Former Death-Row Inmate Sent Back to Prison

Martin Draughon returns to the clink after becoming a test case for alleged flaws in GPS monitoring devices

The mother of the female employee began to worry about her son and daughter. She grabbed a knife from her kitchen and walked over to the Long John Silver's. She peered into the window and saw Draughon pointing a pistol at her children.

Frantic, she ran down the street screaming for help. She found some men standing outside, and the group rushed back to the restaurant and pounded on the windows. One of the men, 21-year-old Armando Guerrero, headed for the back of the store. He didn't want the robber to escape.

When Draughon saw the men banging on the windows, he ran for the back exit. He busted through the door and rushed for Gafford's truck. Guerrero chased after him.

Joy Weathers (right) started a prison ministry and enlisted the help of her friend Silvia Joplin to serve as preacher.
Daniel Kramer
Joy Weathers (right) started a prison ministry and enlisted the help of her friend Silvia Joplin to serve as preacher.
Jim Wolfe owns and operates KDOL, a tiny radio station in Livingston.
Paul Knight
Jim Wolfe owns and operates KDOL, a tiny radio station in Livingston.

Draughon pointed the gun behind him and fired several shots. Draughon jumped in the truck, and Gafford sped off.

Two days later, Draughon robbed another Long John Silver's. As he ran from the store, a police officer shot at Draughon but missed. Draughon dropped to the asphalt and gave up. He soon learned that he had killed ­Guerrero.

During his trial, Draughon argued that he hadn't intentionally killed the man. He was only firing warning shots. No ballistics testimony was offered on Draughon's behalf.

The prosecution, however, called a weapons examiner from the Houston Police Department. The officer testified, based on ballistics, that Draughon shot Guerrero point-blank. The jury convicted Draughon of capital murder and he was sentenced to death.

Felicia had traveled from Florida with her mother and younger sister for the weeklong trial. She was on summer vacation between her junior and senior years of high school. As soon as the death penalty was announced, Draughon's mother walked out of the courtroom and ­collapsed.

"It was wretched," Felicia says. "I never in a million years would have expected the death penalty."

While Martin Draughon was in the early years of his death-row sentence, Weathers was working at NutriSystem diet centers in Houston.

Weathers lived and worked in the Houston area until her father became ill, which prompted her to move to North Carolina. When her father died, she sold the family's marina business and decided to return to Texas.

Weathers had liked Houston, but she wanted to live near a lake. So, she chose Livingston. She found a small place to live and used the marina money to open a deli on the main street that runs through the town.

About the same time, Jim Wolfe, a longtime Livingston resident, had decided to set up a radio station in his 12-room Victorian house. Wolfe had always worked on satellite and radio equipment, and wanted to start the station as a hobby. He really wanted a way to play his massive collection of old rock and blues records.

The station was never intended to be a moneymaker, and Wolfe says he personally funds the station for about $3,000 a month. Wolfe's wife wasn't happy with that idea, and, shortly after the station was up and running, the couple split after 32 years.

Wolfe had frequented Weathers's deli, and the two had become friends. Business at the deli was slow, she told Wolfe, because she wasn't having any luck getting customers into the store. Wolfe asked her to move into his house so she could help manage the radio station. Weathers agreed.

Wolfe didn't set out to broadcast to prisoners. He wasn't certain that his signal would even penetrate the walls at Polunsky. But soon, Wolfe started receiving letters with song requests from inmates.

Then he received a letter from an inmate asking him to track down some case information. Wolfe found the info and read it over the air. The letters started pouring in after that.

Soon, friends and family members of the prisoners were calling and writing the station. They all had messages they wanted broadcast to an inmate.

Wolfe, who speaks with a deep baritone drawl, felt uncomfortable reading letters from women. Especially, he says, when the messages were accented with a couple kisses. Wolfe did his best, he says, trying to read the letters in a high-pitched, sexy voice. It was a complete failure.

Wolfe turned to Weathers, who had been reluctant to appear on the radio because, she says, she sounded like a "big country hick." But Wolfe coaxed her, and Weathers soon felt comfortable. In fact, she says, it felt natural. Weathers began reading the majority of the letters to inmates.

Sunday became the official night for the prison broadcast. The more she heard from prisoners and their families, the more she spoke about the poor conditions on death row.

Weathers realized she was in a unique position. She wanted to teach prisoners about Jesus.

"It was all God," Weathers says. "It needed to turn into a ministry, and the Lord just laid it on our hearts to do that."

Weathers enlisted the help of her longtime friend, Silvia Joplin, to serve as pastor. Joplin, who was living in Michigan at the time, agreed to move to Livingston to start her career as a preacher.

Weathers broadcast a message to inmates asking for a name for the ministry. A prisoner on death row mailed Weathers a drawing of two hands clasped in prayer with a Bible in the background. Written above the picture in colorful script were the words "All Life Is Precious."

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