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Chasing Truth In a Prison Cell

Tressa wasn't a stranger to neglect and instability, and her rebellious life landed her in drug dealing and eventually prison. Read Transcript

TRESSA MITCHENER: "United States versus Tressa Brantley" and it

kind of blew my mind because I'm like, the United States?

Who am I to go up against the United States?

I can't win this.

NARRATOR: Facing federal drug charges,

Tressa Mitchener couldn't believe

her life had sunk so low.

Inside, she still felt like that little girl whose parents

divorced when she was three.

There was no foundation of love and saying "I love you,"

or holding you, or just the things that you see,

I guess like on TV.

I do remember times with my mom.

She was working and she was doing good,

trying to take care of us.

But in the process, I think, she kind of developed alcohol


My father, he really wasn't there for us.

NARRATOR: As a teen, she followed

the lead of her friends, skipping

school and shoplifting.

I think the reason that I did it

is because I was trying to get acceptance from them,

and to fit in.

I was angry, hurt, out of control.

It was like I didn't even care about life.

NARRATOR: At 15, Tressa was sent to a juvenile facility.

She was also pregnant by the 21-year-old guy

her mother warned her about.

I felt love, like somebody cared-- he cared about me.

You know, I found this new guy that's

giving me some attention.

So, you don't know what you're talking about, Mom.

NARRATOR: When Tressa was released six months later,

she infuriated her mom by moving in with the guy.

A drug dealer and addict, he became abusive

when she tried to leave with their son.

One time, he knocked her unconscious.

I went to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror

and I had these black eyes.

I just was tired and I felt like giving up.

But by that time, I had already had my first son.

So if I can give up, what is the child--

what's going to happen to him?

NARRATOR: He also forbade her to work.

Her mom had moved, so with no income,

her only option was to stay with him.

I didn't have any money.

I didn't have my own place.

I felt like I was stuck.

And I wanted to regain my life.

NARRATOR: After Tressa had her second son,

she reached out to her mom's sister, Jackie.

While she didn't have the means to help,

she tried to get Tressa on a different path.

My aunt always would ask me to go to church with her,

or she would take my boys to church with her sometime,

because she knew I was in that lifestyle and stuff,

but she would still ask.

And I knew of God, but I didn't know Him.

NARRATOR: Finally, Tressa decided

the only way to make money without her sons' father

knowing was to sell drugs.

And she knew plenty of dealers.

And so I asked them, you know, hey, let me try this.

And next thing I know, it went from a kilo of cocaine

to several kilos of cocaine.

I mean, I would have $150,000 just there

to do whatever I want to do with.

I was buying clothes, cars, houses--

whatever I wanted, I bought.

NARRATOR: Now, with money in the protection of friends,

Tressa finally got away.

For the next eight years, she indulged

in the lifestyle that came with drug deals and money


Life was good.

But in the inside I was still not happy.

I didn't have peace.

I didn't have joy.

I spent $80,000 buying one car.

Three weeks go by, then I'm back to the same feeling.

And then I was really wondering, what's wrong with me?

It's like a huge void that's in me

and I couldn't understand what was wrong with me.

NARRATOR: One night, Tressa decided her Aunt

Jackie might have been right.

And I said, God, if there's a God,

it has to be a better plan for my life than this.

I'm tired, Lord, help me.

Help me, Lord, help me.

NARRATOR: Three days later, Tressa

was arrested and charged with conspiracy

to sell cocaine and money laundering.

Her first phone call from jail was to Aunt Jackie.

Just be still.

Be still.

God will fight your battle.

Be still.

Just be still.

We're going to keep moving forward,

we're going to keep pushing.

And that's what we did.

NARRATOR: Later, some ministers came to the jail.

Tressa listened as they talked about Jesus

in a way she finally understood.

TRESSA MITCHENER: It doesn't matter

what you have done in life, that He will redeem your life.

That's what He died for.

I asked Him to come in my life, to help me, to save my soul,

to turn my life around, make me new.

Create in me what you have destined me for, Lord.

NARRATOR: Tressa was convicted and served 5 and 1/2 years

in prison.

She pored over the Bible every day

and came out a very different person.

My heart totally changed.

I felt the overwhelming love now.

I had been set free from all the hurt

because I started learning a Father's love.

I started learning the love of a friend.

I started learning the love of a brother.

I started learning the love of God.

It changed everything within me.


I'm very proud.

Very proud.

Look at God.

Look what He can do.

NARRATOR: Tressa forgave her parents

and reconciled with both of them.

She's now very happily married to Willie,

and reaching out to others with the truth she's found.

My purpose today is to help people change their lives,

to help them to grow in Christ, to help them to know Him.

Because in the inside I had joy, I had peace, I had happiness.

I was free.


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