Jerry Davich: Convicted murderer: ‘I believe that God has a great plan for me’
Jerry Davich firstname.lastname@example.org September 15, 2012 8:08PM
Jason Gaboian, 27, talks about his experiences inside Pendleton Correctional Facility since he was convicted of murder in 2007 for the shooting death of DeShun Bennett of Gary. Gaboian, whose release date is 2032, is convinced his sentence will be appealed and downgraded to involuntary manslaughter because it’s part of God’s plan. | Provided Photo~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 17, 2012 6:26AM
Jason Gaboian fully understands that his killer-finds-God-in-prison situation sounds like every other behind-bars cliche of denial, delusion and divine intervention.
Yet he continues to insist with a preacher’s passion that Jesus found him in jail, or vice versa, and Jesus has since turned his wayward life around.
“Prison changes nobody,” he told me flatly. “It’s Jesus Christ that changes people.”
Just as I was to remind Gaboian that he sounds like such a cliche, he intercepted my skepticism.
“This God who revealed himself to me is not a mere psychological crutch that I manufactured out of the figments of my imagination,” he told me with Sunday morning fervor.
I met with Gaboian, now 27, last week at downstate Pendleton Correctional Facility, near Indianapolis, where he’s been incarcerated since December 2007.
If you recall, Gaboian was convicted of murder that year for the shooting death of DeShun Bennett, 25, of Gary.
The accomplice in Bennett’s killing was Ashley Lawrence, Gaboian’s former girlfriend, who is incarcerated at Indiana’s Women’s Prison in Indianapolis for voluntary manslaughter. Her earliest release date is June 2019.
Gaboian was reluctant to talk about the incident, but he insists that Lawrence misled him that night on March 27, 2007, when she woke him up claiming Bennett just raped her. Lawrence, who was an 18-year-old strip club dancer named “Mercedes,” told this to Gaboian and he rushed from his bedroom to confront Bennett.
“I told him to leave, three times,” Gaboian told me in my face-to-face interview inside a prison conference room.
Bennett refused, Gaboian says, and Bennett charged at him. He acted in self-defense, Gaboian says.
Lawrence gave him Bennett’s .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun and screamed, “Shoot him!”
Gaboian did, twice.
“What caused me to act like I did was a perceived threat on my life and on the woman who was with me,” Gaboian said.
Gaboian also slit Bennett’s throat and, with Lawrence’s help, disposed his body in a vacant lot in Gary, court records state.
Gaboian readily admitted that he was high on cocaine at the time, and his “thinking wasn’t right.” He has since forgiven Lawrence for “emotionally manipulating” him, he said, just as God has forgiven him.
But it doesn’t mean he should be anywhere except behind bars right now. He knows this, and it’s one reason he’s not quite the cliche that he seems.
“I believe I am rightfully incarcerated, but wrongfully convicted,” he told me.
In other words, he rightly belongs in prison, but not for murder.
Gaboian sported a brown jumpsuit, a slight southern drawl, and no handcuffs or shackles.
He talked constantly, intelligently and highly articulately, for nearly two straight hours, framing his words from a wide smile to deep contemplation.
He’s gained 30 pounds of muscle since being locked up, and he often watches cable TV in his two-man cell, usually Christian-themed programs.
“I stay away from stupidity in here,” he said, proudly noting his job working in the recycling department, sorting trash.
Since being in prison, Gaboian has not received any major conduct violations, according to Indiana Department of Correction data. Instead, like many other long-term inmates, he has earned an associate’s college degree, his in biblical studies. No surprise since much of his verbiage is laced with scripture, parables or theological concepts.
“I believe that God has a great plan for me — to share the love of Christ with the world, it’s the great commission.”
He understands that people may look at him as a “maniac or nutcase” for such bold pronouncements, and for what he did on March 27, 2007.
“Although that incident wasn’t divinely caused, it was divinely used, to spare my life,” he said. “I’m not an ill-natured or malevolent individual, and I’ve never had a criminal mindset,” he said.
Gaboian still writes music, plays guitar and, for the past four years, has been working on a book, titled “Hell in a Cell: What the Bible Really Teaches about Death, Immortality, and the Theory of Eternal Torment.”
It’s an “exhaustive apologetic” on what really happens after we take our last breath, he explained.
Although Gaboian’s earliest release date is in 2032, he’s convinced that divine intervention will spring him loose much earlier.
“I’m not just convinced. I know,” he told me confidently.
Although he has not yet done anything through legal means to appeal his conviction, he plans to when the time is right.
Gaboian had an immediate reply to my question: Where would he be if not for what happened on March 27, 2007?
“Dead,” he quickly replied.
‘I am truly sorry’
Inside Lake County Jail, while awaiting his murder trial in 2007, “the absolute most amazing thing I’ve ever experienced happened to me,” said Gaboian, who previously tried taking his life behind bars.
“Something beyond words filled my cell and I felt an overwhelming sense of being loved,” he said. Immediately, his “perceptional lens on morality sharpened” and his life experienced a 180-degree radical transformation.
He discovered that Jesus is the answer, the only answer.
Oddly enough, at Bennett’s funeral during the same time period, the Rev. Keith Witherspoon preached over his closed casket, saying repeatedly to mourners, “Jesus is the answer.”
Fast forward a few years to the date I visited Gaboian in prison. Exactly one year prior to that date, his mother, Michelle Christman, visited a church also to find answers.
At that service, she was called out by an evangelist. He told the congregation that her son, who is in prison, would be supernaturally released earlier than his full sentencing.
Gaboian agrees: “I’m fully convinced that the God who I serve will right this injustice in good time.”
As for Bennett’s killing and Gaboian’s remorse afterward, “I am truly sorry for what happened that night,” he told me, looking down. “I was sorry since the minute it happened, while it was happening.”
“Words are insufficient for me to describe my sincere apology for what happened,” he said. “I pray and hope that (Bennett’s family) find it in their hearts to forgive me, knowing the intent in my heart was never, ever to maliciously take a life,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry.”
If Bennett’s family would like to offer their rebuttal to today’s column, and to the age-old issue of forgiveness, please contact me for a follow-up column.
“Should God take his hand of grace off me, I’m just a blathering imbecile who will never get out of this place,” he said. “But my murder conviction will not stand. That’s a guarantee. You can take that to the bank. Write it down and publish that. I’m willing to look like the fool.”
“I know it looks bad, but it’s not what it appears,” he said, shaking his head.
So I’ll let you decide — is Gaboian a prison-cell cliche or an exception to the rule? Does he reveal delusion or deliverance? Simply put, is he what he appears to be?
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