John, tell me about your formative years growing up in Jersey City, NJ?
As a kid, I was in the foster care system in Jersey. The state took me away from my parents when I was eight. My father was an alcoholic, very abusive, he used to beat me a lot so they took me away. My mother was also an alcoholic. She took a lot of the beatings herself.
What happened after that?
Mostly I was running the streets as a kid, doing drugs, drinking, getting into trouble, getting into fights, and some violent stuff with the police and other people.
Are there any major events in your past that you might want to share?
When I turned 18 I tried to join the army and they wouldn’t let me in.
Why was that?
I’d been living at a juvenile group home and I’d gotten into an argument with a teacher. I went underneath the school because it was up on concrete blocks. We used to burn our names into the wood with Bic lighters. The teacher said that he thought I was trying to burn down the school, which I wasn’t. I had no idea that they charged me with arson at the time. So when I tried to join the army I went to the judge and told him that I didn’t even know that they had convicted me of anything. The judge said, “well, it stands, I can’t change it,” so they wouldn’t let me in. That was really major for me because it was the first time in my life that I wanted to do something to change and I kind of hit a brick wall. That’s when I really gave up on my life, I just hated everything and everyone; there was a lot of anger in me.
Where did that kind of thinking lead you?
It led me to prison. I was getting little “skid bits”, like six months or a year for fighting, mostly fights with the police. Then I started getting into stealing cars. Everything I did was related to either being drunk of getting high on drugs. I never did anything sober or straight. That was my way of dealing with life. If something got hard I would either get high or drink.
Besides the fights and stealing cars, was there any other trouble that you got into?
Yes, in 1989 it all came to an end. I’d been working up in Connecticut doing a restoration on a porch and I got into a fight with the owner of the house. He passed away as a result of my actions, but I don’t even remember it. I had drunk a fifth of Vodka and did some heroin so I was out of it. That happened on a Friday night and I was arrested on a Sunday in New York. They sentenced me to 25 years and I served one month shy of 20 years. I got out in June of 2009.
When you were released did you come to Charleston?
I was actually on my way to Florida to try to get some work with the oil cleanup down there. I decided to stop over for the night in Charleston. I started drinking with