A California mother has opened up about why she married a man who was 24 months into an 18-year sentence for a double murder.
It all started when Kacey Rush, a 43-year-old realtor, former model and mum-of-one, began writing to 49-year-old former gangster and crack dealer Travis Berry, in 2010.
She found out about his case online and they soon became pen pals, with Kacey later growing convinced that Travis didn’t commit the crimes he was imprisoned for.
“In 2010 I came across a website that had Travis’s name on it,” she told Barcroft in the video above, “I was more inquisitive about the psychology of people who commit these crimes, and I was digging about the psychological side of how they can say they are all innocent in prison and how everyone is innocent in prison.”
“So I wrote him, I wanted to see what his answers would be as to why is he innocent. Like, ‘I don’t believe you, so tell me why I should believe you?’
“I sent him a picture, just so he knew what I looked like, but it wasn’t for a love interest, it wasn’t to have a pen pal, I didn’t want any of that. It was more like I wanted to know how his brain worked.”
What Kacey knew was that on January 30, 1992, two men were shot dead in the back of a rental car. Travis was charged with two counts of murder, kidnapping and burglary, and found guilty and sentenced to two life sentences without the possibility of parole.
The pair corresponded via letters for three months, during which Kacey became increasingly more convinced of Travis’ innocence, and decided to visit him in prison and meet him face-to-face.
“He popped out with the big ol’ cheesy smile he has, and I knew I was in trouble then. I was in trouble like ‘Oh my god, what have I got myself into?’ because I knew he was the one,” Kacey recalled.
“He might be my complete opposite, he might be my biggest headache, he might be the biggest kick in my ass but he is the one that I am bound to. I felt that all in that moment, it was really weird.”
Travis said despite being perplexed when Kacey first got in touch with him, his emotions ran high when she visited him for the first time.
“In the beginning, things are like a game to a certain extent, but when I actually saw her, things started changing for real,” Travis said.
“I got butterflies, my emotions were really out there, and I just kissed her.”
Kacey began working with Travis to overturn his conviction, doing her own investigations off the back of their conversations, before handing the case over to the Innocence Project, a legal non-profit organisation that works to exonerate wrongly convicted people.
The pair decided to commemorate their love by getting matching tattoos on their ring fingers.
“I thought I had to do it on my ring finger as for me that symbolises life, there is nothing in the world that can ever separate us. We’re forever, and we’ll never divorce – we’ll always be together,” Travis said.
In February 2012, after a year-long wait for the prison to find a chapel, the couple got married, with only Kacey’s daughter Taylor present, and one of Travis’ inmate friends there to act as a witness.
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The pair had still never had never been alone without prison supervision, and wouldn’t be for another five years after their wedding.
“We’d never had our chance to actually be alone one-on-one as a married couple, or as a regular couple, as anything,” Kacey said.
“The laws changed and lifers were granted family visits, so our first conjugal visit was in July 2017. That was the first time we ever got to have sex, and that is what changed our marriage.”
Explaining to her family that she was romantically involved with a man convicted of a double homicide was a lot for them to take in, Kacey admits.
“But they can either accept it or they can move on. I am going to do what I am regardless of what someone tells me to do, unless it was detrimental to my daughter.” Kacey said.
When her mother told her she was dating an inmate, Kacey’s daughter, Taylor Christensen, said she saw it as a passing phase that would be over in a few months, but now describes it as a blessing in disguise.
“I didn’t have a male figure in my life to look up to and at that point in my life, I didn’t want one. He has done a lot for me, more than a lot of people have, and he’s done it from behind prison walls, and it’s meant so much to me,” Taylor said.
“He has shown me a true father figure. We are so close.”
Travis’ family were no less confused by his budding romance with a stranger from the outside.
Shawn Johnston, Travis’ younger sister, who created the website Kacey came across calling for help with Travis’ appeal, said, “I would never date someone in prison. I didn’t think it’s possible – you can’t come home to them, you can hold their hand but you can hardly be intimate with them. There are lots of rules and regulations when you go for prison visits.
“I thought she was crazy, but the more visits she had with him, the more Travis started becoming himself again.
“His voice was lighter, the laughter was back, and I could see a glimmer of hope in his eyes, so Kacey’s been a godsend. She’s given him the hope he needed to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Finding the Innocence Project ‘too slow’, Kacey has used her own savings and borrowed thousands of dollars from her mother to hire attorneys to fight Travis’ case.
The family are now going through their fourth appeal to have his conviction overturned, with the decision pending.