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Death Row Inmate, Ex-con Tie Knot

January 22, 1994

STARKE, Fla. (AP) _ It was a marriage made in prison, surrounded by razor wire and armed guards in watch towers.

The groom is a death row inmate.

The bride is an ex-con once known as ″Wicked Wanda.″

There was no cake, no champagne. There’ll be no honeymoon. The couple’s only physical contact was a ring exchange through a hole cut in the clear plastic barrier separating them.

Wanda Eads, 51, married condemned inmate Frank Valdes, 32, on Friday at Florida State Prison.

They met 15 years ago when Valdes was serving time as a juvenile with his future bride’s son.

The ceremony in the prison’s ″no contact″ visiting area was performed by attorney Joseph Karp, who is handling Valdes’ federal appeals and was vested with the power to marry the couple.

When asked why the couple was marrying, Karp said: ″Number one, she believes he is not guilty of murder and number two, she cares about him.″

The couple wanted to marry in the prison chapel but the bride’s own criminal record made her a security risk, said Rhonda Horler, a prison spokeswoman.

Only Karp’s intense lobbying won them the right to make the ring exchange. It was the third marriage for the woman who served five years in prison for robbery 10 years ago. She was dubbed ″Wicked Wanda″ by the media.

Her maid of honor, a woman she met on bus trips to visit the prison, said the bride has turned her life around.

″She’s an angel,″ Charisse Harbison said.

Valdes paid for the couple’s gold wedding bands with his canteen money.

There is no guarantee she’ll ever be permitted physical contact with Valdes. If the state gets its way, Valdes will die in Florida’s electric chair. The date of the execution hasn’t been set.

The wedding came three years after the couple persuaded prison officials to change rules that prohibited such unions.

Valdes was sentenced to death in 1990 for his part in the killing of prison guard during an escape attempt.

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