Mall shooter's bride: 'I just felt so madly in love'

Mall shooter's bride: 'I just felt so madly in love' »Play Video
Quynh Maldonado says that when she saw Tacoma Mall shooter Dominick Maldonado on TV, "I felt just right then and there that he is the one."
Is it a great love story? Or a twisted fantasy?

What would lead a local woman to marry a prison inmate - a lifer - who has twice made tragic, national headlines?

Six years ago Dominick Maldonado wounded seven people when he opened fire at the Tacoma Mall. Now he's accused of a daring prison break attempt. KOMO 4 News talked exclusively with the woman who told us the first time she saw Maldonado on television - she knew he was "the one."

When thinking of that day of the shooting 6 1/2 years ago, most of us remember the swarms of police SWAT teams entering the mall. Frightened people outside waiting for loved ones, while others told how they heard and watched Maldonado inside, firing from two guns.

"I felt the concussion from the gunfire," one witness told us. Another said she "saw a man down the way running backwards shooting."

A third sobbed with relief learning her daughter was safe. "I'm just mortified - I'm just horrified, but I'm just happy she's OK."

It was chaos, confusion and terror.

Quynh Maldonado remembers the Tacoma Mall shootings - and her first glimpse of gunman Dominick Maldonado - much differently.

"There was just something about him when I saw him on TV. ... I felt just right then and there that he is the one."

By the next spring Quynh - just 17 at the time - started writing Maldonado in jail, sending pictures of herself, many of them topless. "I just felt so madly in love with him."

 Dominick Maldonado


Until his transfer to another correctional facility a few days ago, Maldonado was in Clallam Bay Prison - serving a 163-year sentence. Last spring - he and Quynh married in a small ceremony there.

Their marriage consists of photos, phone calls, letters and occasional face-to-face visits. No conjugal visits are allowed for at least three years. "I won't ever let go, not today, not any day, and like I promise - I love him so much."

So who is this woman who would marry a man destined to spend the rest of his life behind bars?

Reporter: "Have you had other boyfriends before?"

Quynh: "No."

Reporter: "Are you working at all now?"

Quynh: "Oh no."

Reporter: "Have you finished school?"

Quynh: "Actually I quit school in 9th grade 'cause I couldn't stand the whole bullying thingy."

In fact - Quynh says before Maldonado - she had no other friends and her Siamese cat was the love of her life.

"I don't feel like Dom is taking its place - it is just that Dom is another love of my life, basically - but in a human way."

"It's very sad, it's a very sad situation," says sociologist Pepper Schwartz, who has written 16 books about love and relationships.

She says women who look for relationships with inmates are more common than we think. "They usually don't have much going on that's good in their life; they need a fantasy escape from their life."

But the fantasy can have a dark side. "Oh my God there's so much danger," says Schwartz. "I mean, sometimes then the person gets a heroic picture of themselves, they try to help the person break out."

Quynh Maldonado says she had no forewarning of the prison break attempt that officials say involved her husband. They say Maldonado held scissors to a guard's throat while fellow inmate Kevin Newland commandeered a forklift and broke through a prison door and through security fences.

We asked if she had any idea why he allegedly tried to escape. "I guess from what I've heard he just wanted to see me."

A guard shot and killed Newland - Maldonado is now in maximum security. Quynh says she's mad that Maldonado's alleged involvement in the escape attempt means it may be a year before she can see him again.

"At the same time, if he did it for love then I guess I shouldn't really be that mad about it," she says.

Quynh knows to the rest of the world, her marriage doesn't make sense. She doesn't care. To her, she's living a great love story.

Reporter: "You don't think you're crazy?"

Maldonado: "No, but I'm just like crazy in love with him."

As a result of the alleged escape attempt, Dominick Maldonado was transferred a few days ago to Stafford Creek Corrections Center near Aberdeen. He remains in maximum security.