You’d never guess Ginny Schrappen, an 80-year-old retired schoolteacher, had a pen pal in a prison, let alone one accused of murder, if you saw her there, cuddled up with her crossword.

A deacon at Schrappen’s church outside St. Louis handed her a letter from a prisoner who had written the diocese in the hopes of receiving a response. Lamar Johnson, a man serving a life sentence in a Missouri prison, was that prisoner.

He was incarcerated for murder, according to Schrappen. “I’ve previously been called naive, and that’s fine. I was unconcerned. He won’t come get me, I assure you.

They quickly became friends and kept in touch via correspondence for the following 20 years. According to Schrappen, she knew right away that Johnson could not have committed murder.

The state of Missouri confirmed her suspicions 28 years later.

Johnson was exonerated and released from prison at the age of 49 after the Midwest Innocence Project became involved and the real murderer admitted his guilt.

The following few weeks were spent doing everything he was unable to do while incarcerated, including making his first trip to see one of his closest friends.

For the first time, Schrappen welcomed Johnson into her home when he went there. He received a tour, a box of his preferred cereal, and one final letter from her.

Johnson said that the greatest gift, though, is the confidence his friend instilled in him. 

“You want someone to believe in you, especially when someone is innocent. Because it’s harder to give up on yourself when you have people who believe in you and aren’t going to give up on you, Johnson said, adding that Schrappen’s faith was what got him through nearly 30 years of injustice.

He claimed that as of late, it motivates him to live a life of friendship.

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