The Most Heartbreaking Backstories On 90 Day Fiance

Since its premiere, "90 Day Fiancé" has taken viewers on a wild ride, exposing the complexities of falling in love on the internet and spotlighting the challenges of dating someone who lives on the other side of the world. The series has captured some of the highest viewership on cable TV and propagated an array of spin-offs, including "90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After?," "90 Day: The Single Life," and many more. Some call the show a guilty pleasure. Yet, whether you watch it for the drama or for the straight-up cringe factor, there's one common through-line for fans: we all feel some level of connection to the cast members.

"90 Day Fiancé" is legendary, but it would be nothing without its rotation of kooky reality stars willing to share their stories. Over the seasons, we've seen some of their most joyful, cringe-worthy, and downright depressing moments play out in front of the cameras. When it comes to harrowing personal stories, there have been some real doozies on the "90 Day Fiancé" franchise. From tragic losses to painful family separations, we're here to fill you in on some of the most heartbreaking backstories on the show — you may want to grab your tissue box for this one. 

Geoffery Paschel grieved the death of his baby son

Season 4 of "Before the 90 Days" brought us Geoffery Paschel, the mild-mannered Tennesseean who traveled to Russia to meet his online girlfriend, Varya Malina. Despite his down-home charm, fans quickly learned there was more to Paschel than meets the eye. For one thing, he struggled to overcome his past, which included a prison stint for selling drugs. Then, there was his heartbreaking backstory: the sudden death of his 13-month-old son, Kazhem. "Losing a child is the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to you. There's going to be a hole in my heart for the rest of my life," Paschel said on the show, adding that Kazhem had died due to complications from a seizure.

Despite Paschel's tragic history, things seemed to be looking up when he and Malina got engaged at the end of their season. Malina even seemed to be helping Paschel honor Kazhem's memory by decorating the child's grave and paying tribute to him on social media. But in another unfortunate twist, Paschel is currently serving an 18-year sentence behind bars. According to Tennessee's district attorney, the reality star was convicted of "Aggravated Kidnapping, Domestic Assault, and Interference with Emergency Calls" (via People). The convictions stem from a 2019 incident involving an ex-fiancée of Paschel's.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Amanda Wilhelm's husband died from cancer

Fans will remember Amanda Wilhelm as the Louisiana-based mom who appeared on season 6 of "Before the 90 Days." The show documented her journey to Romania to meet her sweetheart, Razvan Ciocoi. In true 21st-century fashion, Wilhelm connected with Ciocoi on TikTok and quickly fell head-over-heels for the social media influencer. But their story proved to be complicated — especially because Wilhelm was still healing from the recent death of her husband, Jason Wilhelm. In the series premiere, Wilhem revealed that Jason was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and died just 10 days later. The tragic loss turned everything upside down for Wilhelm and her two young children. 

Despite her eagerness to find love again, Wilhelm struggled with guilt and grief while navigating her new relationship with Ciocoi. Sadly, some viewers slammed the reality star for moving on only a few months after her husband's death. Others accused her of being a bad mother for bringing a new man into the fold. Wilhelm addressed the controversy in a now-expired Instagram story. "My children are my world, and I would never do anything to cause them any trauma or pain. I was never looking to replace their father," she wrote (via InTouch).

Yolanda Leak also lost her husband

Season 4 of "Before the 90 Days" introduced us to Yolanda Leak, a Las Vegas resident who fell in love with a man named Williams after meeting him on Instagram. Leak's online beau claimed to be a 41-year-old model from England, but there was one major problem: Leak couldn't confirm his identity. Leak's children were concerned when she revealed that she had never video-chatted with Williams despite dating him for seven months. In the end, there were clear signs of a catfish situation — yet Leak was still hopeful of making things work with her mystery man.

Some fans were quick to judge Leak for ignoring the red flags. However, Leak's backstory helps to explain why she fell for Williams' tricks. Leak was once married, but her husband Dwayne tragically died. Leak explained on the show that she and Dwayne were together for 30 years before he succumbed to kidney disease. "I can count the number of men I've dated on one hand. But, I only had one love, which was Dwayne," Leak said on the season premiere (via Showbiz Cheatsheet).

Leak bounced back after getting catfished by Williams — and she's had a few public relationships since her TLC debut. These days, however, the reality star appears to be embracing the single life. 

Rosemarie Vega struggled with body image

Rosemarie Vega and her American boyfriend, Ed Brown, appeared on Season 4 of "Before the 90 Days." From the outset, the couple struggled with cultural differences and clashing personalities. When Brown revealed he didn't want to have more children, Vega kicked him to the curb. Their story had all the makings of a dumpster fire viewing experience — a fact that made them wildly popular with fans of the show. After her split with Brown, Vega found success as a model and content creator. As her platform grows, she becomes more open about sharing her personal story.

In 2020, the reality star spoke out about her struggles with body image. "When I was younger, I was bullied because of my skin color. It reached a certain point where I had insecurities," she wrote on Instagram. Vega confessed that she tried using products to make her skin appear lighter — but over time, she is learning to feel beautiful in her natural brown skin. "Yes, I still get insults," Vega confessed. "But it does not affect me anymore. In fact, I become more stronger whenever I get one."

Vega ended the post with a nugget of wisdom for others who struggle with body insecurities. "Please embrace yourselves," she urged. "Embrace the color that you have. Above all, it's about loving and accepting ourselves."

Darcey Silva was devastated by her brother's death

Darcey Silva is a fan favorite on the TLC network. We first met the reality star in season 1 of "Before the 90 Days," when Silva traveled to Amsterdam with hopes of getting engaged to her then-boyfriend, Jesse Meester. After a tumultuous romance, the pair split, leaving Silva broken-hearted. In Season 3, Silva gave love a second chance with her British beau, Tom Brooks. However, the relationship went up in flames — and Silva ended up breaking things off with Brooks. 

Although Silva's on-air dating history has tugged at our heartstrings, she has a tragic backstory that didn't get much attention on the show. Her older brother, Michael Silva, died from cancer in 1998. Since the devastating loss, Silva and her twin sister, Stacey, have done their best to keep Michael's legacy alive. The sisters, who co-star in the series "Darcey and Stacey," spoke about honoring their late brother through their fashion brand, House of Eleven. "He was born on May 11, passed on July 11, so hence House of Eleven," the sisters told E! News. "With everything we do, we just want to make him proud."

Olga Koshimbetova stayed in an orphanage due to a shocking family tragedy

Olga Koshimbetova and Steven Frend starred in season 6 of "90 Day Fiancé." The pair decided to get engaged after their summer fling led to a surprise pregnancy. Frend traveled to Koshimbetova's home in Russia to help care for their newborn son, Aleksandr. Fans watched as the couple struggled to adjust to new living conditions and first-time parenthood, all while getting to know each other. Things worked out in the end, and the pair made it down the aisle. After TLC's cameras stopped rolling, they moved to New York City and welcomed a daughter, Leila.

During her first confessional, Koshimbetova revealed that she stayed in an orphanage for part of her childhood — but she didn't share any additional details, stating that she wanted to put the past behind her. SoapDirt later reported that Koshimbetova's parents had murdered her sister Alexandra back in 2011. The alleged slaying occurred because Koshimbetova's parents believed Alexandra was possessed by spirits. The event purportedly left Koshimbetova with no one to care for her, thus landing her in an orphanage.

Koshimbetova seemingly confirmed the story in 2021. "I am not going into details but in 2011 my sister died because of my parents and they went to the mental hospital," she wrote in a since-deleted Instagram post. "I know if they were mentally healthy it would never happen because they love us" (via Screen Rant). 

Armando Rubio's ex-wife was killed in a car crash

Armando Rubio and Kenny Niedermeier were the first gay men featured in the franchise. The couple appeared in season 2 of "90 Day Fiancé : The Other Way," and their compelling story was a hit with fans. Rubio and Niedermeier shared an instant connection when they met in a virtual support group for gay fathers. The show followed along as Niedermeier left the United States to join Rubio in Mexico. Their storyline also dealt with Rubio's emotional experience of coming out to his family. In the end, things worked out, and the duo exchanged wedding vows. After a remarkable journey, the newlyweds settled in Mexico with Rubio's young daughter, Hannah.

Although the show acknowledged Rubio's previous marriage to Hannah's mother, there were many unanswered questions about that part of his story. In 2020, the reality star opened up about his ex-wife and the car crash that took her life. "After I came out to my wife, we decided to separate," Rubio explained on the show. He then explained that he'd been driving home after arguing with his wife when he suddenly realized she was driving behind him. Moments later, she accidentally crashed into the back of Rubio's car. "As I continued down the highway, I then realized it was my ex-wife and before I knew it she lost control of her vehicle and passed away on the scene," the reality star dished (via InTouch).

Hazel Cagalitan had to give up custody of her son

Viewers met Hazel Cagalitan and Tarik Myers during Season 2 of "Before the 90 Days." At the start of their journey, Myers traveled to Cagalitan's home country of the Philippines after meeting her on a dating site. The couple had ups and downs, but Cagalitan ultimately moved to the U.S. and married Myers. Their story continued on "90 Day Fiancé," where fans saw Cagalitan bond with Myers' daughter, Auri. Although fans wished a happy ending for the pair, it was clear that their lives were incomplete without Hazel's young son Harry, who was still in the Philippines.

In a heartbreaking confessional, Cagalitan explained why she gave up custody of Harry. "My son lived with me when he was three years old," said the reality star. "I love him, but I didn't have enough money and so I give my son to his father." Cagalitan's future plans involved bringing her son to live in the United States with her and Myers. Although Myers was on board with the idea, Harry's father and stepmother seemed unwilling to cooperate. In the end, it remained unclear whether the mother and son would be able to reunite in America. "It is very hard to [be] away from my son, and there's nothing I can do," Cagalitan said during an emotional scene.

Ellie Rose's first husband died in 2004

When we met Ellie Rose on Season 3 of "The Other Way," she was one week away from moving to the island of Providencia to live with her sweetheart, Victor McLean. The pair met while Rose was vacationing on the Caribbean island, and there were instant fireworks between them. As we learned on the show, this was a major event for Rose because she hadn't been in love with anyone since her first husband, Matt. Sadly, the reality star revealed that Matt died in 2004 from an accidental prescription drug overdose. 

"Eleven months after we got married, we went to Atlanta, which is where he was from," Rose told producers on the show. "I went to bed early that night. And when I woke up, I discovered him and he was dead." Understandably, Rose was traumatized by the experience. "After losing my husband in that manner, it's been hard to open up my heart completely to someone because of that fear of losing them and going through that process again," the reality star confessed.

Despite thinking she'd never find love again, a chance encounter brought Rose and McLean together. The duo faced numerous challenges during their season — including trust issues and a category-five hurricane that ravaged Providencia. Still, they've been committed to making the romance work. In 2022, the pair tied the knot and moved back to the United States. 

Tyray Mollett endured several tragedies

Tyray Mollett starred in Season 6 of "Before the 90 Days," where we learned that the California resident was in love with Carmella, a Barbadian woman he met on a dating site. Despite never video-chatting with Carmella, Mollett was sure she was the real deal. Unfortunately, he soon discovered the truth about the woman he'd been dating and sending money to for four years — "she" was actually a man named Christian, and Mollett was a victim of his cruel catfishing game.

And as if our hearts weren't already breaking for Mollett, we learned some truly devastating details about his life. Mollett's father was murdered when Mollett was four years old. Given the circumstance, Mollett's mother became his rock — but the tables turned when she developed a brain tumor and suffered a stroke. Mollett quit his job to become her full-time caretaker. The stress and isolation took a toll on the reality star, who found comfort in food. In turn, he felt self-conscious about his weight and became more withdrawn than ever.

Despite his difficult circumstances, Mollett doesn't want sympathy. In fact, the reality star credits the show for helping him break out of his shell. "I put myself in a vulnerable situation and finally opened up to people, so this is like me trying to grow as a person," Mollett told ET. "It was tough at first, but, you know, it teaches people to not give up and to believe in yourself."

There's a tragic reason why Sumit Singh clashes with his mother

Sumit Singh and Jenny Slatten made their debut on Season 1 of "90 Day Fiance: The Other Way." At first, Slatten was a victim of Singh's catfishing scheme. But despite his deception, the pair worked it out, and Slatten fell in love with the real Singh. TLC followed along as Slatten moved to India to be with her beloved. However, there was one major source of drama: Singh's family. They disapproved of the couple's 30-year age gap and demanded that Singh stay in the traditional Indian marriage they'd arranged for him. Ultimately, the reality star divorced his arranged wife and married Slatten. When his mother found out, she disowned him. 

Singh believed his mother's behavior was related to a heartbreaking detail from her past. Many years ago, Singh's mother gave birth to a daughter, but the child died at eight months old. Singh concluded that his arranged wife, a young Indian woman, reminded her of the daughter she had lost — so when Singh divorced her, it triggered feelings of grief and resentment within his mother. "My mother blamed me for losing another daughter when I get divorce," Sumit said on the show. "Sometimes it makes me feel like my mother is taking revenge. Like, she is mad at me because she's not happy she lost a girl she had [a] connection with."