The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


John Wagner: A Heartless Thug, A Second Chance

By Cynthia Savage
The 700 Club

CBN.comAs a teenager, John Wagner realized that he was a natural at two things: selling drugs and beating people up for money.

“I had no money, came from a poor family. To me having an extra three or four dollars was huge. Break your leg.  No big deal,” John tells The 700 Club. “I'd be jumped by three or four guys at a time, but I was always able to come out on top.  So I was like I'm invincible.”

John went from the high school tough guy to working with the mafia.  The stakes got higher, but so did the pay.   John would take the call, find the next victim, and do the damage with no questions asked.  

“I'm not talking about just beating them up. I'm talking about maiming somebody for life. I'm talking, hit someone so hard in the face that their eyeball falls out.  I would do that in a large group setting so not only would I hurt them, it was just humiliation and to scar them for life.”

John was a marked man by the police and by his enemies.  He moved from city to city to keep a low profile. He finally made his way to Alabama.  He was away from the mafia, but he continued to sell marijuana to get by. Then he met Amy.
“We started living together,” John says. “It was the first time since I was really young that I felt like I had a home.”

After they married, Amy discovered how John’s violent past would affect their future together. He says, “As long as I was taken care of, everything was okay. One minute you question me or didn't allow me to do what I wanted to do, I was evil.”

“The relationship was more like a dictatorship than a marriage,” Amy says.
 “If it came to paying the electric bill or me getting high I was going to get high,” John confesses.

With three kids looking up to him, Amy hoped that things would eventually turn around.

“There were two sides to him,” she explains. “I think that was the conflict with me, because I saw what his heart was.  I saw who he could be. I felt like I could change him. If I just did it this way or if I just said this...”

Despite all her attempts, John wasn’t changing.  So one night Amy went out with her brother to a bar.  She came back drunk and passed out in her bed. John flew into a jealous rage.

“He blew up and he literally took his foot and plastered into my back,” she says. “He started really just coming at me, yelling and screaming about who was I with.”

John says, “I always had a big thing of just shaking her real hard.”

Amy’s brother was in the other room and tried to intervene.

 “He was like, ‘Dude, chill out.’ He put his hand on me; that's a big no,” John says.

“I heard furniture breaking and hitting against the wall,” Amy says. “My brother was being attacked by somebody that I knew was very dangerous.”

“I was over the top of him looking right down into his eyes, and I was about to rip his throat out,” John says.  “Something inside of me said, ‘John, just stop and back off.’  I just had to leave.”

Meanwhile, Amy called the police.  They arrested John on charges of domestic violence.

“My son was standing in his bedroom door, and he just looked at me and said, ‘Mommy are you okay?’  I knew right there that it was done. I was done.”

After his 24-hour holding period, John called Amy to pick him up. 

“She went, ‘No, you're not welcome in this house anymore.’”

Amy says, “I knew I was going to have to be strong, because I had played into this over and over again.” 

John says, “That point was the lowest point in my entire life. I can say without question.”

He ended up staying with a co-worker.  A friend offered to pray for him. That simple prayer in the parking lot gave John an idea.

“I was like, that's what I'll do.  That's how I'll get my wife and kids back.  I will invite them to church.  I will stand up and confess that I was a jerk and she'll take me back.”

 “I think he knew that, that was the play,” Amy says. “That was the only way he was even going to have a chance.”

At the church service, John was in for a surprise. 

“The service started, and I just started crying,” John recalls. “I didn't know why.  Tears started pouring from me.  As soon as I finished the sinner’s prayer, I stopped crying.  It was like this huge weight was lifted off me.”

“I could tell that it was real,” Amy says.

“When I walked out of that chapel, I haven't touched a drug since,” he says. “I learned what love was.  You don't know what love is until you have Jesus in your heart.  You have no clue.  You think you love. Then you sit back and you realize, ‘Wow!’”

John’s and Amy’s marriage changed dramatically.

“It's wonderful.  I actually love her now as opposed to what I thought I loved before,” he says.

“It’s gone from being completely selfish to being completely selfless for him,” she says. “It’s amazing.”

“Life’s awesome,” he adds.  “The best thing is the way the Lord picks you up when you screw up.  When you fall down, He engulfs us with His grace.  That’s the ultimate love right there. Man, that was the best thing I ever did.”

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