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Unshackled From a Hopeless Life Sentence

UNSHACKLED
It was 1977 when 17-year-old Gene McGuire made a decision that would change his life. Gene’s father had left the family, and his mother was struggling with an alcohol addiction.  He was a star athlete at school in Pennsylvania, successful in both football and track, but he drank alcohol and sometime smoked marijuana. One day, when his cousin, 24-year-old Robert Lobman, was visiting, the two decided to go to a tavern in the country for some drinks. At the time, Gene didn’t know his cousin Bobby was on the run from the law.

Gene stepped outside. Bobby decided to go back in and rob the bar. In the process, he killed the 60-year old bartender, Isabell Nagy, by stabbing her to death.  Bobby and Gene fled to Spanish Harlem in New York City. They didn’t know anyone there and spent their time in drug houses and dodgy motels. After a few days, Gene couldn’t stand the guilt. He turned himself in to New York police and he was transported back to his hometown in Pennsylvania.

At Gene’s trial, the court-appointed lawyer advised him to plead guilty to second-degree homicide. Gene was unsure, since he wasn’t part of the killing. However, he chose to trust the lawyer because there was a chance he could receive the lesser charge of manslaughter. Unfortunately, at age 17, Gene was convicted of second-degree murder and senteneced to life in prison without parole.

For the first ten years of his sentence, Gene was bitter and angry. He partook in the prison lifestyle, which included violence, drugs, and pornography. In 1986 Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship held a 3-day revival in the prison.. It was through this ministry that Gene gave his life to Christ.

Soon after, he began receiving mentorship and counseling from PAstor Larry Titus, one of the pastors in the program and they became friends. For 25 years, Larry faithfully visited Gene in prison. During his time in prison Gene became a spiritual leader to thousands of inmates. With no hope for release himself, Gene instead developed a fruitful, fulfilling ministry within his world of incarceration. He became an elder in the prison church, developed small groups and yard Bible studies and led others who were also without freedom to true freedom in Christ.

Then in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that teens 17 and younger receiving a life sentence with no chance of parole convictions would get a “post-conviction relief” review of their case.  Since Gene was not a “principle actor” in the killing, he was released in 2012. He had served 34 years, nine months and 15 days.

These days, he works as a pastor to the Christian family-owned restaurant company, Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, serving the company’s 1,400 employees through eleven locations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.  

Gene doesn’t harbor unforgiveness toward the court system or his cousin.  “No sin against me has been greater than my sin against God,” he said. “As freeing and liberating as it was for me to receive-and know-God’s forgiveness in my life, it is every bit as freeing and liberating to forgive and let others go who have hurt me.”

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Author, Unshackled (Emerge Publishing, 2017)

Pastor to a Christian family-owned restaurant company, Babe’s Chicken Dinner House (11 locations in Texas)

Motivational Speaker, speaks at conferences, rehab facilities, and churches all over the U.S.

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