A clear double-Plexiglass window separates us, with little holes at mouth level to speak through. This is the first time we’ve met, though we’ve been corresponding for more than a year. As she brushes a strand of her long sandy-brown hair from her eyes, I notice that her arms are horribly scarred, and some of her fingers are missing.
“The fire happened when I was five years old,” she explains. “The house burnt to the ground. My mother and I were the only two they couldn’t get to. I tried to beat the fire off of her, and ended up with burns on my face, arms, hands, back, buttocks, and thighs. She died of smoke inhalation and severe burns. She was twenty-four.”
Speaking about her mother’s death recalls the grief Kelley feels about her own children. At the time of her incarceration, they were nine, seven, five, three, and eight months. Three now live with relatives, one with a friend, and the youngest was put up for adoption. “I’ve made some bad choices in my life. I’ll admit that. But I was a good mother. I always watched after my kids and provided for them.”
Kelley’s children still visit occasionally, but she believes they are “pulling away.” She tells me …