How To NOT Date A Criminal

Women who fall in love with and sometimes marry psychotic killers — like Richard Ramirez (the Night Stalker) or Ted Bundy — have always fascinated me. I mean, why? Sure, people do tend to have types, but “big-schnozzed manorexic” is a far cry from “slitter of throats and raper of ladies.” However, I have to give these women some credit—at least those guys were still in jail and therefore unable to harm them when they hooked up.

Drew Peterson’s latest fiancé is more of a risk-taker. Twenty-four-year-old Christina Raines is set to marry 53-year-old Peterson despite the fact that two out of his four ex-wives were either murdered or missing and presumed murdered. Though he hasn’t been formally charged in either murder, he remains Suspect #1.

That said, most of us who’ve dated law-breakers go a lot less high-profile—here are a few signs that you might be seeing someone who lives on Johnny Law’s bad side.Financial Insecurity: My first live-in boyfriend was a sweetheart. He was cute, devoted, sexy and on the lam. His crime wasn’t too awful—he was AWOL from the Navy—but it made our time together fairly stressful. Mostly because he couldn’t have an on-the-books job lest the man cart him off to the pokey. So basically, I supported both of us while he stayed home and watched “All My Children.”

Junkies are also less than ideal partners for this reason. As all of their money goes towards paying off their drug habits, little of it goes to boring stuff like rent or utilities. If you find yourself paying all the bills, you might just be dating a criminal. (Or a musician.)

Disappearing Act: When that boyfriend didn’t come home one day, I wasn’t worried that he’d run off with another woman. I worried that he’d been carted off to the brig. I was right. It was even harder for Wendy Jenkins* when her pot-dealer girlfriend Amy called to ask Wendy to come pick up her bike from lock-up. “The cop grilled me about my relationship with her, and told me that my friend was in a lot of trouble in a lot of ways.”

So when your partner begins vanishing into the ether, he might be cheating or he might be in jail. Both fireable offenses in my book.

With Friends Like Those…: When your Special Naked Friend advises you to hide all your valuables before any of his friends visit, Ms. Houston, we might have a problem. While most of us have a wild friend or two, nice guys generally don’t hang out with people they can’t leave alone with their iPod. If all his friends are shady, chances are your guy is not squeaky clean either. Oh, and if he has no friends at all — that’s an even bigger and brighter red flag.

Forbidden Zone: They say that those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing, but I’ve never bought into that. Just because you’re in relationship, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve privacy. However, criminals tend to keep more secrets than most. I’d yell at my man if he cracked my journal, but I’d certainly let him into my crawlspace (if my teeny weeny apartment had one). John Wayne Gacy’s wife wasn’t allowed near theirs, because it contained the bodies of all the young men he’d murdered.

And sure, that room off the basement might just be a porno-packed man cave, but the truth might be a bit more sinister. If you’re worried that you might be dating a Clyde to your unwitting Bonnie, there’s always Google and the National Sex Offender Database. Even more importantly than those resources though, you should always trust your gut.