Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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October 4, 2012

Ex-death row inmate finds solace in historic city


“I read about (Salem) in prison ...,” he said. He and Davis made three trips before deciding to settle in the city.

There was just something about the place that made them feel at home.

Not long after arriving, Echols was recognized by a member of the Wiccan community, who welcomed him and offered to help in any way she could. He was touched by the gesture.

A friend joked that someone looking like Echols would draw stares in Arkansas. “Here,” the friend said, “they just assume you’re another businessman on his way home.”

Echols and his wife do mundane things, like going to Sears to buy appliances. They arrange for the walls to be stripped and the house painted.

But this is still hard, starting a new life after 18 years on death row, going from a prison cell so small he could take only two strides in one direction, to a book tour with so many stops he can’t count them.

“I basically had to learn to walk again,” he said. “I had to learn to use silverware again, because in prison you eat with your hands. I hadn’t been anywhere in 20 years. I had been in a box.”


Tom Dalton writes for The Salem, Mass., News.

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