As my time here in prison winds down, I figured it would be great for you guys to hear even more stories of other inmates that I have had the opportunity to be around. Before surrendering, I honestly was told I would NOT be around inmates like some of the ones you will read about in the coming weeks. Thankfully, the Almighty has guided me and protected me during this time.
The first person I would like to discuss is Ramon Dines. He is here with a 25 year sentence for murder. He has a couple more years left. I have gotten to know Ramon well and his story is an amazing story of redemption by the power of Christ. Like the crowds in Jesus’ day, we may want Christ to rule as a king and bring great and VISIBLE victories in our lives. But often Christ’s work is quiet, and it happens according to HIS perfect timing not ours.
Below is part 1 of Ramon’s story. Hopefully you enjoy reading about him.
Question, how does a man go from being on track to having everything to serving a 25 year sentence for murder?
Summer 1975, the world rejoiced and I was born, and also the end of Vietnam conflict. Within days my family and I moved from Washington DC to Quito, Ecuador. For the next 5 years I spoke Spanish, ate guinea pigs and sugar cane. I had no clue I was American.
During the 70’s and 80’s I was told Ecuador was the true race based country. The white looking people were the only upper class citizens while the darker skinned people were the servant class. Despite being black, we were rich and part of the upper class. But, who was to know? So my mother, an American black woman, was walking home with my older brother and I when some teenagers started to harass her thinking she was someone’s maid. They harassed us during our entire walk home. We lived in a nice walled compound. Once inside, my mother told my father who was less than happy about what went down. So he grabbed his long barrel 45 and jumped on his Yamaha 500 dirt bike and went after the boys. He chased them through the city. (Even the police during this time frame did not carry guns in Ecuador.) When the boys ran into their house, he followed them in ON HIS dirt bike and cornered the boys. He made it clear that his family was off limits and rode home.
Now the reason my family was in Quito in the first place was my father worked for a NASA contractor monitoring space debris from a sight on top of one of Ecuador’s mountains. He worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off. When my dad got home from confronting the boys he had to go to work. While he was at work the military shows up at my home looking for him because one of the boys was the General’s son. My mother called my father’s boss who immediately put my family on a plane to get us out of the country back to Washington DC. (As a side note, I have never been able to stay up late so by 9 PM I am in bed asleep.) So from my point of view, I had an eventful day and went to sleep and once I woke up, I was in a country where everyone spoke a language (English) I did not know. My dog was gone, my nanny was gone, and the money that allowed us to live in a nice walled compound in Ecuador barely paid for a 2 bedroom apartment in Southeast Washington DC. My whole life changed literally overnight. My nanny was like a mother to me. I have not heard or seen her since. To this day, my parents will not talk to me about her.
Soon after returning to the US, I had to learn English so I could go to school and soon after my parents divorced. I say I grew up on a bus because I spent so much of my childhood moving between my father’s house and my mother’s house. Soon both my parents remarried, my father married a woman who already had a young son so I gained a little brother. My mother married a man who had a daughter so I gained an older sister. My mother’s relationship with me was gradual and normal. However, one day I went to visit my dad and both his wife and her son left for good. I loved my little step-brother because my 100% blood brother and I did not get along at all. Needless to say, I spent the next 5 years feeling like I don’t have a family. All I wanted to do was be by myself.
During these years I started running away from home. Once I was in grade school living in Pittsburgh, PA and I was waiting to get on the bus to go home to my mother’s house when I just decided to run away. Nothing bad was going on, I just wanted to be by myself. So I walked away into the woods. I was about 8 or 9 at this time so I just went to my friend’s house to play. Soon it got dark (it was winter) and his mom made my friend go inside. I had no idea what to do so I just wandered around until I got tired around 9 PM. Then, I crawled under a bush and went to sleep. When I woke up, it was snowing but I still just walked around anyway. A car soon pulled up and it was a teacher from my school. Turns out everyone including the fire dept. had been out looking for me. The teacher took me home. The next day, my mother sent me to Washington DC to live with my dad.
My father had a girlfriend at this time who he wanted to marry. He asked my older brother and I if that would be ok. I said NO!!! To this day, I still do not like this woman. My father still ended up marrying her anyway. Before the wedding, I told my dad when the preacher asks if anyone opposes the marriage that I would speak up. Therefore, my dad changed the wedding time to 9 PM since he knew I could not stay up that late. Despite me still not liking this woman, they did have 3 girls together and I love them all 100%.
While I lived with my dad, I spent as little time in his house as possible. I would leave the house by 8 AM and come home a bit before 9 PM so I could sleep. By now I am 13 and in middle school and my mother moved to Bethlehem, PA. I went to visit her one summer and decide to stay so I enrolled in school. EAST HILLS baby!!! So I am there for 2 years and one Friday night I was watching TV with my family and at 9 PM I decide to go to bed. I went upstairs and was brushing my teeth when I saw a new bottle of extra strength Tylenol that my mom bought that day. I figured if I took them all, it would kill me. I went to sleep and at 3 AM I woke up and continuously ran to and from the bathroom all day throwing up. Everyone just assumed I was sick and I never said word. My mother got a headache that day and went to take some Tylenol that she recently purchased. It did not take long to put 2 and 2 together. She was pissed. I got the worst beating of my life and she told me “Tylenol Won’t kill you!!!!”
By Monday I still could not eat anything, but still went to school. My teacher noticed how bad I looked so I told her what happened. She freaked out that my mother did not take me to the hospital. Therefore the teacher had the school call an ambulance and child protective services. The state took custody away from my mother and gave it to my father.
By 14, I had stumbled into being a freelance graphic artist for a small start-up publishing company. I was earning about $500 a month. Not a lot, but at 14 years old I thought I was rich. I never bothered to tell my parents about my work. I figured whatever didn’t concern them, didn’t concern them. So when my father and I had a big fight he told me I could leave, so I left. About a mile from my dad’s house was a new subdivision and I simply moved into the model home. I would clean up behind myself and leave before any workers got there in the morning and wouldn’t come back until they left in the evening. I had my job and so I had plenty of money and house had running water, heat, and electricity. Basically I had a 4 bedroom house to myself. This lasted 4 months. I was at school one day when I was called to the principal’s office. My dad had come to explain why I had not been in school for 4 months. The problem was I had perfect attendance!!! I always knew an education was my ticket to the independent life I wanted. The principal asked where I had been living. I told him at my house. He asked who I was living with. I told him by myself. I refused to tell them where my house was, and they refused to allow me to return there. I would not go back to my dad’s house so I ultimately ended up in foster care. I was now in the system, I am still trying to get out.
Foster care is where I learned to steal cars. From 14 to 18 years old, that is what I did. Not for cash because I was making more than enough as an artist. This was freedom. I drove EVERYWHERE. Friends and I would steal cars and go on road trips to the beach or skiing in the Pocono Mountains or visit other cities. I have never drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes, or taking any drugs; but, I loved to drive. To this day after 21 years in prison, I want to drive.
During these years I also learned to screen print, mostly T-shirts and I would sell them for $10. I would normally print and sell about 80 to 100 T-shirts a week and make $800 to $1000 weekly with about $600 to $700 being profit. Honestly this is why I never was enamored with drugs. I worked 3 hours a week and made $700 per week. Screw selling drugs. Also I was a very good student. I was able to take college credit courses my senior year of high school so by the time I graduated I was almost half way through my associates degree. I knew 2 things, I wanted to be an engineer and I wanted to be in management. I chose the only college that accepted me both as a double major of engineering and business psychology so I left for Canada.
This ends part 1 of Ramon Dines story. Stay tuned for part 2 of Ramon’s amazing redemption story