’ whether her spouse is innocent or guilty. She’s currently banned from visiting the US for ten years after overstaying her visa

Appearing on This Morning today, the mum-of-two shared that it was years before she was able to hug her husband, because he spent the first year of their marriage in segregation and met her behind a perspex glass screen.

‘We’d been together three years by the time we were married’, she said, ‘I’d started going out three or four times a year. 

‘But all those visits were all behind the perspex glass because he was in segregation at the time. 

‘So contact visits, we’d been married a year before we had a contact visit, which is just sitting opposite each other at a table, before we actually got to have a hug and a kiss.’   

Heike met William through a Christmas card scheme on a prison support website and says that her husband has been completely open about his crimes

The Yorkshire mum went on to explain that she had been writing to William for 18 months before they met in person, and found she ‘learned to trust him’ as time went on

Heike met William through a Christmas card scheme on a prisoner support website and says that her husband had been completely open about his crimes from the start.

‘In the very first letter he told me what he was in prison for’, she said. 

‘Other things he’d done that he’d done time for, he said “you can Google me and see what I’m telling you is right”. 

‘Every time he told me something, that’s what I did, and every time it did turn out to be correct.’ 

The mother claimed that her husband was not directly involved in the murder, but was convicted under a Texas law that deems anyone involved with the crime equally responsible for the death. 

‘It’s not that I think about whether he’s guilty or innocent’, she said. ‘That’s a crime that happened long before I knew him.

Schiffert (pictured with Ms Phelan on a prison visit) is currently serving a life sentence for stabbing someone to death in 2001

‘So when he wrote to me and I said I’d write back as a friend, I said I won’t sit in judgement but I won’t be lied to, so you need to be honest with me and will get to know the person you are now, not judge you on things you’ve done before. 

‘So I started with a clean slate with him essentially.’  

The mum went on to explain that she had been writing to William for 18 months before they met in person, and found she ‘learned to trust him’ as he told her more about himself. 

She said: ‘Over time he told me more and more and more and he became very open with me about himself and his background. 

‘As you learn to trust somebody more you become more invested in that person and that’s essentially how it happened.’ 

‘It was 18 months before I first went to visit him and I was quite nervous, I was worried, will the person on paper match in person? Fortunately it did.’  

The mother claims her jailbird husband could be eligible for parole in just two years, and hopes they can live together one day.

Heike is currently unable to visit him in prison because of a 10-year ban on entering the US after she outstayed a visa when she got caught up in a car crash in Dallas, Texas and needed extended treatment.  

‘He’s just become part of my life’, she said. ‘I still have my job and friends and my lifestyle, I go out and travel, I’ve written books about his life in prison. He’s a benefit and addition to my life just like any other relationship.’ 

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