Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Waldorf pastor takes up case of man convicted in 1997 killing
By Jamie Anfenson-Comeau Staff Writer
The Rev. Thirkel Freeman, pastor of True Gospel Church Ministry in Waldorf, said it was no accident that a wrong number led to him becoming the spiritual adviser to a woman whose father is facing execution on Death Row.
“I would say that it was probably divine design, if I can use that word,” Freeman said.
Freeman said he and his congregation have been praying for Richard Glossip, a Death Row inmate in Oklahoma, whom Freeman said does not deserve to be put to death.
Glossip was to be executed Sept. 16, but on the day he was scheduled to die he received a two-week stay of execution by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals pending his final appeals to consider new evidence in the case.
In August, Freeman called the number of a performer he wished to invite to the church’s Friends and Family Day, but the number had been reassigned to Glossip’s daughter, Christina Glossip-Hodge.
Even though he had the wrong person, Freeman still invited her to the church.
“She said she lived in Hagerstown but was going to Oklahoma. She said her father was Richard Glossip, and added, ‘You may have heard of him.’”
Glossip-Hodge said she felt as though a higher power led Freeman to her.
“I don’t know why, but that man touched my heart, and I had to tell him about my dad,” Glossip-Hodge said.
Glossip was sentenced to death in 1997 in the killing of a motel owner, Barry van Treese. The confessed killer, Justin Sneed, testified that Glossip had hired him to kill van Treese, whom both men worked for, as part of a plea deal in exchange for being spared the death penalty himself.
Freeman said he researched the case following his talk with Glossip-Hodge, and came to the belief that although Glossip may have known about the murder, he was not responsible for it.
“How do you have it that the man who admitted committing the murder, who said, ‘Yes, I did it,’ he gets a life sentence, but the person who just knew about it is getting the death penalty. Something’s wrong with that,” Freeman said.
Anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean and actress Susan Sarandon, among other well-known individuals, have taken up Glossip’s case, and more than 250,000 people signed a petition asking Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin for clemency.
Freeman said Glossip-Hodge asked him to be her spiritual adviser, and the two have remained in frequent contact ever since.
“What are the odds that with a wrong number, I would get this woman who needed spiritual encouragement?” Freeman said. “She needed people surrounding her in a comforting manner, and that is what we do. We are a ministry of encouragement.”
Freeman said he and his congregation have been praying “like crazy” for Richard Glossip and his family, and that he has contacted other pastors and asked for their support as well.
“We prayed, and prayed and cried out to God that he would get a stay, and he got a stay, literally in the last few hours,” Freeman said.
Glossip-Hodge said she has drawn great strength in her newfound relationship with Freeman.
“He’s amazing. It’s no accident that he called me,” Glossip-Hodge said.
Freeman commended Glossip-Hodge as a strong soul undergoing a very trying ordeal.
“She’s a brilliant young lady, very strong, and she’s facing something that most people don’t face every day, that her dad’s going to be killed by the government,” Freeman said.
The stay is only a temporary reprieve, however, but Freeman hopes it will be enough time for the courts to reconsider the evidence against Richard Glossip.
“This is not a victory, but this is at best a road to victory,” Freeman said.