A WOMAN from Essex is set to marry a US killer who shot two men after meeting via a prison penpal scheme.

Naomi Wise had been training as a counsellor before Covid hit last year, forcing her to find other means to improve her skills.

The 26-year-old woman from Chelmsford joined the scheme which connects people with prison inmates that want pen pals where she met Victor Oquendo in June last year.

The 30-year-old, known as "Animal" is serving a 24-year sentence after being convicted for shooting two people in a gangland hit. He also took part in three armed robberies.

Despite his history, Ms Wise described him as 'the kindest man [she] has ever met' and the pair became engaged after exchanging emails and phone calls.

Within a few months, Oquendo had proposed three times before Ms Wise accepted, after initially being hesitant because they had not met. 

She intends to fly over to Michigan in the US to marry Oquendo in prison as soon as the coronavirus pandemic allows.

Speaking to the Mirror, Ms Wise said: "Victor's not a monster, he's a human being.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I plan to fall in love with an inmate, but it happened and I wouldn't change it.

"Victor is the kindest man I have ever met. People might judge before knowing the full story, but I can't imagine my life without him."

Ms Wise now spends an estimated £270 a month on ringing the prison and sending her fiancé emails.

She said her friends have been accepting of the relationship but that her family will take longer to come round to the romance. 

Oquendo was jailed after fatally shooting two men in 2010 when he was 19 years old. He admitted two counts of second degree murder as well as a string of other crimes. 

On finding out his crimes, Ms Wise added: "I was shocked. It was a lot to take in.

"I wanted to know how he felt about what he'd done. If he didn't care that would have been a red flag, but he's extremely remorseful.

"He struggles to live with himself and has night terrors. It said a lot to me about the person he really is."

Victor is expected to be behind bars until 2034 but Naomi says the state of Michigan is voting on the Good Behaviour act next year which could mean he is released early if he behaves while incarcerated.