- Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story follows Cyntoia Brown-Long’s journey from imprisonment to freedom.
- Brown-Long, 32, met and her married her husband, Jamie Long, 34, while serving a life sentence.
- The couple now lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
The day Cyntoia Brown-Long was released from prison in August 2019 was the same day she could embrace her husband, Jamie Long, for the first time.
The happy moment marked just how far Brown-Long, 32, had come over the course of her life. Brown-Long’s journey is depicted in the new Netflix documentary, From Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story.
In 2004, at the age of 16, Brown-Long was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison for killing Johnny Allen, a 43-year-old real estate agent who had allegedly hired her for sex, according to NBC News. Brown-Long has never denied her crime, but claims she acted out of self-defense, NPR reported.
At the time of her sentencing, Brown-Long was labeled a teenage prostitute. Perception has changed in the years since. Now, in Tennessee, anyone 18 or younger cannot be charged with prostitution—instead, Tennessee law defines any minor who performs a commercial sex act as a victim of sex trafficking.
“If Cyntoia Brown were arrested today, she would not be charged as a prostitute. She would be considered a young girl who’s involved in sex trafficking,” Dan Birman, who directed the Netflix and PBS documentaries about Brown-Long, said while speaking to NPR in 2019.
Following years of advocacy and a tremendous outpouring of celebrity-driven public support, Brown-Long was granted clemency by the then-governor of Tennessee—a rare occurrence, according to PBS.
From Murder to Mercy, out April 29, rehashes Brown-Long’s childhood, and rehabilitation in prison. However, the documentary only briefly touches the part of her life that Brown-Long credits with her peace today: Her relationship with her “amazing husband” Jamie Long, who goes by J. Long.
Here’s what we know about the couple and their relationship.
J. Long, Brown-Long’s husband, is a Christian rapper and entrepreneur.
Music runs in Long’s blood. The La Marque, Texas native was born into a family of musicians. His uncle, Huey Long, had an 80-year-long career as a jazz musician, and was the guitarist for the Ink Spots.
In addition to solo singles like 2008’s “Berry Love,” Long is most famous for performing with the R&B group Pretty Ricky from 2008 and 2010. Three years later, Long pivoted to spiritual music. His Christian hip-hop album, R&B: Redeemed and Blessed, came out in 2013.
According to an appearance on The Breakfast Club radio show, Long also found financial success from starting a home healthcare business in Texas 11 years ago. “It paid off really well for me,” he said.
The couple’s romance began in 2017 with a letter.
The two recounted their unusual courtship on The Breakfast Club radio show. Long first heard about his future wife by watching a 2011 documentary about Brown-Long, Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story, made by the same director as the Netflix documentary.
Normally, Long confessed, he does not sit through lengthy videos—but he was transfixed. “I felt God tell me, stop and write her,” Long said. “I told her basically, God told me to tell you you’re getting out of prison.”
Long sent the letter in January 2017. During an appearance on the Tamron Hall Show, he revealed he burnt the edges of the note to make his stand out, amid the other letters Brown-Long received after the documentary aired.
It worked. To his surprise, he received a reply. “There was just something about him,” Brown-Long said on The Breakfast Club. Four months later, Long traveled to Tennessee to meet Brown-Long in person. His reaction was instantaneous.
“When I went in to see her, I knew right then she would be my wife,” Long said. His instincts were right: They got engaged two years later. “I bought my wife’s wedding ring while she was still in prison, and we didn’t know if she was getting out,” he continued.
Brown-Long didn’t think she’d ever be released.
When Long first wrote to her in 2017, Brown-Long had given up her dream of seeing the outside world again. By then, all of Brown’s appeals had been denied. “I didn’t have hope,” Brown-Long said in Essence.
Brown-Long credits her husband with rebuilding her faith. “We prayed through it, and because of him I started working on my relationship with God. And that’s when my federal appeal opened back up, which is unheard of,” she continued.
They got married while Brown-Long was in prison.
The news of Brown-Long’s marriage broke alongside the announcement of her memoir, Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System, in August 2019. The press release listed her name as “Brown-Long,” as opposed to “Brown,” indicating that she had gotten married.
Yona Deshommes, associate director of publicity for the publishing imprint, confirmed that the marriage had taken place while Brown-Long was in prison, per USA Today.
Free Cyntoia was published in October 2019, and contained details about her relationship with Long.
The couple now lives in Nashville.
On August 7, 2019, Brown-Long walked free from the Tennessee Prison for Women after 15 years of incarceration. She had a destination in mind: The two-story Nashville home that Long had purchased for their new life together.
“A lot of people who get out of prison struggle to find places. They worry about it. It was so good that I didn’t have to worry about it,” Brown-Long said. “He had a house ready. I had a closet full of clothes. Thank God he’d got good taste, ’cause I don’t.”
Long hopes to start a family with his wife.
The couple is in it for the long haul. “I want to settle down and start a family. I want to live for you and please you,” Long told his bride on The Breakfast Club. “This time I got it right, and I know I got it right.”
For now, though, Brown-Long is busy forging her new normal. Since her release, Brown-Long has gone on a national speaking tour and contemplated law school.
They post about their marriage on Instagram.
For more installments in Brown-Long’s unfolding relationship, head to Instagram. Posting under @cyntoiabrownofficial, they share photos from their trip around the country snapped during her speaking tour.
Long, under @jlongfam, devotes entire grids to his wife.
Come April 29, an essential part of the couple’s story will be recounted on the Netflix documentary From Murder to Mercy.
For more ways to live your best life plus all things Oprah, sign up for our newsletter!