How We Met: Fran Boyd & Donnie Andrews

'I was sitting there reading about this notorious person and I'm thinking, "This isn't Donnie"'


Donnie Andrews, 55, was a stick-up man, robbing drug dealers in Baltimore, and is the basis for the character Omar in The Wire. Arrested 19 times, he gave himself up to the police in 1987 after an attack of conscience for a contract hit on a drug dealer, and was given a life sentence. Released in 2005, he now works for the University of Maryland Innocence Project. He married Fran Boyd in 2007. They live in Baltimore, raising her nieces and nephew

I'd been down [in prison] about five years. My first wife had just got murdered and I was cussing at God, "You've taken my wife, what am I supposed to do?" One day I called Ed [Burns, the homicide detective to whom Andrews had surrendered and who later co-wrote The Wire] and he told me about Fran, how she needed help [as a drug addict], and I said, "Looks like you got trouble on your hands."

I called her, and the way she started off cussing at me, I'd normally have just hung up, but there was something in her voice that was saying, regardless of what's coming out of my mouth, you know what's in my heart. So when she finished, I said, "OK, now are you ready to talk? I know just what you're going through, I was on drugs myself, and I rose up from the darkness, and if you don't want to do it for me, do it for yourself."

We talked for about five hours, and when we finished, she asked if I'd call again. We spoke at 4 o'clock every day after that.

I'd always had David [Simon, the reporter who had written up Andrews' story for the Baltimore Sun and later, with Burns, wrote Homicide and The Wire about crime in the city] to talk to, but for personal stuff, I needed Fran. We'd spoken every day for months and her phone bill got to be $2,500. I kept expecting it to be cut off.

It was a year before we exchanged pictures, and another three before we met. The first time I saw her, she came to me and I kept trying to pick her head up to look at me, but she just buried it in my chest. We talked for about seven hours. I'd just met her and it felt like I'd known her forever.

My deal that had been agreed was that I was supposed to get out of jail after 10 years [Andrews had helped Burns with a sting operation against the man who had ordered the murder he was convicted for], but the prosecutor said he hoped I'd die in prison. I told Fran, "You go ahead with your life. I've got a big fight ahead of me," and she said, "If you're fighting, I'm not walking away." Every time the parole board denied me, I broke down and started crying, I felt she was wasting so much time on a lost cause. But Fran got tough and said, "Can we stop the pity party now?" She was so strong-willed, and was there throughout the long journey to get me out.

Fran Boyd, 52, is a former heroin addict who was the subject of The Corner, Simon and Burns' book on street life in west Baltimore. After rehab, she began participating in outreach work for drug addicts and now works as an HIV counsellor for a Baltimore hospital

Back in 1994, Ed and David were writing my story. When they were trying to get information out of me, I'd cuss them out. One day I was telling Ed to get away from me, and he said, "OK, seeing as you're so tough, I've got someone for you." And I was like, "F you, and f the person you're talking about."

The first time Donnie called, on 21 January 1994, I didn't know Ed had given him my number, so I asked him why he was calling, cussing him out. I said I didn't need nobody, and I was just trying to keep that wall up, but we ended up talking for four or five hours. And after that, we'd talk every day. When you're using, nobody wants to hear what you have to say, everybody got problems. You keep everything bottled in, you're mad at the world. But it was different with Donnie. He never judged me, he never criticised me. He'd just say: "It's no problem you messed up, you used again, there's always a new day ahead."

We talked for about three months and I didn't know why he was in jail, but he told David to bring me the article he'd written about Donnie's case. I was sitting there reading about this notorious person, and I'm thinking, this isn't Donnie; I thought it had to be wrong. But it didn't make me want to back away from him; whatever I did, Donnie didn't judge me for nothing. It made me realise that if this man can come up from all this, then I know I can.

A year later we exchanged pictures. He sent me his and when the mail came, I remember sitting on my bed, opening the envelope and the picture fell out, but it was face down, and I thought, "God, please don't let this be a monster." When I flipped it over, I said, "OK, I can work with that."

About three years later [after Boyd had kicked her habit, in late 1996], we actually met. I was afraid of flying and Donnie was in Phoenix, but when I finally built up the courage to fly, David took me to him. I felt like a five-year-old girl. I couldn't look at him; I'm talking all this shit for years on the phone and when I get up to him all I can do is fall into his chest and blush. It took about a half-hour for me to get comfortable, but then it was like I'd known this man for ever.

I've known a lot of women who've had relationships with men in prison; I thought it was one of the stupidest things anybody could do. And knowing Donnie got a life sentence, why would I get involved? But I was already in love with him. And that eight-year wait until he got out: I didn't need that. It was the longest wait of my life.

'Homicide' and 'The Corner' are published by Canongate at £8.99 and £12.99 respectively

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Chief Executive

£28, 700: Whiskey Whiskey Tango: Property Management Company is seeking a brig...

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?