Lamar Johnson spent 28 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. However, he did not lose hope because he had a pen pal named Ginny Schrappen, who wrote to him regularly throughout his incarceration. When he was finally released, the first person he wanted to meet was Schrappen, who had been with him every step of the way.
Schrappen was introduced to Johnson through a letter addressed to the Mary, Mother of the Church in St. Louis County. She was impressed with Johnson’s elegant longhand script and decided to respond to his letter. Over the next twenty years, the two developed a relationship through snail mail correspondence, with each letter revealing more about themselves to the other.
Johnson was convicted in 1994 of first-degree murder, but he maintained his innocence. Despite the fact that the true culprits eventually confessed to the crime, Johnson’s sentence was not overturned. The Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that investigates closed cases to try to free innocent people from prison, took up Johnson’s case, and after many years of advocacy, he was finally released.
Throughout Johnson’s trials and appeals, Schrappen continued to write to him and attend his court proceedings, despite being a mother of three and eventually a grandmother of two. Schrappen’s support and encouragement helped Johnson to maintain his hope and sanity during his incarceration.
Johnson and Schrappen’s relationship went beyond letter-writing. Schrappen visited him in prison occasionally, which brought her a sense of joy that she described as sending her “almost out of my skin.” When Johnson was finally released, he was able to spend time with Schrappen on an equal footing, no longer bound by prison walls.
Johnson is not bitter about his experience, and he believes that holding onto anger is like swapping one prison for another. He is grateful for the support of people like Schrappen and the Innocence Project, who fought tirelessly for his freedom. Schrappen encourages others to reach out to those who may need a friend, as it could mean more than they know.
In conclusion, the story of Lamar Johnson and Ginny Schrappen is a testament to the power of human connection and perseverance. Despite the odds against them, they maintained their relationship through letters and occasional visits, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable legal challenges. Their story reminds us that even in the darkest of times, hope and friendship can endure.