Shropshire man to visit death row pen pal
As pen pals go, a killer on death row is something pretty out of the ordinary.
Jan Arriens has been writing to convicted murderer Mike Lambrix in America for 25 years.
He has now pledged to travel from his home in Shropshire across the Atlantic to see his pen friend for the first time – and to say goodbye before Lambrix is executed by lethal injection in Florida on February 11.
Lambrix, 55, has been on death row for most of his life after being found guilty for murdering a couple he invited to his trailer for dinner in Florida in 1984, but maintains he is only guilty of manslaughter.
For the best part of Lambrix's sentence, Mr Arriens, a 72-year-old freelance translator who moved to Bishop's Castle from Cambridge six years ago, has been writing to him.
And he has said it will leave a gap in his life when Lambrix is gone.
Mr Arriens is the founder of LifeLines, a volunteer group set up in 1988 which now has 1,400 members all over the world who correspond with prisoners condemned to death.
Mr Arriens, who is also a member of the Southern Marches Area Quaker Meeting, said that he first met Lambrix when getting together a book of writings from prisoners on death row, to ask if he could use his words.
He said: "After speaking to him, I said 'would you care for a pen friend' and he said 'no' – but we've been conresponding ever since. That was 1991."
Lambrix was accused of attacking Clarence Moore Jr when the two were alone outside the trailer, then calling Clarence's partner Aleisha Bryant to come outside, where she was kicked in the head and strangled.
But Mr Arriens said Lambrix maintained he hit the man in self defence after finding Ms Bryant strangled.
He said whatever the circumstances that led to Lambrix's conviction, a person could change completely in 30 years, and the thought of spending such a long time with your own execution hanging over you was "monstrous", he said.
"When he hit death row he was a sort of young tearaway and came from very disruptive background – he hadn't really held down a job, he did drink and drugs, he was on the margins of society," he said.
"He had his education cut short, had a violent alcoholic father, there was some sexual abuse, all the kinds of things you often find in the background of someone on death row.
"But on death row he realised he was actually quite smart," he said, adding that Lambrix had studied law and was very interested in cosmology and physics.
Lambrix will be allowed 12 hours of visits behind glass in his final week and an hour in a room with a few people of his choice on the final day, including Mr Arriens.
"It's all very surreal really, I've just been speaking to him," he said. "He's on death watch now, but he's very concerned for other people mainly, which is amazing.
"He's bearing up well in the circumstances but there's a lot of tension in his voice and a lot of foreboding.
"He has confirmed again that he would really value me being there."
He added: "It's just something I feel I have to do.
"It's the least I can do after a quarter of a century of writing.
"He's been a good letter writer and a good friend, really.
"He's an interesting person and it will leave a big gap," he said.