Lamar Johnson spent 28 years in prison where the letters from his pen pal Ginny Schrappen gave him strength and hope.

When the whole world turns their back on you, the support of just one person can change everything. Recently, a wrongfully convicted man was able to meet his pen pal after being in prison for nearly 30 years.

How One Man Was Convicted for a Crime He Never Committed

In St. Louis, Missouri in 1995, Lamar Johnson was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Marcus Boyd. 21-year-old Lamar plead innocent, stating that he was with his girlfriend at the time — no where the scene of the crime. Without further evidence, Lamar was put behind bars.

In 1998, Ginny Schrappen’s church minister handed her a letter. It was from a desperate Lamar Johnson hoping that someone would write back. “He was in prison for murder,” Ginny said. “I’ve been accused of being naive before, and that’s OK. I wasn’t worried. He’s not going to come and get me.”

Over the next 25 years, Lamar and Ginny frequently exchanged letters. Ginny recounts that from the start, she believed there was no way that Lamar had committed that crime. “The letters got a little deeper,” Ginny said. “I knew that he was a very, very good person.”

Earlier this year, Lamar Johnson was vindicated from the crime he never committed. The process of freeing Lamar took 4 years and a change in Missouri law. Now, 49-year-old Lamar Johnson is a free man.

After being freed, Lamar told the story of Ginny Schrappen. He was grateful and thankful to have someone to speak to when everyone else didn’t believe in him. “Especially when somebody is innocent, you want someone to believe in you,” Lamar said. “Because when you have people who believe in you and they won’t give up on you, then it makes it harder for you to give up on yourself.”

How a Stranger Proved It Takes Just One Person to Help

Lamar made it his top priority to go see Ginny, the former school teacher who is now 80-years-old. He went to Ginny’s house for the first time, where she greeted him with a big hug. The two were stunned to see each other in person. “To see somebody in person, to hug them and sit across the table from them, which is what we did, I was almost out of my skin,” Ginny said.

Ginny gave Lamar a tour of her house, brought him his favourite cereal and exchanged stories face to face. She then handed Lamar one last letter that wrote: “You deserve the best, Lamar.” Lamar said that through all of his hardship, the greatest gift he had received was the confidence his friend instilled in him.

Lamar was welcomed into his new life with open arms. He finally gets a chance to travel the world, experience new things, and spend time with his family. Because of the work of Missouri lawmakers, he is able to be present at his daughters wedding.

Ginny gave Lamar confidence in his darkest times. Without the excitement of her letters, Lamar wouldn’t be where he is today. “I always told him, ‘Lamar, I’ll be there,’” said Ginny. “I was one of the people that kept him connected to the world.”