Bank Robber Finds Freedom for Her Soul
By Michelle Wilson
The 700 Club
Dana remembers, “The largest amount I ever stole was $44,000.”
By 24 years old, Dana Bryant was a bank robber, a meth addict and one of the most wanted criminals in northern California.
Dana says, “I knew that if I got caught that I would be going away to prison for a very long time. I didn’t want to get caught, and I didn’t want to live.”
Raised in a middle class home, Dana says she felt worthless because she never felt she could measure up to her mother’s expectations. In high school, she found that partying helped her cope.
“I became the one that drank the most at a party,” says Dana. “I was the one that made a fool out of myself more than most. I eventually was the one that was going home with someone else.”
After high school, Dana met a man she thought would fill every void she had. Soon, she discovered the love of her life had a violent temper.
Dana remembers, “He slammed me against the wall, choked me until I nearly passed out.”
Dana endured physical and mental abuse for three years. She grew accustomed to hiding the bruises on her face. Her friends begged her to leave. Still Dana stayed.
Dana recalls, “I felt ugly. I didn’t feel worth anything. He would tell me what I wanted to hear. I became addicted to just him making me feel better about myself.”
Eventually, Dana had a child with her boyfriend. But soon afterward, she developed another addiction - to meth. Unable to look after her child, Dana put her daughter in her mother’s care. By now, she had lost her job and had no money. That’s when Dana started robbing banks. She used a fake gun and each time, she played the victim and told the tellers that someone else was forcing her to rob them.
Dana remembers, “I walked in, put the gun to the woman, and took the money. And I remember apologizing on my way out.”
Then emboldened by meth, she left her boyfriend for good. She had also become a habitual gambler. To support that and her meth addiction, Dana continued to hold up banks. But she says there was another reason.
Dana says, “I created this fantasy that I could get killed by the police. And so it didn’t matter anymore. Although I tried to get away, you know, it’s that survival to run, but I really didn’t care if they killed me or not.”
In one year’s time, she hit 9 financial institutions. The police and FBI were looking for her. Dana was about to make her tenth hit when a bank employee recognized her from a sketch and called the police.
Dana remembers, “All the police had surrounded me. I remember getting in the back of the car cuffed, and being grateful. I had a cognitive thought of, ‘Finally, it’s over.’ and I didn’t care that I was going to prison.”
Dana was charged with 9 counts of bank robbery and possession of a weapon. She faced 25 years in a women’s federal prison. Then, on sentencing day the judge called her forward.
“He said. ‘A very bad thing happened to a good girl,’” says Dana. “And he said, ‘I’m going to give you a chance.’ “He looked me in the eye, ‘I’m going to send you to a program. I think you need help.’ And because of that I only got a 5 year sentence.”
After she went to a court ordered rehab program, she started serving her sentence. Dana went to a chapel service where she finally realized she needed God to rescue her.
Dana recalls, “I felt scared at service because women were raising their hands and worshiping God in a way that I wasn’t used to. And so, it was foreign to me, but it made me feel alive. And I could see the freedom on their faces. And I ran to my room and dropped to my knees; and asked Him to save me, and that I was sorry for everything I did, And that I couldn’t make it through this without Him. That I was going to die inside if He didn’t save me and help me. Everything in my life changed. I was free. I mean, I was free.”
Dana asked God to forgive her for all the things she had done.
Dana says, “I was sorry, I was wrong, I hurt people.”
Dana served out her sentence, and says during that time, God took away her addiction to meth and gambling. After her release she married a Christian man and they’re raising her daughter and their two other children. They reach out to their community through their ministry called, ‘Crossing the Jordan.’ Dana shares with others that God is truly a god of a second chance.
Dana says, “Jesus can heal the inner parts of your being. He can make everything new. He can restore all that was lost. And heal that pain. He really can make it all new.”
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