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March 25, 1990

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By Ken Begley

If you have followed my column over the last few years, then you’re well aware that I may go from writing comic fantasy one week to being deadly serious the next.  My nature is to laugh at the world, but remember why we’re all here.

Do you know what my favorite subject to write about is?  It’s about God and his messages to us in the Bible.  

Strange, isn’t it?  A man like me probably knows more about the devil than God because of the way I’ve lived my life.   

I don’t rationalize away my sins.  I know them, and they are legion.  My hope is that even if I don’t make it to Heaven that sometime during my life I’ll made God smile and say “good job”.  I hope it’s something that I wrote that might have made others think for even one second about the blinding light of Heaven that could await us in the end.  I hope I can change someone’s life, and that it may be for an eternity.

I hope today is one of those times.

About three weeks ago a friend of my mother and father approached them.  She asked if I would write a column on the most traumatic event of her life that affects her to this day.  It’s the unsolved murder of her brother’s wife on March 25, 1990.

On that day, a 39-year-old mother and wife named Lucinda Strange was getting some exercise by walking on the Clarktown Road in Nelson County.  It was a little after 7 p.m.  She was brutally set upon by a person or persons unknown, and stabbed more than 40 times.  She was then left to die.  Her last moments were spent alone, bleeding to death in a shallow grassy ditch by the road.

It’s been more than 19 years now since her tragic death that came much too soon for someone so young, so innocent.

The family has continued to look and post many articles and stories about this mystery ever since.  No witnesses ever came forward and no murderer was ever found.

I talked to the sister-in-law over the phone.  She visited my house with her husband and brought with her a large folder filled with news clippings and stories, pleading for some eyewitnesses to come forward for the past 19 years.  I looked into her eyes and saw her still haunted by the thought that the killer was still out there, and that this case had never been closed.

When she left, I wondered what I could possibly write that hadn’t been written before.  If someone had not come forward in 19 years to shed light on this murder, then probably no one saw what happened except for the killer, and he’s not talking.  But sometimes God asks us to do the impossible.  

The rest of this story is for the killer of Lucinda Strange.

A minister and his wife went from city to city holding revivals at different churches for most of their lives.  They weren’t famous, like, say, Billy Graham.  I had never heard of them before.     

They would do their preaching like all revivals.  Afterwards they would always invite people down from the congregation that wanted to seek forgiveness and give their lives to Christ.  It’s a fairly common practice among some religions.

One night, in a large city, a really dangerous looking fellow came down.  You never know, but this guy appeared to be the “real deal,” and they were a little leery of him.

He seemed deeply troubled and did want forgiveness for his dark past.

The minister’s wife talked with him for a long time after everyone left.  But he was unconvinced that he could ever be forgiven of his sins.  He felt they were just too great.  She couldn’t convince him of God’s mercy, no matter how hard she tried.

He thought she was naive and scoffed at her by saying, “You don’t know what I’ve done!”

The minister’s wife persisted.  She was sure she had heard it all.  How wrong she was.

Finally he burst out, “You don’t understand!  Do you know what I do?  I kill people!  They tell me who and I shoot’em and leave them on the street to die.  Can your God forgive that?”

She was totally shocked and out of her league by this revelation.  The killer had thought she would just run from him in terror, but she didn’t.  

This woman held  herself  together and shakily said, “Yes, my God can if you want to be forgiven!”

The killer was floored.

They stayed and prayed together.  Finally, after many hours, it was as if the Holy Spirit came flowing out of him with such joyful power that he couldn’t contain himself.  It was a miracle!  He truly felt forgiven.  A joy of relief and happiness so intense that he couldn’t contain it coursed through his whole body.  

The minister’s wife told him that they would help him get out of this life he was living.  She said one of their helpers was also a State Trooper that could protect him.

He refused her help and said, “They’d just shoot me dead.”

He gathered himself up and walked out of the place saying he was going to go back to these people he killed for and tell them he was quitting.  

Now it was her turn to think he was dangerously naive.  How do you tell people like this that you’re going to “quit” murdering for them?

She begged him not to do this.  But he left anyway with this overpowering joy in his heart saying that he knew he was “forgiven.”

He wasn’t naive, though.  He knew what he was doing.  He went back to where he came from with his message.  

The gang he belonged to chained him to the back bumper of a car and dragged him through the streets.    Then just dumped him on the road.

The minister and his wife searched the town to find him.  He had been brought into a hospital.  He was torn up almost beyond recognition from head to toe.   They grieved, “What have we done?”

But, you know what was strange?  

He looked up at them with nothing but that same pure joy in his heart they had left him with the other night.  He said he didn’t care about his body because he was forgiven.   He died a few days later.

True story.

Satan lost that day.  I’m sure that howls of anguish echoed off the outer reaches of Hell while Heaven rejoiced over a lost soul who was now saved.

So, I end this column with a message for the killer of Lucinda Strange.  Which person do you want to be?  The murderer at the beginning of the story or the forgiven man at the end?

It’s time to turn yourself in.