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Love Beyond Bars: Miguel and Silvia

While Miguel Solorio did 25 years for a crime he didn’t commit, his wife, Silvia, was right by his side. Here’s their California love story in pictures.

Miguel and Silvia Solorio at Huntington Beach in California, the first place they went after Miguel was released from prison. He spent 25 years incarcerated for a murder he didn’t commit.

In 1998, at the age of 19, Miguel Solorio was arrested for the murder of an elderly woman who was shot during a gang-related drive-by in Whittier, California. In a case plagued by flawed eyewitness identifications and police perjury, he was convicted of murder and assault and sentenced to life without parole two years later.

Over the next two decades, Solorio fought the wrongful conviction: He filed (unsuccessful) appeals. He built a relationship with a state public defender, who would eventually represent him pro bono. He worked with multiple innocence projects in the state. And Solorio’s wife, Silvia, did her part, working with his family and legal team, and even obtaining a statement from a woman who might have pointed police to another suspect.

In July 2023, with new evidence in hand, lawyers from the Northern California Innocence Project filed the state writ of habeas corpus that would set Solorio free. He walked out of Mule Creek State Prison that November, at age 44.

In this first installment of our new series, “Love Beyond Bars,” Miguel describes the visit with Silvia that almost made him forget he was in prison.

A photo shows an array of Polaroid pictures of Miguel and Silvia together during prison visits. In the Polaroids, Miguel is dressed in a prison uniform of a blue shirt and blue pants. One of the photos has "I Love You Silvia" handwritten on it. Another says "I Love You.”

Miguel and Silvia have hundreds, if not thousands, of photographs from their prison visits. Silvia has kept almost all of the photos.

Silvia and I started dating nine months before my arrest, but my love was genuine from the gate. With her, I felt an instant connection. The words “I love you” just came out naturally.

We got married at Calipatria State Prison back in 2004, surrounded by friends and family. She drove to the prison to see me every weekend, but it wasn’t until 2019 that we had our first family visit, at Mule Creek State Prison. On family visits, you stay in a little miniature apartment from Friday to Monday. You can almost forget that you’re in prison.

For the first time, we got to act like a normal married couple. We were able to cook for each other, with food from an outside grocery store. There were fresh vegetables, like tomatoes and bell peppers, but I ate so many chicken nuggets I made myself sick. Silvia told me to slow down, but I didn’t listen. She couldn’t really blame me.

We got to watch movies together, dance together. They had a little radio, and we listened to oldies, blues and rap music. I remember one song’s lyrics, “I’ll testify for you.”

Now that I’ve been exonerated, every day is like that. Because of Silvia, I know that life is precious, and I don’t take it for granted.

A handwritten note from Silvia to Miguel reads: “Miguel Honey, when you see this picture, think of all the times we would go to the beach together. I love and miss you! Love Silvia”
Silvia's hands are visible, holding up a photograph of the blue sky and ocean.
Silvia wrote a note to Miguel while he was in prison on the back of a photograph of the ocean.
Miguel and Silvia sit on a bed, watching an online service on their laptop.

Silvia and Miguel attend a Jehovah’s Witnesses service online on a Sunday morning. Silvia converted while Miguel was incarcerated because she felt that the congregation was the family she needed for support. The group welcomed Miguel when he was released.

Handwritten vows on a piece of notebook paper read: "Silvia, since the first day I met you in 98, my life has changed completely. Day after day, night after night, I dr[e]am about you, I just had to discover what my dream meant, I just had to discover what my eyes has seen, the beauty of your face and the softness of your voice woke my lonel[i]ness heart every time I would spend quality time with you, it showed me what true happiness is about..."

Miguel’s marriage vows to Silvia. The couple wed on September 25, 2004. Silvia has kept the vows in her wallet for the past 20 years.

Miguel and Silvia hold their hands up at an outdoor family gathering with plates of food. Silvia is wearing a hot pink suit and Miguel is wearing a plaid shirt and sunglasses.
Silvia drives with her right hand holding Miguel's. A heart-shaped pendant hangs from the rearview mirror.
and Silvia enjoy a family gathering.
drives with her right hand holding Miguel’s. The necklace hanging on the rearview mirror has the date of their wedding engraved on it.
Silvia and Miguel are seen through the window of a funnel cake and churro shop, sharing a dessert.

Silvia and Miguel share a funnel cake, one of Silvia’s favorite desserts.

Camille Farrah Lenain is a French-Algerian documentary photographer who grew up in Paris. She relocated to New Orleans in 2013. Her photographs have been exhibited internationally, including at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, the Arab World Institute, Photoville and Les Rencontres d'Arles.

Carla Canning is an engagement journalist and contract editor at Prison Journalism Project. She previously worked on Life Inside as The Marshall Project's Tow audience engagement fellow. At the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, she created a website guide for people visiting loved ones incarcerated in New York State prisons.