Ordering a hitman to kidnap your estranged wife, blackmail her, and inject her with heroin every day for a week isn’t exactly the easiest way to find new love. But for Dr. Ronald Ilg, apparently, it worked.
Ilg, a 56-year-old former neonatologist, is in the Spokane County Jail awaiting sentencing on two counts of threats in interstate commerce. The technical-sounding charge disguises the deviousness of what he recently copped to in court: messaging hitmen on the dark web to kidnap and torture his estranged wife in a bizarre plot to win her back. (The plot, thankfully, never worked; dark-web hitmen sites are notoriously unreliable.)
Ilg has spent the last year in jail and last month struck a plea deal that could land him in prison for anywhere from five to eight years. But that hasn’t stopped him from getting engaged—to the wife of another inmate.
“I think he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met,” the woman, Isabella Bower, told The Daily Beast. “He was an amazing, amazing man... and pretty much lost it all over one mistake.”
Ilg and Bower met about nine months ago, after Bower’s husband—whom she is in the process of divorcing—started talking to her incessantly about an enigmatic man locked up with him. Bower says her ex was convinced that Ilg was a good person caught in a bad situation and was so emphatic that Bower decided to look up the doctor. She immediately recognized him as the man who’d worked out next to her years ago at the local YMCA and was so moved by the coincidence she decided to write him a letter.
From there, she says, the sparks were instant. Bower says she included her phone number in the letter and that Ilg called her within days. He liked how “docile and sweet” she was; she liked how easy he was to talk to. Ilg accepted her eccentricities, her penchant for dressing up and wearing wigs, and seemed to keep a positive outlook despite his circumstances. Though calls from the jail are recorded and limited to 15 minutes each, the two have talked every day since, sometimes up to 10 times a day.
Bower said the two plan to be married as soon as possible, even if it means getting hitched while Ilg is in prison. She never envisioned herself dating someone in prison, she said, “but here I am in that situation, and I still don't know exactly how or why.”
“It has to be a higher power or something that brought us together because we just—we equal each other out,” she said.
The only catch? Her true love might still be in love with another woman.
When Ilg was charged in April 2021, it was the result of a remarkably messy love triangle. According to court documents, Ilg was attempting to add a second woman to his marriage with a local esthetician, who wasn’t having it. His wife eventually filed for divorce, which Ilg protested by sending her hundreds of texts, bribing her to halt the divorce proceedings, and “accidentally” dropping lengthy letters next to her in a parking lot. Eventually, prosecutors said, he concocted a scheme to have a hitman kidnap her and inject her with heroin until she agreed to return to him.
“She is stubborn and will need lots of persuasion,” he wrote in a message to the hitman site.
On the day the diabolical scheme was scheduled to go down, Ilg was in Mexico with his mistress, who noticed him using his phone frequently and grew suspicious. The two fought, and the woman reached out to his estranged wife about her concerns. When Ilg and his mistress returned to Spokane, FBI agents greeted them at the airport.
Once there, the mistress told the agents something they did not know: that she and Ilg were in a “dominant/submissive,” relationship in which the doctor allegedly forced her to call him “sir” and punished her by making her sit in an underground bunker outside his home. While in Mexico, she said, he forced her to sign a “sex slave” contract in blood.
None of this particularly bothers Bower. When it comes to the hitman scheme, she says, she would have been “flattered” if someone went to those lengths to earn back her love. Plus, she says, no one actually got hurt in the process. “He spent his life saving people—babies, at that,” she said. “You don't just get into that profession because you don't care.”
As for the BDSM element, well, she’s always been a little traditional, preferring to take a back seat and let men make decisions for her. In a moment of candor, she admitted that she had been physically abused in the past. At least Ilg, she said, was trying to be dominant “in a positive way.”
What gives her pause is the fear that Ilg might still be in love with his mistress. After initial questioning by the FBI, Ilg attempted suicide and had to be hospitalized for four days. From his hospital bed, he called his wife and asked her to deliver a message to his mistress. Even from jail, he wrote letters to the woman—in violation of a protective order—asking her to marry him and promising to pay for her children’s education if she did.
Bower says she thinks Ilg has learned his lesson about seeing two women at once. (“Obviously it backfired on him,” she deadpanned.) But in the back of her mind, she still wonders whether he’s truly over the other woman. Recently, she saw an article claiming that the mistress had been planning their wedding on Etsy before he was arrested. Bower didn’t even know they’d been engaged.
“He does write about her to me a lot and still talks about her a lot,” she said. “When he gets out, I don’t know how he will feel with that. He says one thing, but how will he really feel?”
“It gives me a little bit of pause,” she added. “If he does love her and they do love each other, I don’t want to be the person to interfere with that. But I’m not going to be the third person in that either.”
For now, however, the two still plan on being wed as soon as possible. (Ilg confirmed as much to The Daily Beast in a call from jail.) Bower is working on a series of interviews with Ilg that she plans to post on YouTube so people can “get a feeling for who he is.” She hopes it will persuade the judge to go easier on him at his November sentencing.
Her hope, she said, is that she and Ilg can have the “normal picket-fence suburban life” she’s always dreamed of.
“I got the suburban life and I got the kids,” she said. Whether anything about the union will be “normal” remains to be seen.