In a remarkable story of resilience and friendship, Lamar Johnson, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 28 years, found solace and unwavering support in a pen pal who became his lifeline during his darkest days.
As he stepped out of prison, there was one person he knew he needed to see first: Ginny Schrappen, the pen pal who believed in his innocence and fought for his freedom.
It all started two decades ago when Ginny, a member of Mary, Mother of the Church in St. Louis County, received a letter from the Jefferson City Correctional Center. The letter, written in Lamar's elegant longhand script, captivated Ginny, prompting her to reply and initiate a snail mail correspondence. With each exchanged letter, their connection grew stronger, revealing their shared humanity.
Lamar had been convicted in 1994 for a murder he did not commit—the tragic loss of his close friend, Marcus Boyd. Despite having a solid alibi, Lamar found himself wrongly identified as one of the shooters. Though the true culprits later confessed, Lamar's conviction remained intact, and it would take years of dedicated advocacy by organizations like the Innocence Project to bring forth the evidence and fight for his release.
Throughout this arduous journey, Ginny stood by Lamar's side. She faithfully wrote letters ahead of his court appeal dates, assuring him of her unwavering support. Despite being a mother of three and eventually a grandmother of two, Ginny never wavered in her commitment to Lamar. She visited him in prison when possible, cherishing those rare moments that filled her with indescribable joy.
Finally, after 28 long years, the Innocence Project succeeded in securing Lamar's freedom. In the aftermath, a GoFundMe campaign was launched, raising nearly $600,000 to help Lamar rebuild his life from scratch. Now, Lamar and Ginny enjoy precious face-to-face time as equals, cherishing the bond that sustained them through years of separation.
Lamar's outlook on life is one of resilience and forgiveness. He refuses to let anger consume him, recognizing that holding onto bitterness would only confine him to another kind of prison. As he shared with the Washington Post, "As much as there were setbacks over the years, there is a lot to be happy and grateful for."
Ginny echoes Lamar's sentiment, encouraging others to extend a hand of friendship to those in need. She knows firsthand the profound impact a simple act of reaching out can have on someone's life. "It could mean more than you know," she said, urging us all to be a friend to those who may be longing for one.
In the face of injustice, Lamar Johnson and Ginny Schrappen's extraordinary bond serves as a beacon of hope, reminding us of the transformative power of human connection and the importance of unwavering support in times of adversity. Their story is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and a call for compassion and friendship in a world that often needs it most.
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Via CBS Evening News