After 28 years of wrongful imprisonment, man was finally released and reunited with his pen pal

Captured in striking photos: Elderly man ousted from Bank of America, cop takes action

After being released following 28 years of wrongful imprisonment, Lamar Johnson’s first priority was to meet his pen pal. This loyal correspondent had supported him throughout his incarceration and attended all his court proceedings to advocate for his release based on her steadfast belief in his innocence.

About two decades earlier, a letter had arrived at Mary, Mother of the Church in St. Louis County addressed to anyone who would open it, and it landed in the hands of Ginny Schrappen, a member of the congregation. The letter was from the Jefferson City Correctional Center, and it was from Lamar Johnson, who would become her dedicated pen pal.

Ginny Schrappen was astonished by Lamar Johnson’s eloquent handwriting when she received his letter and decided to respond. At first, she shared minor details, but she was eager to connect with an obviously intelligent person.

Their correspondence continued for over 20 years, with each letter revealing more about their lives.

In 1994, Johnson was wrongly convicted of murdering his friend, Marcus Boyd. Despite having a clear alibi of being with his girlfriend that night, he was identified as one of the shooters by the sole witness.

Although the true culprits eventually confessed to the crime, Johnson’s sentence was not overturned until years later. The Innocence Project, a non-profit organization that investigates closed cases to help exonerate innocent people, worked tirelessly to secure Johnson’s release.

The Innocence Project was not the only advocate for Johnson’s release. Schrappen, a mother of three and eventually a grandmother of two, wrote letters to Johnson before each of his court appeal dates, expressing her unwavering support and promising to be there for him.

Despite multiple unsuccessful appeals, Schrappen remained committed to supporting Johnson, and their relationship deepened over the years through their letter writing. Schrappen even visited him in prison occasionally, and the joy she felt from these visits was so overwhelming that she described it to the Washington Post as making her feel like she was “almost out of my skin.”

After 28 years of wrongful imprisonment, Johnson was finally released with the help of the Innocence Project. In the aftermath, a GoFundMe campaign was launched to give him a fresh start, and at the time of writing, it has raised almost $600,000.

Johnson now cherishes the opportunity to spend quality time with his longtime friend Schrappen on an equal footing, but he doesn’t harbor any anger about the course his life has taken.

Johnson shared with the Post that he believes holding onto anger is like trading one prison for another. Despite the setbacks he faced over the years, he chooses to focus on the positive things in his life and is grateful for them.

Schrappen encourages people to reach out to those who may need a friend, as it can mean more than they realize.