PETERSBURG, Va. (WTVR)--Standing before a packed crowd at Petersburg’s Good Shepherd Baptist Church, Thomas Haynesworth had the audience hanging on to his every word.
“People say how do you do it--27 years? I just say I trust in God,” Haynesworth said. He told the crowd about the ordeal that landed him in prison for 27 years.
Those were years he lost serving time for a series of rapes that DNA ultimately proved he didn’t commit.
Many in the crowd were surprised to hear Thomas say “I’m glad I went through that experience because everything happens for a reason. We just don't know how God works. I don't rush him, I just trust him.”
Haynesworth said his mission is clear now. He shared his story of wrongful conviction and explained how it fuels his passion to help others. For example, he visits with those in the very prison that unjustly caged him.
During Tuesday’s forum he shared words of encouragement with dozens of ex-offenders in the crowd.
Petersburg Sheriff Vanessa Crawford explained that testimonials like Haynesworth’s are a huge part of their second annual community re-entry forum organized by her office.
"Hopefully this will make them understand that no matter what the challenges are that they have in their lives, they can be overcome," Sheriff Crawford added.
Haynesworth explained that he has continually leaned on his faith to overcome obstacles in his life. He vowed to share his story to inspire others and to help him heal as he looks to the future.
“I’m not looking back. What happened to me happened. So, I just go forward with my life," said Haynesworth.