A mother and son whose illicit affair could put them behind bars declared their love for each other and have vowed to continue the relationship.
Monica Mares, 36, and her son, Caleb Peterson, 19, face charges of incest with a maximum sentence of 18 months. Incest is a crime in all 50 states, but the details of the law differ from state to state.
The courts ruled that the Clovis, New Mexico, couple is prohibited from having any contact with each other.
Now the couple is appealing to the public to help fund their legal battle.
“He is the love of my life and I don't want to lose him. My kids love him, my whole family does. Nothing can come between us -- not courts, or jail -- nothing,” Mares told Daily Mail.
The mother-of-nine says she would choose her lover over her other children. Their illicit affair began toward the end of 2015.
Mares was 16 when she gave birth to Peterson and later put him up for adoption. The pair saw each other for the first time in 18 years last Christmas after they got in touch through Facebook.
After Mares picked her biological son up at his adoptive father’s house in Texas and brought him to her home, the pair soon developed a romance and their relationship became physical a few weeks later.
Peterson told Daily Mail he fell in love with Mares about a week after meeting her.
“It went beyond a mother-son relationship I never really viewed her as my mom. In certain aspects I do but mostly I don't.
Because she didn’t raise him, the 36-year-old says she doesn’t have the same mother-son feelings that would normally occur.
Mares says Peterson is the best thing that has happened to her in the past 19 years and wants to be with him for the rest of her life. Mares’ youngest son even calls Peterson "dad."
Initially, the two lived together in Mares’ mobile home with her two youngest children and kept the relationship a secret.
But authorities found out about the affair when they were called in for an altercation between the family and some neighbors.
Peterson and Mares were subsequently arrested and charged with a fourth-degree felony for the incest.
They were released on $5,000 bail and now face a trial by jury in September.
The couple, however, has faced strong backlash from the community. There have been death threats, harassment, and online bullying directed at them.
They both have roots with Native American Apache tribes, and the couple is also being backed by Cristina Shy, who runs lilysgardener.com, a support and advocacy website for couples who are related.
Cristina, who is involved in an illicit relationship with her half-brother in Minnesota, said, “Our whole community is watching this case and looking for updates.”
“It was the same with gay people just a few years ago and now they can get married they are accepted."
“We are all adults. We are not pedophiles, there's no domestic issue, we are in love, we want to be together but we are related. That shouldn't be a deciding factor.”
Cristina is hoping to raise enough funds to get a high profile lawyer to defend the case, which could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“You can't tell me who to love, who not to love,” says Peterson.