Bob Shell: In Her Own Words

Portrait of Marion Franklin by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021


Photography and Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021


Marion – In Her Own Words


The main thrust of the prosecutor’s case against me was his contention that Marion and I never had a sexual relationship; that our relationship was strictly business. He even said that it was inconceivable that a photographer could have a sexual relationship with a woman and not have pictures of them having sex!

How many photographers reading this could prove in court that you have a sexual relationship with your partner? It was a ridiculous claim.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few of Marion’s notes to give my readers a feel for who she was.

Sometime in the spring of 2003, she handed me a folded note and told me to read it later. It’s not dated, but I believe she gave it to me in March. It’s in her own distinctive handwriting. It reads:


I wanted to write you a note because I feel that sometimes you might not know how important you are to my life. Though sometimes I may push myself away without realizing it; I feel like I’m closer to you than anyone in a long time.

Every day I learn something new from you. You transformed [me] from an insecure and confused girl into a confident and beautiful woman. You’ve given me the best gift I could ever receive, self confidence. Everyone I know sees me slowly coming out of my shell and I can’t describe how wonderful it feels. I’m always thanking you for this or that, the truth is there is nothing I can say that would describe what you’ve done for me. I love you and maybe I’ll be able to better show it one day.

[drawn heart] Marion

Does that sound like a business letter? The prosecutor said it did to him.

The next is from her diaries, the one that didn’t disappear after the police took them. A model/friend found the diary in my studio in Marion’s travel bag. The police missed it in their search, thankfully. I’ve kept her spelling and punctuation exactly as written. It’s dated May 21, 2003, written on our way to Massachusetts:

Yep, on an airplane again. I’m a ridiculously blessed person, and one of my many blessings I am most thankful for is all of the opportunities I have to travel; to see new places in the world by way other than TV.

Growing up in a town with a population of about 500…(that’s low), I never thought I would be one of the lucky kids who didn’t end up stuck in nowheres-ville working for shit and actually getting a taste of culture.

Yet, I did.. Let me take a moment to reflect on what my wonderful new life has given me. I have a VERY well paying job w/ security doing something I love and learning a business/profession. I live in a giant apartment, which I barely pay pennies for with two extra bedrooms (currently office and walk in closet), expensive furnishings, extra chill room with practically a whole garden in it, and an extremely coveted computer setup.

And the number of times I’ve ran out of money for pot had dropped down to a pretty low NEVER.

My mother and father have never been so proud of me. I’m actually treated like a family member and not just the kid. And I even think my brother is jelous of me.

On April 17, 2003 she sent me this late night email, after we’d had a long outdoor shoot, followed by sex in my forest. (elissas refers to Elissa’s, a lingerie and sex toy shop in Christiansburg, VA, where she loved to go). How could anyone read this and say we didn’t have a physical relationship, yet the prosecutor insisted that we didn’t, and the jury bought it!:

Hey Bob

Here it is four o’clock in the morning and no sleep again. I’ve just been too hyper to sleep, and my mind is racing. No drugs either!! Well not really but only a little bit of pot.

I don’t know which words to use. Maybe there just aren’t any for such strong feelings. You know I love you so much but I haven’t been able to turn off my inhibitions and really show you. I don’t know what was different about yesterday, maybe the time was just finally right.

I guess I could do what I always do and make a joke out of it. I could say it was great to finally have something butt besides those vibrators you bought me. But this is too important to be just a joke. I love you and I know you have always known it and you know I will always love you. But my fucking inhibitions just always pop up when I’m ready to let go. I can’t believe how patient you’ve been with me. No pushing. Like I told you all of my other boyfriends would have wanted blow jobs for a week if they bought me something nice. I guess it was just hard for me to believe that someone could love fucked up me without expecting big doses of sex in exchange. I know you wanted me but you didn’t push. You let me have my time and space so things could develop… Yesterday everything just felt right and I know you felt that way too.

You are the first boy who didn’t make me feel bad because i like it in my butt. You showed me that there was nothing wrong with me for liking that just like you showed me theres nothing wrong with me for liking girls in a sexual way. You’ve done so much for me that I could never repay you but I understand that you are not someone who expects pay back for everything you do. You say you just want me to be happy and that’s all and I believe you.

You know you are my only real friend. I’ve told you so many timed that the only thing I have in common with my other friends is doing drugs and that really makes me feel bad. I want friends I can talk to about other stuff. I know you are serious about helping me find some but I keep falling back with the others because I cant seem to get loose from the addiction. You’ve helped me so much by showing me that what happened to me growing up wasn’t my fault, but I still run back to the drugs. Maybe someday with your help and love I will be able to get hold of my past and live without chemical help. But I don’t think that will be soon.

When you’re leaving and we embrace I don’t want to ever let go. I just want you to hold me and protect me and always be with me. It doesn’t make sense that I feel like that and I’m not ready for you to live here all the time but that’s just me and you know how I change my mind all the time. I’m not sure how you even stand me with me being up and down all the time and you never know which Marion will be here when you come in the door every morning. But you come back every time and I’ve never had someone before I could depend on like that.

I love you truly,


Marion was very bipolar, had been treated for that and OCD for years, and was on Valium the whole time i knew her. I’ll try to post some more of the real Marion in the future. I miss her very much. It’s been sixteen years, and her death still hurts like it happened yesterday.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Here’s the link: 

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