“When I met you, I, like, immediately was 100 percent myself. I’ve never met anybody that I felt that comfortable with — that deep of a connection. I felt like I really knew you for years,” Erich said. “I didn’t know it, but I had met my soulmate. You finally let your barriers down, and I think our relationship transcended to this insane level. … You literally make me feel like I’m the only person in the world. And I will fight every day for the rest of my life to keep that feeling. I love you, Gabby Windey. You are amazing. You are the most amazing person I’ve ever met. It’s you and me until the wheels fall off. I’m head over heels in love with you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Though the New Jersey native was Gabby’s final suitor heading into the finale, the duo weathered plenty of tension over the past several weeks. During the September 13 episode, Erich hinted that he wasn’t ready to pop the question.
“He said, ‘I want to continue to date you,’ so that doesn’t scream, ‘I want to propose,’” Gabby said near the end of the finale’s first part. “I don’t want to force him into a decision.” Speaking to producers, she asked: “What am I supposed to do — walk away because he doesn’t want to propose?”
The drama continued off-camera as well, with Erich apologizing after a photo surfaced that showed him wearing blackface several years ago.
“I wholeheartedly apologize for the insensitive photo of me in Blackface from my high school yearbook that has been circulating,” he wrote via Instagram on September 8. “What I thought at the time was a representation of my love for Jimi Hendrix, was nothing but ignorance. I was naïve to the hurtful implications of my actions to the Black community and those closest to me, and will forever regret my offensive and damaging behavior. I am deeply ashamed by my actions and understand that my apology is only the first step in taking accountability.”
At the time, Erich was already the last suitor left who was pursuing Gabby. The ICU nurse eliminated Johnny DePhillipo during the September 5 episode after he said he wasn’t ready to propose, while Jason Alabaster quit the show after his overnight date.
Days before the finale, Erich made headlines again when Amanda Kaylor alleged that he broke up with her to go on the show. In text messages Amanda shared with @BachelorNation.Scoop, Erich allegedly told his ex that his time on the show wouldn’t be “real.”
The duo allegedly dated from January to March after meeting on Hinge. Amanda claimed that Erich told her he felt “stuck in my career path” and wanted a change, which is why he decided to sign on for the ABC reality show.
The pair didn’t speak again until July — the same month that season 19 of The Bachelorette premiered. “I am so sorry Amanda, what I did was terrible. I don’t expect you to ever forgive me,” Erich allegedly wrote on July 10. “I just want you to know I think about you all the time and you really deserve the best. I won’t ever forgive myself I hope you find happiness and everything you deserve.”
At the time, neither Gabby nor Erich publicly addressed the allegations.