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Pen pals from prison
Saturday, September 02, 2006
CREDIT: Stuart Davis, Vancouver Sun
Thomas Loudamy of Fremont, Calif., has corresponded with notorious prisoners in U.S. and Canadian prisons, including Willie Pickton. Pickton is awaiting trial in the murders of 26 women, many of them sex trade workers in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
FREMONT, Calif. - Hundreds of letters are filed in shoeboxes, and tucked away in corners of the small townhouse Thomas Loudamy shares with his fiance, their seven-week-old baby
, and his fiance's father.
A flip through the envelopes reveals that the return addresses are all from prisons, and the names are well known to true-crime buffs: Andrea Yates, who drowned her five children in a bathtub; Susan Smith, who pushed her car into a lake with her two children inside; Charles Ng, who murdered and sexually tortured 11 people in California.
In a matter of seconds, Loudamy locates four letters from Canadians who are accused of or convicted of violent killings, including two infamous B.C. men -- Robert (Willie) Pickton and Clifford Olson.
Loudamy, a 27-year-old warehouse worker, estimates he has received thousands of letters written by about 400 American and Canadian inmates since he started his unusual pen pal hobby in 2001.
It all began with an interest in news stories about the wrongfully convicted. That caused him to get involved with a Canadian anti-capital punishment website and he started writing letters to death row inmates.
"I wanted to at least, maybe on a small scale, offer my services as best
I could at the time," he said.
After a while, however, he found this depressing because his pen pals were eventually executed. So he branched out to writing to prisoners who are not on death row --and his letters are not necessarily directed now to people who he thinks are wrongfully convicted.
"[I have] sympathy for people that for one reason or another are just lost souls, certainly not for what
they did or what
they were accused of," said Loudamy.
The young father, who sports several tattoos that he got while working in a tattoo parlour, said he has never been in prison himself.
Loudamy would like to be a journalist, and potentially even write
a book about his collection of letters. He says he also wants to pass them along to his infant daughter Grace to educate her about bad people in the world.
Ideally, he hopes an inmate will reveal new evidence in a letter that could help police close the file on an unsolved crime.
"Maybe . . . I could make some kind of a difference, in that a lot of people who have written to me have gone on to describe things that they were not convicted of," he said. "If I played my cards
right in my correspondence with them, it would maybe help solve cold cases and things like that, which was a big motivator."
Loudamy said he write
s 11 letters a day, six days a week. Some of the letters are replies to inmates, others are to new recipients. They are all done in longhand, because he believes a handwritten letter has a better chance of getting a reply.
When a Sun reporter and photographer visited his home in Fremont, he displayed about 300 envelopes that he said had been penned by an estimated 150 inmates.
But Loudamy claimed to have received thousands of letters in total. The remainder, he said, are in Texas, where he was born and raised, but he left them behind when he and his then-pregnant finance moved to Fremont in late 2005.
Loudamy said he got many of the addresses for the inmates from people he was communicating with in Internet chat rooms, who were intrigued by "notorious cases."
"A lot of them are stay-at-home moms [and] sort of, I guess, armchair sleuths and true crime fans," he said.
However, Loudamy said he has severed ties with the chat rooms because he claimed many of the participants were serial killer groupies.
"I went online one day and realized that what
a lot of people were doing was using the addresses to write these people and then get [the inmates] to send, like, toenail clippings, fingernail clippings, samples of hair, that kind of thing. And that's where I had to draw the line," he said.
Loudamy kept writing on his own, and penned his first letter to Pickton in June 2005 because he was shocked by the case and the small amount of public information available about the accused. He got a reply a couple of months later.
He wrote back to Pickton in early February 2006, and got a reply in March.
Loudamy didn't write to Pickton again until early August 2006, and received a reply earlier this week.
"With everyone that I do write to I try to do as much research as possible about their background," he said.
Based on that research, he decides whether to write each inmate as himself or using a pseudonym that might be more appealing to that specific person.
With Pickton, Loudamy became Mya Barnett -- a woma
Day forty-five<3 HAPPY VALENTINES DAY, TO ALL MY LOVELYS! - mother woke me up this lovely cool morning. - it was time to get ready for school. - did my hair, - my make up, I think I had super long eyelashes today! - got dressed, black dress, stockings, and a very bright Ted sweater:) - this is the first time I have worn a dress to lake Nona. - got all of my valentines stuff ready. - and out the door it was, my mother got my an iTunes gift card and a beautiful card. - ate waffles for breakfast. - on the way to school. - saw Amy just as I pulled up I gave her all her valentines she gave me mine. - she was so sweet, and I love her very much, my wifey! - got to school late. - I got a warning! - first period: drew pictures:) - second period: I had to go talk to miss elder. About Valencia. - third period: clay wheel, clay got on my black tights and that did not end up well:/ - talked to Ian for awhile at the end of the class period. - he is so tall it's awesome:) - forth period: writing about the pictures, ughh it was so lame. - fifth period: I didn't do all of my homework! But he came by and check it really fast so I it full credit! It was awesome:) listened to the teacher talk! - lunch was great, I love my friends, and I love Amy, Jena gave me a cupcake and I loved my skittles from Sarah and a cookie from Darius! - sixth period: I was so hyper from all of the candy and what
not, I think I talked all sixth period. - seventh period: ate pretzels. Watched movies. - mother picked me up she would be all the way at the end o the line-.- Haha I still love her! - got home. - I think I played tag and rough housed with my dog for an hour or so he is so fun to miss with! I love my baby
! - then started getting ready for tumbling! - hair up, shorts on, sports bra! - me and my mom are awesome I think I got her to stop working for about an hour! Haha! - tumbling here I come! - jared not going to lie you pissed me off today and I ended up hurting my wrist that's for being so stubborn-.- - at the end of the night I showed my mom my power hurdle round off back hand spring she was so proud! - got home, an started getting ready! - went out to dinner. - got back home. - watched some tv. - played with derby! - shower, - milk - made bed, because I can't sleep in it unless it's remade everyday! - bed soon, long day happy valentines day world<3 Sweet dreams so my valentine's Ian and Amy<33* Picture: me and Amy after lunch, happy valentines day wifey <3