Not too long ago I received some electronic fan mail. It’s not something that happens with any frequency, so I still get excited about it when one comes through. This email’s author enjoys our theme song, he rates our podcast 5 stars, he hopes we continue making the show, and he was once cellmates with a man who cooked and ate his wife. That last nugget of information seemed worthy of a followup. So, we got in touch the man who sent us that email.
I was cell mates with a man who killed his wife and ate small bits of her.
In that first email that Ryan Martin sent to us, he included a link to a website that a friend had set up for him while he was in Jackson State Prison in Michigan. Ryan would send letters to this friend, and the friend would then transcribe those letters and post them to the website. The subject matter covered in the blog is largely what you might expect to come out of a prison cell. There are stories of extreme violence, memories of child abuse, prostitutes, and murders. What you would not be likely to expect though is the thoughtfulness and lyrical nature of Ryan’s writing. He wrote the following as part of his recounting of having witnessed a group of young men viciously beat another youth and then abandon the broken, bloodied, and unconscious boy miles from where anyone might find him.
There are hundreds of faces on milk cartons that at one time matched the scared, gulping face of a kid who just didn’t know what he’d gotten himself into. When the young murder, it’s more primitive than moral. It just is and it feels that way. When you see it, it feels like a ritual in some way. Like Inuits pushing the elderly out onto ice floes.
I very quickly started becoming suspicious of Ryan Martin. Ryan’s essays did not seem to me like the work of a man who had accumulated at the point of their writing 4 felonies and 13 misdemeanors, and who had also dropped out of school in the 9th grade. I started becoming convinced that some of this might have been lifted from William Burroughs or Hunter S. Thompson or some other writer who spins yarns of drug fueled murderous rampages.
So, I ran every last word of Ryan Martin’s blog through the same plagiarism detection software used by hundreds of publishers and thousands of educational institutions. None of Ryan’s writing appears anywhere else on the Internet nor can it be found among the billions of journals, publications, and previous submissions that live in the service’s huge repository. I did though discover that his blog was once cited by a very bright undergraduate student enrolled at Florida State University.
Once I was convinced that the writing was original, my suspicions shifted. I decided that I might have been amid the duping process of some college student enrolled in one of those disciplines that allows students to define their own curriculum. Maybe Ryan Martin never went to prison. Maybe he didn’t even have a criminal record. So, I looked up his voter registration information and used that to obtain his State Identification Number which I in turn used to pull his record from the Michigan Department of Corrections. Ryan Martin does in fact have on his record 4 felonies and 13 misdemeanors. Drugs and extraordinary violence accounted for essentially all of the charges.
All during the process of lifting my suspicions, Ryan was sending photos of anything and also everything that might help verify his story. Finally, we gave Ryan a call. We talked for four full hours about how he’d beaten people almost to death, about he’d been beaten almost to death himself, about the time he accidentally shot a prostitute, and about his jail time encounters with two interesting inmates; one had killed his wife and cooked her remains for two days, and the other was a somewhat notorious serial killer.
Over the course of our email correspondence and our recorded conversation, I unexpectedly became pretty fond of Ryan. Not “dick sucking” fond as Ryan might say. But he’s got stories and he’s good at telling them. And he’s personable to the point that you forget that this man telling you a story of someone getting their teeth kicked out is the same person who, in the story, is doing the kicking. You might find yourself in the same position if you take the time to listen to his story. Anyway, I like the guy. We’re Facebook friends now.
If you would like to read more of Ryan’s work, his prison essays appear on Ryan Irish Martin and Ask a Jailbird. We sincerely hope that Ryan revisits these one day soon to add a conclusion and to let readers know what life has been like since his release. We’d read the shit out of it.
Grey, O. (2018). Campus terror: The savage crimes of john norman collins. Retrieved from https://the-line-up.com/john-norman-collins
Kozlowski, K. (2019). ‘Michigan murders’ of late ’60s get second look. Retrieved from https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/michigan/2016/09/27/michigan-murders-book/91151924/
Martin, R. (a). Ask A jailbird. Retrieved from http://www.askajailbird.com/
Martin, R. (b). Ryan martin. Retrieved from http://ryanirishmartin.com/
Michigan State Police Criminal Justice Information Center. Ryan Robert Martin criminal check. (). Retrieved from https://apps.michigan.gov/
People of the state of Michigan v. [redacted]: Jackson Circuit Court, 233471st (2003).
Salisbury, D. (2016). Man who bludgeoned wife to death, then cooked her remains loses another legal battle. Retrieved from https://www.mlive.com/news/jackson/2016/03/man_who_bludgeoned_wife_to_dea.html