Ex-convict begs for forgiveness - Man who spent 24 years in prison seeks help to complete studies
AFTER spending 24 years in prison for murder, Elvis Thomas is determined to make up for lost time, and to positively contribute to the society. Homeless at age 11, Thomas was found guilty of murder at age 17, and sentenced to death when he was 19. But just when it seemed that his life was over, Thomas,42, got a second chance, and he has grabbed it with both hands.
Here is his story.
"I used to steal as a child but when a family member accused me of taking money out of another relative purse --I didnt steal it--, and I was thrown out of the family home so I had no other choice except to live on the streets of Old Harbour. I used to wipe car glass in order to survive. I end up going to approved school at about age 13 and at age 17, I went back to Old Harbour, but my family said he couldn't accommodate me," Thomas said.
Thomas said he got enrolled at the HEART Academy in Runaway Bay, St Ann and lived on the campus for a while, but after he had a minor run-in with the law, he found himself back on the streets. What happened next was life altering.
"I was living in an abandoned building with some other homeless youths and one day they got up and planned that they were going to trick a man into selling him a firearm in order to get his cash. I was not involved in planning, nor was suppose to be a part of it, but on the morning that they were supposed to go, one of the guys was missing so they asked me to fill his place. I went because I told myself that I needed the money. When we got to our destination and met the man, they told me to hold him and they began to stab him repeatedly. I let him go and ran and I never stop running until I reached into Mandeville...the incident took place in Spur Tree Hill," Thomas related.
After his conviction for the murder of Delroy Cranston, the death sentence was imposed on Thomas, but the decision was quashed by the Court of Appeal because he was 17 at the time of the offence. The Court of Appeal ordered him detained at Her Majesty's pleasure, but when the Juveniles Act was amended, he was detained at the court's pleasure.
Although he has no idea that he would one day be a free man again, Thomas vowed to be rehabilitated. He started to take classes and in addition to learning auto and general electronic repairs, he also accumulated five CXC subjects.
"I tried my best to be on my best behaviour as I know it was a deciding factor if I should be released. In 2003, I got baptised in the Adventist faith, and in 2010 I returned to court but the judge said I had to serve at least 20 years before I was released so I end up serving 24 years. In 2018, I walked through the gates of the St Catherine Adult Correctional Facility a free man. I remember the day seemed so surreal, I drank one beer and was drunk," he said.
A few days after he was released, Thomas said he began working as an auto electrician.
"I had met a girl while I was locked up and she had not only helped with my legal fees but she had got me enrolled at Excelsior Community College so now I am doing an associate degree in auto engineering," he said.
When Thomas visited The STAR offices yesterday, he had just completed classes for the day at the Excelsior Community College in St Andrew. The 42- year-old is currently on a one-year scholarship at the institution, and he said that he is working hard to maintain an impressive average in order to be a part of the grant for the next two years.
He, however is finding it financially difficult to travel from Old Harbour home to Kingston on a daily basic and is seeking the public's assistance with is expenses.
"I know no one is obligated to me but I am just asking if anyone from corporate Jamaica, or anywhere else, could assist me my education. .... I just want to complete my studies so I can be a better man so if anyone can find it in their heart to assist me, I would appreciate it," he said.
In addition to asking for financial assistance, Thomas has apologised to the family of his murder victim. The then 17-year-old had held on to Cranston as two of his cronies stabbed him repeatedly during a robbery in Spur Tree, Manchester, in 1994. Cranston's body was found in bushes.
"I am totally sorry for what happened and I know that what I say now will never replace the lost of a son. I am so sorry and I would like to ask for your forgiveness and I pray that God gives you comfort. I know you have found a way to bury the memory and I know that seeing me in The STAR now may bring back the pain. I know an apology will never replace him, but I am sorry from the bottom of my heart," he said.