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Arsonist's Parents Receive A Different Kind of Sentence

When a couple discovered their son was a serial arsonist, they turned him in. But a new storm was coming as their friends and clients abandoned them, and they were faced with depression and bankruptcy. Read Transcript

NARRATOR: In the summer of 1992, an arsonist

began setting fires across Washington state.

For six months, more than 120 buildings

were destroyed, leading to three deaths and over $17 million

in property damage.

Authorities asked the public for help finding the arsonist.

The Kellers remember it well.

The first thing that captured my attention were the three

pencil sketches.

And I looked and I said, that looks like my son, Paul.

And my heart just stopped.

Hall-- you've no clue what you've done.

NARRATOR: As Christians, George and Margaret

knew what they had to do.

No loving father is going to want to even believe

that his child is capable of crimes, much less something

that is so horrendous.

But this is the truth.

The Lord gave me the strength at that moment

to go and contact the arson task force, which I did.

NARRATOR: Paul was arrested, pled guilty,

and was sentenced to 99 years in prison without parole.

For George and Margaret, it became the beginning

of a different kind of sentence.

I would think giving up your son, which was real,

what merit support instead of abandonment.

But then the first person that left

us was our pastor at that time.

Everybody just walked away.

And I still don't get that.

NARRATOR: For the next three years,

George and Margaret plummeted into financial despair

when their marketing business collapsed.

All my business clients just went away.

And I began to just sink.

We lost the home, we lost our savings, ending up on welfare,

going through bankruptcy and devastation.

All the while knowing that we did what was right.

NARRATOR: They also struggled emotionally.

I felt like, a dark depression just settling down.

The kind that is debilitating.


Severe anxiety.

Post-traumatic stress.

All those things were going on.

I was just a wreck.

Because it was hell.

And I did ask the Lord many times to take me home.

Please, Lord this is enough.

Take me.

NARRATOR: For a time, they got help

through Christian counseling and prescription medication.

But it wasn't enough.

So the Kellers continued to pray and clung to their faith.

In the middle of the darkness, my anchor

of faith in the Lord Jesus held.

I was being strengthened to just live

another day and another day and another day.

My prayer was, Lord, I don't know

if you're going to bring me out of this

or not, but if I am ever well from this

and you could ever use this to just help one person,

then as much as I don't want to, I'm willing to stay.

NARRATOR: One morning, Margaret woke up feeling different.

The depression is gone.

The anxiety is gone.

The feeling of being so traumatized is gone.

All those conditions that I had had

were replaced with total joy.

And I had such a freedom.

And it was a healing, it was a gift from the Lord.

I reached a tipping point where

I was able to look in the mirror and said,

I'm not depressed anymore.

And that was very significant to me.

And since then, I have not expressed

what I would call being a depressed person.

NARRATOR: Over time, they stabilized financially

and also found community with people who welcomed them

with open arms.

Christian folks who I have met through the years, who

are more loving and tender than any family

that I can ever know, standing with us in prayer all this way.

NARRATOR: Today, Paul continues to serve his sentence

while George and Margaret run their own ministry

and share their story of overcoming grief everywhere

they go.

I believe I love Jesus more through all this.

Jesus said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.

He did not lie.

When you say, Jesus, here I am, it is enough.

He loved you so much he is going to bring you through.

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