Gerald Hartnett

A Changed Life

I made up my mind at the age of twelve that I wanted to be a criminal and started to live my life accordingly. I knew I had to make some changes, after many mistakes in my teen years, I felt that I needed to “smarten up”. So, I continued my education.

I went to the west coast, and school, majored in Psychology, all the while planning my future, a future of being a better crook. Upon finishing, I started researching the lives of people that lived in very expensive homes. I started files on all of them and had keys made that would fit most of them. Security systems seemed the easiest to get around.

All of this continued for about eleven years, but then the day came. I was 100 miles away from home and ready to complete another one. I saw all of the people who lived there go to work and school. I left and returned at 10 am, unlocked the door and walked in. There he was! The head of the house had come home ill. He asked what I was doing in his house. I flashed a State Police Badge and asked him who he was.

He responded and asked me for some I.D. to back up the badge. MISTAKE! I had not thought of that. He reached for the phone, I pulled my gun, and we sat down and discussed my options. I had two options, one was to pull the trigger and never worry about getting caught, or I could just leave. That was all that I did, nothing more than leave. I did not tie him or remove the phone; I just got in my car and drove away.

Within the next ten minutes there was a State and County cop chasing me. They called ahead and set up a roadblock that I got thru clean. Then it got tougher! A state police car ran into the side of my car, which forced me into a guardrail that blew my right side tires and directed me into a railroad underpass at 75mph.

The car was crushed beyond belief and so was my leg. I was on my side, my head just off the passenger floor with the steering wheel still in my hands. There were six guns pointed at my head. I was told to drop the wheel. (I had not realized that it had ripped off the column and was in my hands.) The last thing I remember was them asking for the gun, then I died, or so the newspaper had said.

When I woke, I was in the emergency room. The doctors were talking about cutting off my leg at the groin. I told them no way. They said the x-rays showed over 120 brakes and that I would never walk again. One nurse then said that my blood pressure was dropping fast and she couldn’t get a pulse. Another nurse said that I had quit breathing. Dead again!

After many months and 13 operations I got out of the hospital, made bond, and went home to learn how to use my leg again. I was on bond for almost a year before I finished in court. The Judge sentenced me to ten years in prison for armed robbery.

While there my brother wrote me and told me that he had established a relationship with our father after 23 years. He said that dad asked about me. I told him I wasn’t interested. A year or so later I had a change of heart and wrote my father. He came to see me. Our first contact in 25 years.

At times in prison I ran a poker game, a store, and sold dope to make money. People called me “Lucky”. All the while I am working on my leg and a way out. I had to have full use of it soon because after 2 ½ years I wasn’t staying there much longer for I had figured out a way to leave.

They look for you to break out, not for someone to come in to get you. I had court papers sent in saying that I had a court date. The papers were real except for the phone number, and I had two guys coming to get me, in uniform and driving a police car. Only about two weeks left until I leave.

I am outside at rec walking backwards to exercise different muscles in my leg and there is an NFL player on a platform saying something that I ignored. Then some farmer from Illinois comes up to me and starts talking to me about why I am walking backwards and then starts talking to me about Jesus. When I felt that I had given him enough time I started walking off and he hands me a booklet and says that he is going to pray that I can’t sleep until I accept Jesus into my life. I put the booklet into my pocket and left. I forgot about him and that booklet immediately.

I was getting a visit the next day from my father. He arrived that evening and stayed at a local hotel, which was where these people were staying. My father was a Christian and had been praying for me all of those 25 years.

One Thirty AM! Can’t sleep! Why? I started pacing in my cell. Then I remember that farmer from Illinois. I started thinking about what he said and that he would pray that I couldn’t sleep. I remembered the booklet next and found it still in my pants. I pulled it out and looked at it and went to the window for some light. “The Four Spiritual Laws”.

I started to read and re-read it. “God loves me”! Even after all I have done, God loves me! WOW! I prayed the sinner’s prayer with tears in my eyes and gave Jesus my life.

The next day I went outside and forty yards away was the farmer rejoicing and saying, “You did it”! I found out later that he had gotten together with about forty other teammates to pray with him (and they didn’t even know my name) that I didn’t sleep until I accepted Jesus.

When my visit came, my father was sharing about meeting some men at his hotel that were Christians. After talking to them for quite a while they asked him to pray with them. They were going to pray for this inmate not to sleep. I told him that it was I they were praying for, and you can imagine how the rest of the visit went. That changed everything in my life from that point on.

I am very involved in Prison Ministry and School Ministry now, trying to give back. I have spoken at more than 20 churches, Daystar Celebration in Kentucky and radio to help raise awareness and get people out of the pews and into winning the Lost.

Many things happened before, during, and much has happened since then.