US Convict cleared of rape and finds joy in Britain

 

WHEN barmaid Jessica Stubley brought her new boyfriend home to meet the family, she had more reason than most to worry.

 

The man with close-cropped hair and chiselled features was not only old enough to be her father but also had a dark past. Nick Yarris had spent more than 21 years waiting to be executed on America’s notorious Death Row, accused of rape and murder.

 

Eventually DNA evidence proved he had not killed a young mother in 1981 and he was freed in January 2004.

“It’s all turned out perfectly now but when I first fell in love with Nick I was so scared to tell my parents it was easier to just run away,” said Jessica.

 

“Obviously Nick is innocent but I knew mum and dad would still not want me dating a guy that much older [he is 50 and she is 22] who’d spent more than my age on death row.

 

“When they finally got to know him, they fell in love with him, too. People wonder what on earth we have in common but we’ve never been happier.

“We just have fun and it doesn’t really matter about age or past.”

 

Jessica first heard of Nick when the landlord of her pub in Spalding, Lincolnshire, gave her a copy of Nick’s book Seven Days To Live. In it Nick, who was born in Philadelphia, explains how he went off the rails after being abused as a youngster.

 

In 1981, he had been arrested in a ­stolen car. There was a scuffle with the police officer and the officer’s gun went off. Nick was charged with attempted murder.

In a desperate bid for freedom he ­pretended to have inside knowledge of the murder of 32-year-old Linda Craig hoping to plea bargain his way out. Instead he was accused of the crime.

 

He was tried and convicted on flimsy evidence and sentenced to death. ­

Having spent much of his sentence in solitary, Nick had even begged at one point to be executed but in 1988 he became the first prisoner in Pennsylvania to demand DNA testing. It took another 15 years to prove his innocence. Jessica was enthralled by his sad story and sent him a message of ­support via his fan club. She was astonished when Nick, who had moved to Britain, replied personally and told her he was now divorced and living alone with his dogs.

Jessica said: “I was sorry to hear that after all he had been through things had gone wrong for him. It seemed so unfair.”

 

When Nick sent his number and ­Jessica called him she began to fall for him. “He was nearly 30 years older than me and he’d been on Death Row for 22 years. On paper we had nothing in ­common but when we started talking we didn’t stop. I had butterflies in my tummy and I knew what was ­happening.

 

“A few weeks after we started ­talking Nick visited the bar where I worked.

“I was worried my boss would know him from the book but thankfully he was not recognised. I thought Nick was really good looking and the age thing didn’t bother me at all.”

 

The following week they shared their first kiss in his car after work. Then eight weeks after meeting Jessica moved in with Nick and they have been together ever since.

 

Nick, now a delivery driver for B&Q, opened up to Jessica about his time in prison. “He told me the guards sometimes put him on a lead like a dog. I couldn’t believe that he could be so kind and funny after suffering so much.”

 

Convincing her parents of her choice proved difficult.

They agreed to meet Nick only after the couple got engaged and to Jessica’s delight, after their ­initial concerns about the relationship, they now get along very well.

 

Sitting cuddling up to the woman he loves, Nick said: “It seems crazy to me how we met but we’ve shown it’s the real thing. She is an amazing girl and we make each other happy.

 

“For me now thanks to Jess it’s all about the future and not the past.”