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The 45-year-old divorcée and junior-college dropout now lived in Bluefield, West Virginia, a fading town near the Appalachian coalfields where she’d been raised.
In addition to collecting 4 in unemployment benefits each week, Elrod made ends meet by hustling: She resold packages of discount toilet paper and peddled small quantities of prescription drugs.
She discovered that message in March 2011, 20 months before opening her First Community account, while cleaning out her junk-strewn “Other” mailbox during a respite at a Charlotte mall.
The missive caught her eye because of the sender’s handsome profile photo, which showed a middle-aged man with a ruddy face, strong black eyebrows, and a welcoming gaze.
He also expressed a fervent desire to visit her in the US and perhaps even live with her full-time—a dream come true for Elrod, who lamented that she’d never had kids of her own.
Sometimes, if her phone bill was due or her refrigerator was barren, she kept a few dollars for herself.
But more often than not, she ended the day no richer than she’d started.
She wrote back, thanking the sender for complimenting her beauty and asking how he’d found her.
He said he had stumbled across her profile while searching for a college friend who shared her last name; he also noted that his own surname was actually Mc Gregor, not Gregor.