A real estate agent has revealed how she fell in love with a prison inmate and ended up marrying him – after they met over the phone when he hired her to help him find an apartment for his release.
Erica Saunders, 29, a realtor from Katy, Texas, has gone viral on TikTok after revealing how she met her husband, Austin Saunders, 26, over the phone while he was imprisoned for armed robbery.
The two have hit back at critics who have said Austin was using her following his release from prison and judged her for ‘caring for a felon’ by proving their marriage have now been happily married for nearly two years.
The two first connected when a mutual friend gave Austin Erica’s number so he could lease an apartment in Texas for when he was released.
Erica’s friend gave her the heads up, however she didn’t think much of it, that was until they spoke, after their first phone call, Erica was forever hooked.
Erica Saunders, 29, has revealed how she met and fell in love with her husband, Austin Saunders, 26, while he was behind bars for assisting an armed robbery
Erica who is a realtor in Texas, shared that she first received a call from Austin when he wanted to lease an apartment for when he was released, after that they began talking regularly
After seven months of talking the two finally met in person when Erica picked him up from prison, prior to his release Erica set up job interviews and bought him clothes
‘Well when he called me I was multi-tasking in my office so I must have pressed the numbers without hearing the part about to accept call press five,’ Erica said.
‘I didn’t know he was in prison till the call said ‘you have one minute remaining’ that’s when he said he’d call me back.’
Austin was serving a seven-year prison sentence for assisting an armed robbery, and although the two were limited to 15 minute phone calls, it never stopped him from staying in contact with Erica.
She said: ‘When he called back that’s when I heard the prompts and it said to press a certain number to accept the call.’
From then on, the couple stayed in contact and learned more about each other through phone calls, letters and video calls.
She said: ‘While he was incarcerated, we got to learn each other’s love languages and I believe that really helped us learn each other more.’
‘Without physically being next to each other, long distance was terrible, but it really tested our relationship and we passed,’ she said. ‘I knew he was a great man with great intentions and the man for me.’
The relator said: ‘While he was incarcerated, we got to learn each other’s love languages and I believe that really helped us learn each other more’
Erica flew across the Midwest to meet Austin and was ‘nervous’ but said the ‘minute we hugged’ she felt an ‘overwhelming rush of calmness’ and ‘didn’t want to let go’
Austin proposed to Erica in October and Erica said she was ‘going to spend the rest of my life with him and couldn’t be happier’
After seven months of speaking, Erica and Austin met in person on June 9 when she picked him up from the prison
She said: ‘I was nervous but the minute we hugged and while we were embracing each other, I felt this overwhelming rush of calmness. And my worries faded away and I felt safe in his arms.’
‘It was difficult as we had to get him straight to the halfway house and we were on limited time,’ the realtor added.
‘He didn’t get approved for furloughs till about a week later, then we could do his hygiene furlough and pick him up a phone.’
Erica’s friends and family were a taken back by her new relationship and didn’t trust Austin’s intentions.
She said: ‘It was very negative from some people as they just judged him based on where he was at.’
‘My family was scared he was using me. But they quickly changed once they saw he was sending me gifts and flowers, plus he wanted to get to know them as well.’
‘Everyone is on their own path and what didn’t work for someone doesn’t mean it won’t work for others,’ Erica added.
Erica also had someone else to introduce to her new partner, her 10-year-old daughter Lily, who seemed to get along well with Austin.
At first Erica’s family didn’t trust Austin’s intentions, but they soon came around and Erica even introduced him to her 10-year-old daughter Lily
After the couple got the stamp of approval from Erica’s family they got married in December
Although Erica faced criticism from her friends and family because of the unconventional way here Austin met and fell in love, she never let the opinion’s of others sway her
After the two got the stamp of approval from Erica’s family, the couple then got married on December 27.
Erica said: ‘It was a beautiful cold day, I wasn’t nervous, just excited!
‘However, I was a little emotional as I didn’t have any of my immediate family next to me because they couldn’t make it so last minute,’ she said. ‘It was just his side there, but his family is now mine too and everyone was so welcoming.’
‘I also had some of my best friends growing up by my side so that helped as well.’
Although Erica faced criticism from her friends and family because of the unconventional way here Austin met and fell in love, she stuck by his side and never let the opinion’s of others sway her.
‘I’m so happy I didn’t let any negative opinions influence me, as I have now married my best friend,’ she said.
‘And the love he gives me is unconditional!’
Erica shares her relationship, experiences and advice on TikTok, with her over 200,00 followers.
On July 19 Erica shared a video of her meeting Austin for the first time, including the days before and after.
In the video Erica can be seen waiting at the gate and filming him.
The two shared their love story on TikTok where they have since gone viral and received many mixed opinions from users
The footage also shows a clip of her shopping for him a few days before he was released, as well as stating that she set up job interviews.
There are then clips of them together, on video calls and presents which he sent her in the post.
The video gained over 8.1 million views, 963,000 likes and plenty of comments where people had mixed opinions on the matter.
One person said: ‘So sad that it comes to this women need to go to the prisons to find love.’
Someone else commented: ‘He’s defo using you you can tell, of course he’s going to pretend so he can get all this help he probably has nothing on the outside.’ [sic]
However, other viewers were quick to support Erica, with another person commenting: ‘What does it matter where she met him? Everyone makes mistake, go girl, ignore the haters.’
Another supporter said: ‘It definitely doesn’t define him, my son messed up at 18 and spent almost three years in prison, he’s still a great person.’
‘People in the comments suddenly acting like they’re god, I pray he keeps you happy, much love,’ someone else said. [sic]
‘That is right!! mistakes do not define a person,’ said another.