Marissa Alexander Opens Up About Her Abusive Marriage & Life Before Her Arrest

March 4, 2015  |  

Less than two months after her prison release, Marissa Alexander is telling her truth. In an in-depth chat with Essence, Alexander opened up about her abusive relationship and the warning shots that would eventually land her in prison. Check out some highlights from her discussion below.

On life before the arrest:

“Before all this happened I was working as a client services manager at a payroll company, coming up on my tenth year. I really enjoyed what I did: It was challenging, intense and a good fit for me. I had twins from my first marriage and a great coparenting relationship with my ex. I met Rico Gray, the man who would eventually become my second husband, on a blind date in 2009.”

On dating her abuser:

“Rico and I had a lot of chemistry. When our relationship was good, it was excellent. When it was bad, it was really bad. In the beginning, there was behavior I used to interpret as affection, like, He wants to know where I’m going and be with me all the time because he loves me. Suddenly, he turned into the kind of person who would clock me when I would just be going to the grocery store. Later that year, Rico beat me so badly I ended up getting a restraining order against him. But then we started seeing each other again. [Editor’s Note: A criminal charge stemming from this incident was subsequently dropped after Alexander decided not to proceed with the case.]

It’s embarrassing. I’m strong and determined and I had never experienced a relationship like this. So every time something bad happened, I would rationalize it and give Rico the benefit of the doubt. Or we would break up and he’d come back looking like a puppy dog, all lovey-dovey.”

On eventually marrying him:

“In January 2010, I found out I was pregnant. Rico was on his best behavior, and we decided to get married, work on our relationship, and make things right so we could be a family. But our relationship was still very stressful.”

On her escape plan:

“When I was five months pregnant, I went into preterm labor. After I got out of the hospital, I went to live with my mother. My plan was to move my things out of the house I had been sharing with Rico. But I needed to be careful. I was leaving, but I couldn’t tell him that I was. So I gradually took my things out, a little bit here and there, and I played nice.

When I was eight months pregnant, my water broke. Our daughter Rihanna was born weighing only 4 pounds, 12 ounces and was admitted to the NICU. I spent every waking minute at the hospital or pumping milk. Sometimes I would feed her, then sleep in my truck waiting for the next feeding. I was exhausted.”

On the incident that led to her arrest:

“A week after Rihanna was born, it was time for her first bath. Rico was supposed to meet me at the hospital, but he couldn’t make it. So I gave her a bath and took some pictures on my phone. I texted the photos to my ex-husband, who was in Orlando at Disney World with our twins. I wanted him to show the kids their new sister.
After that, I went to my old house to get more of my things. My sister was going to meet me there. I was surprised when Rico showed up with his two sons. But I thought, I’ll just be cordial. I showed him the pictures of Rihanna on my phone. I remember saying, ‘Look, she’s smiling.’ Then, after I left to go to the bathroom, he started going through my text messages. He saw that I had sent my ex-husband pictures of the baby and he lost his mind. I had never seen him that angry.

He started cursing at me through the bathroom door. Eventually, I was able to run to the garage and get into my truck to leave, but the garage door wasn’t working, so I grabbed my gun and went back in the house. I was raised with guns. My daddy is a military man. He took all his girls to the range and taught us self-defense.

At first I thought Rico had left. When I saw him, it was like we startled each other. He said, ‘Bitch, I’ll kill you.’ So I fired a warning shot into the wall above him. His children were not beside him; I assumed he had sent them out of the house and had come back to deal with me.”

On the arrest:

“After he left, all I wanted was to do was gather my things and get out of the house. I called my father and my brother to tell them what had happened. The whole time I was talking, I saw another call coming through, but I didn’t pick up because I didn’t recognize the number. Then my sister called. She was outside of the house. She said, ‘Rissa do not come outside. There are police out here. That’s a police officer trying to call on your phone.’ I couldn’t believe it. I was so scared. I got on the phone with the officer and said, “I’m coming outside. Please do not shoot me.”

Check our Marissa’s full story here.

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