06/16/2011 at 06:40 PM EDT
West Lee, a 30-year-old lawyer from Chapin, S.C., showed up to The Bachelorette
amidst rumors that he might have been involved in his late wife's death
. The bachelor, who says he's "still searching" for love, spoke to reporters on a conference call about his reaction to those reports, his lack of chemistry with Ashley Hebert and how he was blindsided – along with the rest of America – by Bentley
Since Ashley added an extra rose to the rose ceremony, was it hard to be the only guy kicked off?
It stung a little that I was the only one she chose to leave, definitely. I knew that I was one of the few people on the chopping block that night.
Did you feel like you made a connection with Ashley?
I didn't really have a lot of time with Ashley. In four episodes, I was on two group dates. There were definitely some qualities I saw in her that I thought were attractive and that would be good to have in a potential partner, but I don’t know that I would say there was a connection [like the ones] between her and J.P. or some of the other guys.
What did you think of Bentley while you were filming and were you shocked by his comments once you watched the show?
It's tough to say, because I really liked Bentley … he seemed genuine. He talked about his daughter all the time, so I really thought that his missing her ... and then to see all this stuff on the show was a bit of a surprise. Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle, but at least in my experience of Bentley, he was a good guy. I like him.
What was your reaction to the rumors that you had been involved in your wife's death?
When I went on the show, I knew my past would be fair game. I have no skeletons to hide. I was shocked that her own mother and stepfather were so willing to drag their daughter's name through mud like that. I would just prefer that Sarah's name be allowed to rest in peace at this point, but they were never really involved in her life. I know I loved Sarah. Sarah knows I loved Sarah. I never would've done anything to hurt her. Anyone that knows me [knows that]. I'm not too worried about what they have to say or people who don't know the situation.
Was it hard for you to go on the show and open yourself up to love because you had lost the love of your life once before?
Right after Sarah passed away, I probably tried to start dating a little too quickly, and not because I was ready to date. It's because I had this void inside of me. I was hoping to distract myself from it or fill it with something. That just did not work. I just had these strong feelings of love and loss. I took a long time for myself just to be alone. I was not emotionally available to people for better or worse. Finally, I think I reached a point where I was able to put myself back out there and so I think I went on the show at a good place. It had been over three years. I picked myself up off the ground, passed the bar and got a good job, great friends and great family. I was so happy again on an individual level, and that's when it occurred to me that I was ready to share it with someone else.