Crossroads: The Mike Sheline story.
Mike sat behind the two inch glass in the county jail . The Biggest Little City in the world, had proven to big for Mike. Mike was facing four to eight years on a litany of charges. Mike had just turned 18. I couldn’t believe that Mike had put himself in jail once again. I asked “Mike, where was your crossroad? Can you look back and see where you went wrong?” Mike responded, “I know exactly why I’m here. When I was 15, I pierced my ear; I started wearing baggy pants, and began rebelling against my parents. That’s why I’m here.”
The family prayed that the judge would show mercy. Mike was a good boy; he
had just gotten into a rough crowd. I went to Mike`s sentence hearing. The judge told an amazing story. It went like this. “One of my high school friends was Valedictorian, we will call her Jill. Jill was student body president with a 4.0 GPA. Jill went to college on scholarship. Her future was going exactly as she had planned. All the hard work and discipline was now paying off. The law of the harvest was surely working in Jill`s favor.
Jill completed her first week of class. It had been much more intense than high school, but Jill knew she had college by the tail. On a Friday night, her roommate, we will call her Katy, who was more adventurous, asked if Jill wanted to have some fun. Jill was ready for some fun after a stressful week. Katy said “let’s go”, and off they went. As they were driving to the nearest 7-11, Katy was giving Jill instruction. Katy said “all you have to do is go over to the cooler and grab a six pack of beer, while I point the gun”. Jill`s heart trembled with fear.” I don’t want to do this” Jill screamed! “Oh don’t worry, it’s not a real gun, it’s only a bb gun”. Even though Jill was still scared, she went along.
Jill went directly to the cooler. She grabbed a six pack of beer and began to leave the store. The old man behind the counter started to move towards Katy. He wasn’t going to be robbed by two snot nosed freshman girls with a bb gun. Katy raised the bb gun and pointed it towards the store clerk. The clerk raised his hands to protect himself. “Why doesn’t he stop” Katy thought. She panicked and pulled the trigger, she hit the old man underneath the arm. The clerk paused just long enough for the vandals to escape. They got the beer! It was the kind of fun Jill had never experienced before. She was sure she never wanted that kind of fun ever again. They drank the beer and forgot about the adventure.
The next morning they awoke to a knock at the door. As Jill opened the door, she was quickly place in handcuffs. She protested that she didn’t do anything, they had the wrong person. Then Katy was cuffed and both were charged with armed robbery and first degree murder. The bb had entered through the soft tissue of the story clerks arm pit and lodged in his heart. He died within the hour. Katy was sentenced to life in prison. Jill was charged as an assessor to murder. At age 18, Jill now sat in a prison cell, depression set in. Jill found escape through a drug addiction. After a few short months, Jill ended her life.
The judge showed mercy. She continued, “because of what happened to my young friend, I find it difficult to send an 18 year old to prison”. The judge sent Mike to a reform school, then to a boot camp. Each time Mike would not comply. Finally the patience of the judge wore thin and she threw the book at him. Mike served four years. He was out for a year or so but was not ready for society. Mike`s grandmother often said “your brain doesn’t start working until you are 25”. Mike has served 9 years and is facing 50 more. I have visited Mike and have finally noticed that he is beginning to change. When he is released in the future, it is my hope, that he will be able use his freedom to live free.
Parole Hearing: November 2011, the parole board told us that they were very busy, that only one of us could speak, and to make it quick. Dan Mike`s father, gave a short speech and then asked if I could speak. Permission was granted. It didn’t look good. After they read Mike`s history, we felt defeated.
I told the board that I had known Mike since he was 14. I then gave them more of Mike`s history. I told the board that I knew Mike well enough to know that he wasn’t ready for freedom. Recently though, I did notice a change in him and believed it to be real. I told the board something that I was sure they were already familiar with. I mentioned the high rate of recidivism among felons was in part, due to their vegetative state while incarcerated. I explained that when released, they re-enter the same vacuum that they left, which included old patterns, old friends and no skills. I said “this will not happen to Mike”. I showed the board the book that Mike illustrated for me, Rupert, It’s ok to be different. I read to the board what Mike had written in the book after he illustrated it.
The whole attitude of the board changed. I told the board that if I were successful, Mike’s story would be told in every high school in America. The board asked if they could see the book. I gave them a copy. I also gave them copies of the articles that have been printed in several news papers around the country. The last thing we heard from the board that day was this, “Mr. Sheline, (looking at Mike on the flat screen), “you are a lucky man, we have never seen this kind of support ever.”
Two weeks later we received word that of all the inmates that went before the boards that day, only one received parole. That one was Mike Sheline. Eleven years were removed from Mike`s first 15 year sentence, he faces 4 more. If Mike keeps his nose clean, and proves that his change is real, he could actually be paroled in 4 or 5 years. He will be 33 years old then. Next year, when Mike goes before the parole board on his second one to ten year term, we will have our second book completed with illustrations entitled, My Love Language is Pain. Both books will be available on Kindle and at rupertbear.net If you are interested in helping Mike, by having him do an art project, you can contact him through his mother at,