I’d like to pray a scripture. It says,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the captives, heal the sick, to release the oppressed and declare that today, this year is the year the Lord’s favor.”
In Jesus name, Amen.
At 17 years old I was a sophomore in high school. I was a pretty good athlete, track and field. I was competing with seniors, going to district and state and lettered in football. I was a pretty good athlete, but one of the things hampering my potential was alcohol. I grew up in an alcoholic family, and I wasn’t neglected but in that some people are, but I was introduced into drinking to deal with problems. You have stress, you drink. You have problems, you’re mad, you’re angry, whatever, you’re happy, you’re celebrating, you drink.
So, growing up in alcoholic family, it was easy to follow in that suit. I would drink every weekend – sometimes during a weekday – one day I even went to school drunk. One night, a cousin came from New Jersey. I lived in northeast Pennsylvania. And my cousin came from New Jersey. He would come and hang out. He was my favorite cousin. He was a cousin that helped my family. When my mother was down and out, my cousin would come in and help out. And I just had a respect for him because when men mistreated my mother (when she was divorced she dated), my cousin would come to the rescue. What young kid wouldn’t respect a man or a guy that helped your mom? One night my cousin and I were drinking, and my cousin said, “I want to go shoot some pool.”
So, my mother said no, you’re too young, you can’t go out. But Bobby sweet-talked her and out the door we went around 11:30 at night. My step-brother drove us. So, we were at this lakeside tavern in a small country town up in northeast Pennsylvania. We were shooting some pool and drinking shots and having a good time laughing. And my cousin decides he’s going to rob the place just… out of the blue. He just said, “I’m going to rob this place.” My step-brother and I weren’t going to do it, so we decided to leave. When my cousin walked back into the bar, he murdered the owner. He stabbed the owner to death. We walked back in during that process yelled to him to stop. He went crazy.
He found some money, and I left with my cousin. I thought he had a plan and I was scared. I knew I was in trouble. I knew I knew I had done wrong. I had no intentions or no knowledge that somebody would have been killed, but I knew stealing was wrong. So, I went to New York City and was wandering up the streets in New York City. My cousin was shooting heroin with some of the money he found, and offered me some, but I said no.
So, I turned myself in. I was arrested and charged. My cousin turned himself in about ten days later. He admitted it was his idea and was arrested and charged with murder. I was placed in a juvenile center and was given an attorney. Through the process in first 90 days, my attorney had said the best thing to do is plead guilty to murder and you can be on 10 years. I’m thinking, “I’m 17 years old. I should be with my high school friends.” So, I did. 90 days into my arrest, I pled guilty to murder. On the day before my 18th birthday in 1977, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole – thinking ten years because that’s what my attorney told me.
Well, the rude awakening was when I got to the state correctional institution at Camp Hill to start my adult time from the juvenile center and realized that life in Pennsylvania means life. There’s no parole eligibility for life sentence inmates. The only means of relief or access is a plea of mercy through the governor for a commutation process. It’s based on merit – based on your remorse, what you’ve done, where you’re going, who’s in your life, your support, job, home plans and if you completed the programs and the prescription programs that the institution gives you.
So, that was kind of the only hope that I was given. And so, I went in the institution, and I remember that the other fellow life sentence inmates said, “Young buck, you’re not getting out in 10 years. You’re going to die in here like the rest of us. You’re going to die in here.”
So, I called my attorney and said, “I want to go back to court.” He gave me every reason not to go back. He said, “You’ll get more time.” I was scared, so I hung up the phone. After about fifteen minutes, I went back to my cell and said “I’ll just go do my time, and try my chances with the governor.” So, my first couple of years, I did really well in the institution. I adjusted. I got a GED. I did some college work. I’ve got into stress and anger programs. I got into AA. I did a lot of activities. The institution offers programs, and I did those things.
About 5-6 years into my sentence, it got old. It got routine. I started turning inward, and woe is me. My friends went on to college, and they got married. They would write me a lot, but eventually they kind of faded away. It was just woe is me, and I start feeling sorry for myself.
I started looking for something to mask the pain, the shame, and guilt of my life, and I found it in meth. I found it in prescription medication. I found it in cocaine. I found it in alcohol. I would make my own wine in the prison. We had people bringing drugs into the institution, and for about 2-1/2 to 3 years it was a weekly thing of people coming to visit us bringing in some weed and prescription medications, coke, meth.
It got to a point where I was putting a needle in my arm and shooting meth and shooting cocaine. But I lived the chameleon life in the prison. No one no one knew it. Just a few of my friends. I kept it real quiet. I lived in his darkness. It was almost as if you could feel the darkness in my life. I broke relationships off. I didn’t keep in touch with family or friends. I was a real mess.
About 9 1/2 years into my sentence, the gal that was bringing the drugs in got busted out at the gatehouse, so there were no drugs in the institution for about a month. And I was feeling it, you know. I never thought I was an addicted person, but when you can’t get something, and you can’t function, and you can’t be happy, you might want to question it. So, I questioned that.
But along the way, I remember walking to go eat, and I saw on a bulletin board it said, “Prison Invasion 86.” And I was like, what’s this group coming into the chapel? And Teen Challenge was on there, and they were testifying, there was some music, and it was pastors, and it was just a group of men and everybody was welcome. So, I go over to this Friday night service and I walk into this prison chapel – the prison chapel holds about 250-300 tops.
I walked in, and it was packed. And these guys, there were a hundred men from the outside community who volunteered to come in and serve in the prison ministry. They were just local people, and they just wanted to be part of something that was going to change some lives and in fact some men in the prison system.
When I walked in these guys were lined up in the center and you’d walk down, and they were shaking your hands saying, “Hey, I love you. God loves you. Glad to see you.” And I was like, wow this is crazy. I’m not used to this. I never really had another man tell me he loved me or that Jesus loved me. They were just pouring into us. So, I go in and find a seat. The music’s playing and they’re singing, worshiping, and people’s hands are raised.
Then a couple of Teen Challenge guys got and testified about what God did in their life – how God changed their lives from being drug addicts to Christians and restored their families and what Jesus did in their lives. Then preacher gets up, and he starts preaching about the gospel. What I remember was that he said Jesus died and rose again, and in him there’s eternal life. I sat there, and I said I know what it is to have to have a life sentence, but I didn’t know what it was to have eternal life.
And he said,
“Real men make commitments.
Real men make commitments.”
I sat there, and I said, he’s speaking to me. I almost felt like ducking behind other people’s heads because I felt like he was speaking right to me. Whether he was or not or if he saw me or not, I felt that. So, I heard that message, but I didn’t make a commitment that night. I went back to my cell and I struggled a little bit, you know. And I thought, “Man, I want to be a Christian, but I don’t know how.
So, I go back Saturday night and I walk into the chapel on Saturday night, and again the music, and it was just electrifying. There was energy, and they were worshipping and singing, and the Teen Challenge guys got up and testified about what Jesus did in their lives. And I said I can relate to a lot of that stuff. Then the guy gets up, and he said Jesus Christ died on the cross. He was buried. He rose again. And he’s coming back. And I thought, “Man, I’m not ready. I’m not ready.” He said he’s coming back, And in him there’s eternal life, and real men make commitments. Real men make commitments.
I sat there, and I could not get around that commitment thing, because everything I was good at, I quit. Everything that got hard, I quit. School, I quit. I went back and finished, but still I had a quitter’s mentality. I had a thing where if it got too hard I quit. I’d give up. I didn’t know what it was to finish. I never read a book until I was 27 years old because I would start a book and give up.
So, I go back and that Saturday night there was a time of fellowship at the end of the service. The music was still playing, but they the counselors – the men who came in to volunteer – just walked around and talked to inmates. That weekend, guys would come up and say, “Hey have you made a commitment? Hey, are you a Christian? Hey, have you accepted Jesus?” I was saying no, no, no to everybody.
And it got to a point where when they were asking me I would kind of look away. I said if I saw you coming my way a turn away and look away. I didn’t want to come and confront me and ask me if I made a commitment. So, I see people looking around, but I’m just amazed at the good community, the church community. They were smiling, high fiveing, they are praying for one another. But a guy came up behind me and said How are you doing tonight?
And I turned around, and it was a guy from the outside. I remember he had a yellow jacket on, and he said, have you made a commitment tonight? I can’t get away from that! And I said no, but I know some Christians. He said okay.
He said wait right here. And he just looked at me and he left, then he came back, and he gave me his card. His name was Pastor Larry Titus. He had a church about a mile down the street from the prison, about a mile and a half from the prison, Christ Community Church.
He said listen, my name is Larry Titus and if you need anything, give me a call. I’m looking at him. He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know that I’m a lifer, he doesn’t know that I’m putting a needle in my arm, caught up in pornography. He doesn’t know that I’m a mess, that I’m living in such just utter darkness and immorality. And he says if you need a Bible, if you need some clothes, if you need some shoes, if you need couple dollars, just give me a phone call. I was looking at him and I said can I ask a question? I said are you a Christian? He said, yeah, I’m a Christian. I said how long have you known Jesus? And he said since I was four years old. I said you’ve known Jesus since you were four years old? He said, yeah, at 5 God called me to be a missionary. And I was blown away.
I was like a big zero. I thought I was a lifer. I had some drugs, I had some money, I was hustling, people needed me. I was wheeling and dealing, and I thought I was somebody. And then when he said that he had a plan at five I saw his big 0 and said, Gene, you’re going nowhere. But not in condemnation. I just knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. Ever feel that way?
I just knew I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. That right there just blew me away. But he left, and I left the service without making that commitment. But I regretted leaving without making a commitment.
So, I go back Sunday morning, I looked around the church looking for him. There were 200-300 people there. I didn’t see him. They have the same type of service, and the pastor gets up and says Jesus died and rose again and in him there eternal life. I mean who has more to it, but that’s what I took away was Jesus died for me.
And that was really the question along the weekend was, I believe he did it, I grew up in a Catholic family so there was some education on Christianity, but I said did he do it for me. I believe he did it, but did he do it for me?
Was I in a spot where I needed a Savior? And of course, and I sat there, and I said I did need a savior. And I got to a point, but I couldn’t get up out of my seat. And he said real men make commitments. And after a few minutes of hearing that real men make commitments, these guys that were counseling and these guys are walking around. They said look like you want except Jesus. And I couldn’t even open my mouth. I couldn’t even speak, and I couldn’t move. And I wanted to. I wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t. And all of the sudden they said, come on man, come up front and we’ll pray with you. And I jumped up out of my seat and ran up front. I remember I had this big prison corduroy coat they give you a for a winter coat. And it had DOC in big white letters on the back of the coat. And it didn’t mean Disciple of Christ, it meant Department of Corrections. I remember I took it off, and I got on my knees and we prayed the sinner’s prayer – Jesus come into my life. I want to live for you. Forgive me for my sins. I believe in you.
And I stood up, and I mean the chains broke off me. This weight came off. I used to lift weights a lot, and it felt like the weight was off my back. The only thing I can relate to. I’m staying in there, and the guy says, do you have a Bible? Go back read your Bible. I have a Bible. Are you sure you’ve got a Bible?
I said I have a Bible. So, I go back, and I start reading the Word. And as I’m read the Word all I can do is cry and pray. Cry and pray.
And I was in my cell all day. I never left my cell. I didn’t go eat, I didn’t go do sports. Sports was my life, getting high on it. People would come to my cell and say, hey we got our package,
do you want to get high? Do you want to get your piece? I said no, I don’t want anything, I don’t want anything to do with it. They’re looking at me like what happened to you? I said, I accepted the Lord today, and I got saved. They asked, did you get brainwashed?
I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what happened. I’m trying to figure it out you know. And I sat down I read, and the more I read the word, the more I realized that God forgave me of my sins, and there so many. There were so many, but he forgave me, and I had this peace in my heart. And I remember needing to go around cell to cell, basically cell to cell and apologize to people who I hurt. For the next two days I did nothing but walk around the prison block and apologize to guys. Really, seriously. It was humbling. I remember getting on my knees and saying, God, I’m sorry for Danny. And he said, yeah but I’m not Danny. Go talk to Danny. I was like oh, okay.
So, I write Larry Titus a letter, and I said Larry this is my whole testimony. He gave me his card. I wrote my whole testimony, I called home, I told my family, I told my stepdad, he was a Christian.
And I just started telling everybody I can about what God did for me. And Larry said put me on your visiting list, I’m coming to visit you.
So, he comes to visit me, and he would come on Monday. Whatever he taught his church on Sunday, whatever he taught his people on Sunday, he would come in and he would share a little bit of that with me for an hour and a half. He’d sit, and he’d buy me lunch. He would tell me some testimonies, he’d tell me a couple of jokes, and we just share and talk, and we’d pray. And I would grab all this stuff, and I’d go back, and I would look up the scriptures, and I would memorize it myself.
And one of the things Larry said was, Gene memorize the Word. While you’re here in prison, memorize the Word. Read the Word. Read the Word, whether you like it or not, read the Word. Whether you understand it or not, read the Word and pray. And so, I had this discipleship going on in my life, I had this mentoring going on my life that I didn’t know, I couldn’t even understand the reality of it or the impact it was until some years later. I remember being teachable and correctible. And still today, the thing that guides my life is I want to remain teachable and I want to remain correctible.
And if I’m teachable, I’ll always grow because I was a know it all. I was the guy who when you tried to teach me something, I was insecure, and I would say, yeah, I know that, I know that, and I didn’t know it.
And if you’re correctible no matter how far you get off track, you’ll get back on. So even today I want to be teachable and I want to be correctable and sometimes it’s hard. But I just hold on to that. And so that was my attitude throughout my time in prison.
Gene, be teachable. Anybody can teach you anything. And they can teach it, even if you know it, they can still teach you.
So, I started doing my time, started doing my time as a Christian. And I started praying and started getting involved. And when I had 11 years in the system I had an opportunity to go to the governor with a commutation. And so, I filed my commutation petition in which I admitted my crime, I showed remorse, I expressed that, I had a job, I had opportunities, I had a home plan, I had support, I had letters.
And at 11 years I got denied. And it hurt. The institution notifies you and said the governor denied you. So, I go back to my cell and the only thing I could do was run to Jesus. All I could do is get on my knees in my cell beside my bed and just pray and start worshipping and start thanking him. And I had this crazy idea to say thank you to the Lord. I started saying thank you to the Lord for denying me. thank you for providing. Thank you for doing all of this stuff. But thank you for denying me because I must not be ready. And I thanked him because your will for my life is here right now. I don’t have to go anywhere to do you will. It’s right here. Your perfect will for my life is right here in this cell right here in this institution. And I started worshiping. I just worshipped the Lord. He’s sovereign. And so, I get back up and I go about my day serving. And a year later I filed again with 12 years, and I get denied. And it hurts. You feel that rejection, and you put some effort into it, and someone says no. And I go back, and I worship, and I thank the Lord.
And the reason was because 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” So, if you don’t know anything about God, I just told you God’s will for your life is to be thankful in all circumstances whether something good happened or bad.
Whether I got a money order, whether I got a letter, whether I got a visit, I still gave God thanks because he alone is enough. So that was just that attitude I developed because I read the Word. I was crazy enough to read the Word and believe it. And it worked.
It’s like prayer. I would tell guys in prison, I said I would not pray another prayer if I didn’t think God would answer me. Even if a no, it’s still an answer.
But I pray because God moves. And along the way I had this lesson I learned. I knew as a born-again believer, I knew that I was saved, I knew I was blood washed, I knew I had to be sanctified. I knew my identity was in Christ not in anything I did. My identity was in who he says I was and what he did for me. He was the Son of God. But I learned that in Philippians 2:5-7.
It says have this mindset that Jesus had. Though he was God in the fleshy he considered equality with God something not to be bragged about but made himself of no reputation. He took on the nature of a servant. He was found in appearance as a man. Being found in appearance and likeness of man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death even death on the cross. Therefore, God highly exalted him and gave him a name above every name. At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow on earth, under earth, in heaven, and every tongue will confess that he is Lord to the glory of God the Father. So I would read that, and I said what kind of attitude did Jesus have? And it says that he had a servant’s, verse 7 says he had a servant’s attitude.
And I said I want to be like Jesus. I want to be like Jesus. I want to be like Jesus. That was my prayer. Sometimes I just wanted to be like Jesus.
And I realized he had an attitude of a servant, so I said I want to have an attitude of a servant. And I didn’t know what that meant. People think a servant is below, but there are two aspects about a servant – he has no rights, he has no entitlements. None at all.
And he always considers others better than himself, so I took on that, and I worked it into my spirit, worked into my life, and I failed, I worked it, and I messed up, and I went back, and said I want to be a servant. So, I got rid of all my rights. I had no rights at all. And the thing was that when I got rid of my rights, I lost my anger because anger comes from when you don’t get your way.
Frustration is a form of anger. I had no rights. I had no rights to release. I no rights to good food. I had no rights to good clothing. I had no right to visit. I had no rights for a phone call. But because of God’s favor, because of his blessing I had it. When I was 17 years in, I filed again a commutation.
I had support. I had a lot of community support. Larry had introduced me to a lot of friends, I had high school friends come into my life again, and it was just amazing.
My resume, when I would file people with the institution would say how do you know all these people? I said they’re Christians and they visit me, and they write. We are friends. At 17 years in I got denied.
And when I got denied it hurt. I went back to my cell and I prayed and worshipped. And I just said God I want to do your will, and if it’s here, it’s here. You know I read books on people living in the jungles and doing God’s will. I read books that people were living in Africa and all these other countries and in the most deplorable places, in the hardest places and are doing God’s will for the glory of God.
And I said why can’t I do it right here in this prison? And I was influenced by the gospel. I was influenced by men and women who serve the Lord wherever they were planted. And at 17 I got denied, and I would worship. And I got back up, and I geared up for another opportunity. It takes about five years. At least it took me like five years to drum up support and get people to write letters I had to notify everybody I got denied, and I had to start again. At 24 years in I filed again a commutation. And I got denied, and it hurt. And I go back and just worship the Lord.
One of the things was I remember reading this scripture, 2 Corinthians 5:17, and it said “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things pass away. Behold all things become new.”
You know, no longer how long you’ve been saved, no matter how long you’ve been in a ministry, how long you’ve been following the Lord, there’s always some work in our lives.
And I remember reading this scripture and the Lord said, you don’t believe it. It was right before church one day, and I was reading it, and the Lord said you don’t believe that.
I said, yeah, I believe that, I’m a new creation in Christ. I believe that. He said well go look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re awesome.
I said that’s dead. I’m not doing that. That’s stupid. That’s weird. You know we have these little 5×7 mirrors, the plastic kind of mirrors they give you with a magnet on the back, and I have it on the door. And the Lord says go look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re awesome, I was like no, I can’t do it.
I get up and I go to my door and I’m like Gene, and I can’t do it. I’ve been a Christian, I’m walking with the Lord, I baptize people, I wash people’s feet. I mean I the people the Lord, we pray for people to get healed. We do Bible studies, we do study. And I mean there was a depth in my relationship with the Lord, and I loved the Lord. I put my hand to the plow and I didn’t look back. And every day I loved to be a witness in the institution, I loved to be an influencer, but yet I was struggling with some of my own stuff inside.
And no one knew it except the Lord.
And so, he’s challenging me. He said go look in the mirror. And so, I go, and I look in the mirror and say Gene, you’re awesome. You’re a liar. You know you sin, and you know you lusted, you know you lied, you exaggerated, you know you lost your temper, you’re contemptful, all those things that happen in our lives throughout the day. It’s not that it makes us bad, it’s just that we are under construction. God is perfecting his will in our lives. And so, I look back in the mirror and say Gene, you’re awesome and it hurt to look myself in the eye and say you’re awesome. The Lord says I want you to see you as I see you. I see you completed.
I see you finished. I see you as my son. I see you perfected. I see you’re awesome. I see you’re beautiful. I see you’re a man of God.
Every morning I get up look in the mirror and say Gene, you’re awesome. It got to a point where I really believed it, and what it did was changed my ministry because I never looked at you again in a different view than how God looks at you. Because I had a habit before I would look at certain guys with certain crimes, even though I wasn’t going to be outward about it, is still hard.
And that experience with the Lord changed my entire life and my ministry. So, I would look at people, and I knew they had gold, heavenly gold in them.
It just needed to be mined or it just needed to be brought through the blood of Christ and just reach out to people. When I had 30 years in the institution, straight I filed again for commutation. And I had a lot of support.
I mean I had I had a tremendous amount of character support. I the institution support, I had the senior deputy attorney general for Pennsylvania supporting me and her husband, and I just had a lot of support.
And I filed my commutation petition. Usually takes about a year for an answer. So, I filed with 30 years, 31 years go by and no answer. Did I have my petition? Did they ever get it? I know I mailed it in. Your mind starts playing games. So, a year and a half go by. Two years ago, by, no response. And I’m the kind of guy that you plant a seed in the ground, you bury it, water it and come back the next day. I’m going to dig it up and see if it’s growing. And you tend to disturb some things. And the Lord said, just wait, just wait. 32-1/2 years, 30 months
I waited. It’s the longest period of my time. I remember 30 months. It was a long time.
And a counselor came and said Gene the committee that supports this and recommend, they said the answer came back from the governor, and they want you to come up and you’re going to have a hearing, a review hearing, and we’re going to let you know what the governor said. And I was hyped. I mean I was excited. I go up there, and I sit down, they’re all smiling.
And he said the governor denied you. And I mean it was just like a blow as if someone hit me in my stomach. I remember sitting there and I was trying to trying to hold it together.
I knew I had to say thank you. And I knew I needed to shake everybody’s hand and say thank you for supporting me. I got that part done, and I said is there anything else I can do to better my chance for a commutation?
And he said no, because the governor’s just not releasing anybody. It’s a political situation. But just maintain a good record, continue doing what you’ve been doing. So, I get up and I leave, and I’m walking down the steps and I heard the Holy Spirit say I want to go back and thank me. Get on your knees and thank me.
And I knew I was going back to my cell, but really my mindset was, who am I to talk to first? I will call Larry tell him I was denied, my sister, my friends, all the people that supported me. And the Lord says go back and thank me. So, I go back to my cell,
I bypass all my friends in the day room, and I shut the door of my cell, and I’m struggling. I’m walking back in this 9×7 cell, whatever it was. And I’m thinking who do I tell, and I feel the Holy Spirit saying thank me. And it was hard. I didn’t want to. But I knew I needed to. And I hit my knees and I just lost it. I mean I cried.
I was crying so loud I put the pillow to my face. I felt disappointed. I wasn’t mad at God, but I was disappointed that I didn’t measure up. And I guess there were some issues with the Lord, but I wasn’t outwardly mad.
I just knew, I don’t deserve freedom, I don’t deserve anything like that. And so, as I just got myself together I knew I needed to say thank you. I needed to verbalize that. And so, I opened up my mouth, and I said God thank you. And when I said thank you, three things came. Thank you for providing, protecting, and promoting me. I never had to promote myself in the institution. I never had to promote myself to be the guy that led worship or get up and pray. I never had to promote myself for a job. I worked hard at whatever God put me in. I worked hard, and someone would come by and say, hey I want you to come work for us. I never had to protect myself. I had some fights early on in the institution. I was telling the guys last night when we went and ate some tacos about some of the fights and some of the stuff that goes on. But there was a point in time where I never had a fight and I never had to use my hands because I humbled myself and God protected me. God dealt with it. God justified me.
There were times I suffered some wrong, but God came through because I didn’t do it. I didn’t try to justify myself. He justified me when I humbled myself. He provided for me as long as I tithed. When I when I got my $60/month paycheck I tithed off of that. I’d send some money out to Larry and say he blessed one of the brothers, bless somebody. I remember there was there was a thing going on that Larry was doing a conference, a men’s conference. It was $80 to come to the weekend conference. And I had about I had about $100 on my account, and I wrote a thing for $80. I said Larry buy someone a ticket because I can’t go. Let them go.
And it was just stuff like that I was just so willing to give. As long as I gave, I was never without. My shower shoes never ran out, my toothpaste never ran out, my deodorant never ran out. I always had clothes, I always had stamps, I always had coffee, I always had some snacks. I’m telling you, because I gave, God provided. I remember saying that to God and I just went through this situation in my mindset, and when I got done it got quiet because you know God can handle anything you say to him. He doesn’t have an inferiority complex, but he wants the last word, and he deserves the last word.
He has a right to that. And when I heard him say I’m going to release you, it got my attention. He said I’m going to release you, but it’s not based on your effort, not on who you know, what you’ve accomplished and that’s all I had. I mean that’s all I had.
I had accomplishments, and I knew a lot of people. And God says I’m not going to use any of that. And I thought, man what am I going to do now. How do I even deal with that? But I knew it was a lot.
And I remember standing up, and I stood up and I said so what do I do? He said go back to serving, go back to doing what you’ve been doing all along. Get up in the morning, pray, read.
I want to fast forward 20 months because there’s a book out front. It’s called Unshackled, and I just hope that you’ll pick it up. But I want to fast track from that point because he said he is going to release me. I want to fast track 20 months because there’s too much detail in there, but I found myself back in the courts. I had no I had no legal right to go back into court. I had no appellate rights.
And I found myself back in the courts on April 3, 2012, 34 years later. I remember they we went through the process a little bit, but I was back in the court, and the D.A. thought I should go back and spend another couple of years in the prison, and then my attorney said well how about a year. Finally, the judge said Gene McGuire stand up, do you have anything to say? I remember standing in court, and I said I apologize to my community for my behavior and my actions.
I apologize to my family. I thank everybody who invested in my life, and I realize as I did, I said you could take me back, in my mind I said you could take me back to prison because I had an opportunity that day that I didn’t take when I was 17 years old. And I remember going through this little, about a minute, a little talk just thanking and apologizing to people.
And I sat down. He said I heard enough. He said, go ahead stand up, and they were going to resentence me. The thing was, they realized I was sentenced illegally and I had spent 25 years over any sentence that I should have received.
And this judge said, having served 34 years, 9 months and 15 days, the defendant Gene McGuire is released effective this date. And the courtroom went crazy. I had 50 friends in there, and they just started clapping and hallelujahing. I remember this noise, this rumble from behind me in the gallery and there was clapping, and I looked up and I was crying like a baby. And the judge walks off the bench.
He cleared the bench, and he just left. And it got quiet in the courtroom. for a second someone yells unshackle him, release him from his chains. He’s a free man. And I can remember hearing the sheriff over here telling my sister climbing over a bench to get to me. And the sheriffs like hold on Mary, hold on. She goes no, I waited 35 years for him.
Wait no. She’s hugging me, we are crying. It was just unbelievable. I couldn’t believe it. I stood up, and they took the shackles off me, they took the cuffs and the chain off my waist.
I had an orange jumpsuit on. We were just celebrating. We’re just crying, photographers and reporters. And they released me, and they gave me some clothes, and they said Gene go change. Mary take your brother home. It was so strange.
So, I go back and change. And when I change I reach in and there are jeans in there, there’s a shirt in there, and none of it is uniform with my numbers on it with DOC on the back, and I’m putting this on. And I reach in and there’s a bottle of Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue men’s cologne and I reach in I spray. And I was telling these guys that I literally put ten squirts of that on me, and the sheriff said, Gene stop. Stop. You don’t need that much. I was a novice.
If you go to my house and go into my bathroom there’s like 6-7-8 bottles of cologne. So, you ever want to buy me a gift cologne is perfect for me. So, I am released and the next thing you know we are out, and I go home. I want to finish with this.
About 10:30 at night my family and friends had gathered at my sister’s house and people were starting to fade away, and I’m bouncing off the walls. So about 10:30 I said Mary can I go to the mall? And she goes, Honey there’s no mall around here. We live way out in the country. She said, there’s a Wal-Mart.
I said, that will work. I just needed to do something. I was bouncing off the walls. So, my nephew takes me. So, my nephew says Uncle Gene, I’ll take you, but I’ve got to stop and get some gas at the little Pump and Pantry at the lake. That’s the Pump and Pantry that was there when I was a kid, so it was kind of rusty and run down. So, we stopped, and he was getting some gas. I see him do something with the cards, he’s doing something. Oh, this is self-serve, we do it ourselves. What I remembered was a guy with a hat came out with a hanky, and he did everything. You’re that old too. So, I’m standing with the door open and this car pulls up next. And this gal gets out, a young lady and she goes, hey guys I forgot my ID.
Can you go in and get some cigarettes for me? And my nephew just kind of blows her off and says, no I can’t. Then she looks at me, and I don’t have an ID. I have to go to DMV the next day to get a driver’s license, a non-driver’s license ID. So, she looks at me she says, can you? I said, no I don’t have an ID. And she looked at me like I was lying, and I panicked.
So, I pull the prison card, and I said I just got out of prison today and I said I have to go tomorrow to the DMV. And she goes, well how long were you in prison? I said, a long time. And she just stared at me like, well, how long? And I said 35 years. And she just backed up, got in the car and took off. My first year was like that a lot, shopping centers and banks. So, I moved to Texas a couple of weeks later. Larry Titus had moved to Texas.
He has a ministry down there. Larry had visit me for 25 years. Larry was committed to me for 25 years – never missed a birthday, never missed Christmas. He would always come in with his family. Before they celebrated Christmas, New Year’s, he would always come in and celebrate my birthday with me. 25 years. And then when it was time to come out he said you have a home, and a job, and a ministry. So, it was it was a no brainer. I’m going to go where my mentor is at, my father figure, I’m going to go. So, I said goodbye to my sister and pried her fingers off my arm and got on a plane and went to Dallas. I live in Dallas/Fort Worth Texas. I and I serve as a pastor down there now, for five years for a Christian-owned restaurant business with 1500 employees all in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The owners love the Lord, and they love people, and they are raising up people for the kingdom of God.
They brought me in, and said just go into the restaurants and minister to our people. So, that’s what I do. I love it. I love it. But whenever I get a chance I go back to Pennsylvania. I always go back to the courthouse to share with the people there.
I’m so grateful to be saved, born again. I’m so grateful that Jesus thought I was worth his life, and Jesus thinks you’re worth his life. Jesus Christ thinks you’re worth his life. You’re not junk. You’re not lost, you’re not unreachable, you’re not untouchable. He loves you where you’re at. His plan is for you. He has a tremendous plan. If you don’t know it, he wants to reveal it to you. The Word of God is true, and prayer releases the power of the Holy Spirit to move mountains – to do miracles, signs, and wonders, change lives. If you’ve got lost sons and daughters, pray and say, “Holy Spirit, I release you to capture their hearts.” You have a lost spouse, pray. Nothing happens without prayer.