Twenty years ago, John Turnipseed was a gang leader, a drug dealer and a pimp. He would find runaway girls, give them what they needed to feel safe, then give them drugs and let gang members rape them for money. He has ten family members who have been charged with first degree murder.
But after forty years of a life of crime -- during which time he said he almost never felt remorse about what he was doing -- Turnipseed found God and turned his life around.
Turnipseed shared his story on The Glenn Beck Program Wednesday, saying he would look for runaways without father figures in his days as a pimp.
"Fathers were a nuisance. You didn't want an angry father running down the street to mess with you," he said. "So we'd find young ladies that had no connection to their dad, that was very important."
The young runaways would eventually be forced into a life of drug addiction and prostitution.
"We would rob just about anything," Turnipseed added. "Nursing homes were popular because they had high levels of very strong drugs in them and family heirlooms. You know, jewelry and things. ... We had no conscience about where we got money from."
Turnipseed said before he turned his life around, there were only two times he felt remorse about the decisions he'd made.
He had married a prostitute (he didn't think that was a bad idea at the time), and continued to pimp her out while they were married (that was fine at the time, too). When she got pregnant, he continued to pimp her out (also an acceptable decision, as he saw it, at the time).
But Turnipseed said the prostitute eventually left him for another pimp.
"I had a three-year-old son and he killed my son, beat him to death," Turnipseed said. "I was in jail, nothing I could do about it."
Turnipseed said that while he was still a despicable criminal, that was one of the only times he actually felt bad about something that had happened.
When Beck asked how Turnipseed turned his life around, he said he had gotten a job at a school so his probation officer wouldn't put him back in prison. A journalist found out he had eight felonies, and even Turnipseed admitted he was still an "awful human being" who shouldn't be working at a school at the time.
"He [exposed] me to the school and everything," Turnipseed said. "And that moment, that point in time for the first time in my life, I actually felt the shame. ... [I] got on the floor and started crying. Barricaded myself in an office, wouldn't come out, wouldn't face them, didn't know what to do. Just started crying and crying. I cried and cried."
Turnipseed's grandmother told him when he was very young that if he ever was in so much trouble he didn't know what to do, he should call out for Jesus.
"I didn't have anything else to do. Suicide was the only other option I had, but I didn't have anything to do it with," Turnipseed said. "That's what I remembered. And that's what I did."
Twenty years later, Turnipseed is a minister who has dedicated his life to helping people avoid the sort of life he had. His book, "BloodLine: You Spend Enough Time in Hell and You Get the Feeling You Belong," has more of his story.
Jesse Schenker, now a respected chef and restaurant owner in New York City, was a drug addict who would trick men into thinking he was going to perform sexual favors on them for money. Then when their pants were down, he would run away with the cash.
"As cliche as it sounds, pot was the gateway for me," Schenker told Glenn Beck Wednesday. "I had the gene. And I just self-medicated all the way to heroin and crack."
He was arrested for the first time at 14 years old, but his dad made sure he never spent a day in jail. As he grew older, and his addiction worsened, Schenker said his parents did everything they could to help him, but having a place to fall back on only enabled him. Eventually, though, his parents said he had to choose family or drugs, and he chose drugs.
"There was a point -- it was July '04, and I had been basically waking up and scamming and stealing," he recalled. "I was totally demoralized, track marks on my arm, frail and thin, physically withdrawing all the time and smoking crack in motel rooms. Just totally done. And I looked in the mirror and I just said, 'Oh my God. I don't want this anymore.'"
Schenker had originally started smoking pot to relieve his anxiety, and he realized that the life he was leading was so much worse than having anxiety.
"It was torture, and I wanted to die," he said.
Like Turnipseed and, Beck noted, himself, Schenker crawled into a ball on the floor and cried out for God. Within 48 hours, Schenker said, his prayer was answered in the form of an arrest. He got into the cop car determined to turn his life around, and never looked back.
When asked why he is sharing his story, Schenker said: "For me the most important thing is to show people there is hope."
He said if he had seen someone saying, "Hey look at me. I lived exactly what you lived and look at me now," he may have stopped at a certain point and his rock bottom would not have been nearly as low.
You can watch Schenker tell his story, below:
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