Evil Is Seductive

(Author’s Note: What follows was originally posted in 5 parts here in The Oakdale Chronicles very early on during my incarceration. It is the story of my attempted suicide and the week that followed while I was kept in a hospital psychiatric unit in south Florida. I post it now because the anniversary of that nearly successful violent attack is approaching.

It was my dear Son, Anthony, who was charged with typing each part of the original post, and in re-reading it, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been for him to do so. While I was incarcerated, Anthony was clear in his condemnation of what had brought my life to this point, but equally clear in his unwavering love for me.

It is possible to learn about love, loyalty, strength and courage from our children.

In addition to it being close to the ‘anniversary’ of my own attempted suicide, suicide has been at the forefront of many conversations and exchanged emails over the past 2 weeks.I heard from the parents of Ryan Loskarn, an individual who I wrote about after his own suicide on January 23, 2014. I have also heard from a woman who is writing a book about a man she knew who committed suicide 5 years ago. Lastly, and very sadly, a man who I met last year through very dear friends of mine I met while working at Central Union Mission, committed suicide recently while living in Cypress.

Sad stories all. Are there answers for any of the people I just mentioned in the story that follows? Probably not, since each story is different in most respects. But each shares the fact that Satan won a victory on the day of that individual’s death. 

Maybe someone will read this who is struggling. If that is the case, I can say only this: Do not let him win!

Here then is the story of how my own personal battle was almost lost, and how God turned a horribly ugly day into a day of rebirth.)

August 18, 2009 began  for me pretty much like any other day in recent memory. I had just returned from dropping off the dirty linens from the tiny, rundown motel where I worked and lived.

It was a typical day in south Florida for that time of year. It was warm early, the sun was shining, and I was looking forward to finishing my “tour of duty” at the front desk and enjoying the day. Perhaps a little afternoon kayaking, a hobby I had taken up about a month earlier and taken an immediate liking to.

After I had returned from dropping off the laundry, I walked to my room at the other end of the parking lot to do something, I’m not sure what. I had moved into unit #4 a couple of months earlier after my siblings and I had sold our parents’ house, where I had lived since December 2004.

I had moved into their house in December. “Pop” (our step-father) had a stroke the day after Thanksgiving while visiting one of my sisters and it was felt that they needed some help if they were to continue living in their own home. It worked out that I was available to move in and help, and I did exactly that for several years until they both passed away within months of one another–9 weeks to be exact–earlier in 2008. Selling their home had caused me to move into the motel I had worked at, which was inherited by a neighbor and his sister when their Mother was hit by a car crossing the busy street in front of the motel. I had decided to stay there until I could decide a new course of action.

Finishing whatever it was I had gone to my room to do, I walked out the door and turned the corner to cross the parking lot and return to the office, roughly 80-feet away.

As I turned that corner, I noticed activity at the other end of the lot, in front of the office. Apparently, a couple of vehicles had pulled in while I had been in my room and I noticed several people moving about. On the backs of two of the jackets, I noticed the letters “FBI”.

I knew then that a new course of action was about to unfold, and I also knew it would not be pleasant for me, my friends, or my family.

The FBI had come to arrest me, and I was about to let down everyone I had ever known or loved…

It took a moment for the reality of the situation to sink in. I had known for about a year and a half that the FBI would come for me sooner or later (more on that another time), but now that they were here and once it HAD sunk in, I did an about-face and returned to my room.

Fortunately for me–at least that’s the way I felt at the moment–no one saw me, as their attention was focused on the motel office where they must have determined I was going to be at that time, on that day.

It is extremely difficult to describe my state of mind at this point. I locked the door and threw the sliding lock. My heart was pounding, my mouth was dry, and I moved about my tiny room wildly–pacing–in a state of panic.

I moved into the small bathroom and  stood in front of the sink, which was right next to the shower, looking into the mirror for what seemed like a long time. I am sure was mere seconds. It’s amazing the amount, and diversity, of information that the human mind can process in a very short amount of time.

It’s amazing, too, how afraid and completely alone a human being can feel.

I stood there, tears forming, staring into my eyes watching them form, trying to look into the depths of my soul where the darkness was. To that part of my being that had been–through the course of my life–so thoroughly seduced by evil. I tried to find a solution to the predicament I was in, and the only solution I could come up with was that the evil had to die.

That part of me that I had despised through the years but was small enough to be manageable (or so I thought) had grown and consumed enough of my soul that the little remaining that was good inside of me suddenly felt outmatched and death loomed as the only solution.

I felt that the predictions of self-destruction that had been made when I was in my teens had finally come home to roost. I also felt that I had betrayed the love and friendship of so many people, and I was unworthy.

For years, various people had told me I was my own worst enemy and now, today, at this moment, I finally agreed with them, and I decided that the only way to win was to defeat the enemy, and to defeat the enemy, the enemy must ultimately die.

Since the room was small and contained a bed, a dresser, an entertainment center, and a table with 2 chairs, there was only a small amount of space to walk in, but walk I did–to the door–to the front window–to the back window.

The windows were old jalousie type windows common in south Florida that had long ago stopped opening and closing, the panes of glass were frosted, and most of the panels were sealed with silicone to keep out dust and the warm, often hot, Florida air. There was one clear pane at the bottom of the front window, facing the parking lot, that I had put in when I had moved in so I could check the lot without going outside, but at that moment the curtains were drawn and I was afraid to move them to peek outside.

I knew they would shortly discover that I was not in the office and would then focus their attention on my room.

My heart was pounding in my chest as I returned to the bathroom. I was breathing heavily, in a totally panicked and desperate state, telling myself, “You’re f—-d, you’re f—-d, you’re f—-d! You’ve got no way out! You’ve got to do it! You have f—-d up your life you stupid, stupid ass. You’ve got to put an end to this now!”

I hadn’t contemplated suicide before, nor have I since, but at that time, in the state of mind I was in, hating who I was and what I had done to my life, my children, my family, and my friends, not thinking that anyone would understand, and not wanting to fight my demons anymore, the decision was made. Now the only thing remaining–and time was surely running out–was, “How do I do this??”

My mind was racing, going through its memory of what was in my room that I could use to end this madness, finally settling on the blades contained in a disposable razor. I grabbed one and broke it, back now in front of the sink. As it broke apart, the blades came free and fell into the sink. I picked them up–they were difficult to grasp because they were so narrow, but they were all I had.

The tears were coming faster now, flowing more freely, the accumulated pain of my life’s mistakes welling up and spilling out of my eyes and down my cheeks.

Holding a blade between the thumb and first 2 fingers of each hand, I raised them to the sides of my neck, lightly pressing on each vein. Standing there, I looked into the tear-filled eyes staring back at me in the mirror, trying to find an answer different from the one I had arrived at.

I no longer knew the person looking back at me, and I found no different answer…

“When you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”  ~F. Nietzsche

The image of myself in the mirror was blurred by my tears, but I could see where the sharp edges of the razor blades touched my skin.

Time, damn it! Time! I was running out of time!

I remember a sound escaping my lips, but I have no recollection of whether it was a word, or just a sob, but it was then that I clenched my teeth, pressed the razor blades down, and pulled them forward sharply. One time, then quickly again cutting both jugular veins at once, the vein on the right being cut more than the left.

The blood spurted through the breaches in the veins with a force that surprised me for some reason. I took a step backwards and then to my right, moving into the shower.

I turned, slightly dazed, I think–a little stunned, perhaps that I had actually made such a statement of self-loathing, but at the same time, momentarily relieved of the pressures bearing down on my soul.

I leaned against the wall, my blood pumping out of my veins, and slid down to a sitting position. I looked down at the front of my shirt and ran my fingers through the sticky wetness, the blood warm in contrast to the coolness of the tiles. A sadness swept over me–a sure sign that my life was going to end here–in this shower–today–in a few moments. And the sadness was for all the things I should have been, and could have done–for all of the good that I was capable of.

And I remember thinking how odd it was that I felt no pain from my self-inflicted wounds–indeed, there was a feeling that the intensity of my panic and anxiety was flowing down the shower drain with the blood that was leaving my body.

Trying to recount the thoughts and my overall state of mind at this point is difficult, because things seemed to be slowing down a bit. There seemed to be a quietness and a surreal feeling setting in.

I was still crying, but the tears had slowed somewhat. I do know that I started talking to my mother, my best friend in life, and now, it seemed, that she was about to become my best friend in death. She had passed away a little over a year before, and I spoke to her now because her faith in God was as powerful, and sure, as mine was not.

God had not been one of my favorites for many years–since I was a teenager, in fact, and my best friend was killed in a car crash.

I wasn’t sure if lying in a pool of blood from self-inflicted wounds presented the right set of circumstances for reconciling with God, but it looked as if that was what was about to happen.

Speaking to my mother, I also told myself that if I was to believe that she could hear me, I also had to acknowledge that she was with God as she had truly believed she would be. I told her tearfully that I was sorry, so very sorry for making such a mess of my life, and I asked her to help my children understand that their father was not the monster that circumstances would make him out to be, but that he had just lost himself for a time back there somewhere and simply hadn’t realized it until it was too late to fix.

It was at this point that I slid down further onto the floor of the shower, until I was lying on my back.

I was getting weaker, time was passing, and I could hear sounds that told me the FBI had turned their attention from the office to my room–voices–calling my name–sounds at the window–sounds at the door.

I know I asked God to look after my mother, and I thanked him for giving her to me. I also asked him to look after my children, and thanked him again.

Apologizing for being less of a human than I should have been, I then asked him for forgiveness.

I prayed for all of the people who looked up to me–who respected me–who loved me, and would now feel betrayed by and disappointed in me.

They should all be angry with me for not giving them credit for having more character than that, and for loving me more than I did myself, but at that particular moment, rationality had long since ceased to exist for me. In a few minutes, it wasn’t going to matter anyway, because I was slipping closer and closer towards death, a slow motion race to beat the people I could hear outside my door.

I read recently, in a Nelson Demille novel, a statement made by one of his characters that said, “Compared to shame, death is nothing.” To me, at that moment, drifting closer and closer to a point from which I could not possibly return–I’m sure that statement would have rung true.

I know differently now, of course, just as I knew differently in the days to come. In fact, I would have thought I knew differently about 15 minutes earlier, before this self-inflicted nightmare began. But at that time, and for that moment, I asked for death, and it appeared that I was going to get what I asked for.

My eyes were no longer open, nor could I open them. I was aware of my shallow breathing, but beyond that, I lacked the ability–or the will–to move.

Muffled voices and sounds could be heard through the walls, along with a metallic tapping–tap, tap, tap………tap, tap, tap. My mind hearing my voice encouraging death, “Just go. Just die. Just sleep. Just end it.”

But still there was that tapping–tap, tap, tap…tap, tap, tap. And other muffled noises and voices. And me, “Just go. Just die…” And then–a voice, clearer, yet still faint, and not mine–saying, “I’m in!”

Suddenly, I could faintly hear people nearby, voices calling to others, exclamations about what they had found, calls for an ambulance.

I felt something around my neck–a towel, perhaps–and felt pressure being applied. At once point, I slipped into total stillness for a few moments, then I heard the faint voices again. I was being jostled, dragged from the shower.

I sensed more activity outside the bathroom–more voices of people maneuvering in the very restrictive confines of my room.

Various sensations of being jostled, lifted, multiple hands on me, various voices issuing directives. I had slight sensations of movement and then what I guess would have been the sensation of being lifted into the ambulance. I must have been fading in and out, there was constant pressure on my neck, muffled voices, like I was listening to people talk with ear muffs on.

The ambulance came to a stop–at the hospital, I assume–I had the sensation of being lowered to the ground. I felt movement, heard new voices, then heard and felt absolutely nothing…

I did not wake up for about 24 hours, and when I did, I was in the intensive care unit, and I was conscious for just a moment, long enough to be aware that I was still alive, that I was connected to all sorts of machines, that there was something stuck down my throat, and my hands were encased in these really soft, really thick gauze mittens.

I was in and out of sleep most of the day, and when I was awake, people spoke to me, but I didn’t respond. Well, couldn’t, as I was still with a tube down my throat helping me breathe.

Towards the end of the morning, I believe, the breathing tube was removed, a wholly unpleasant experience, by the way–kind of like sticking your finger UP your throat. As unpleasant as it may have been, I was glad (yes, I was) that I was around to experience it.

I was moved to a regular hospital room later that day and was treated pretty normally except I had a 24-hour “watcher”, someone who’s only job was to sit and watch me.

Two days later, I was moved to the third floor, where the ‘psych’ ward was located. Until that point, I really hadn’t said much to anyone. People came and went, looked at me, did their assigned task, and left. I was pretty weak initially and had a lot of drugs in me, so I faded in and out of sleep.

Once I got to the third floor, it was different. People were going to seek answers, and I was going to be expected to provide them.

The FBI didn’t place me under arrest at the motel because–as they informed my sister, Kathy–they would have had to provide a 24-hour guard, and they “didn’t have the manpower”.

Once I had physically recovered enough to be moved near the psych ward, I was held under authority of Florida’s Baker Act, which allowed for a 72-hour observation period. The third floor was a secured level with locked doors and controlled access. There was a nurses station, a craft activity room, a day room, and half-a-dozen two-person rooms.

There was never an empty bed, and there were two units like this. I was in unit A. Most were there because they had said they wanted to die. A few had taken pills. A couple had had voluntarily entered. A lot of unhappiness in the world…

I would end up spending almost a week on the third floor at Memorial Hospital-Johnson.

The demons I had faced in the mirror seemed to have fled, leaving the naked truths that had been buried, or hidden, exposed for me to deal with, and for all to witness.

Everyone knows that in order to see something clearly, it must be viewed in the light. If you are talking about the flaws in an apple, or a pear, it’s no big deal. However, when you take the darkness in the human soul and bring it into the light, be prepared to call upon God for help in dealing with what you find there.

The time I spent on the third floor was time well spent. I uncovered things within myself–pain I had covered for years–and discovered little things in the past that had developed into big things over time.

I talked. I cried. I talked.

I examined myself and developed a sense that I could–and would–survive all my current problems and finally deal with all of my old issues.

I would be someone I could love, and I knew those who loved me would help.

At this point, I would like to apologize to my family and friends. I’m sorry to have put you all through this in the first place, and I am sorry for whatever pain reading these last few entries may have caused.

I do not delight in hurting those I love, but I do harbor a fervent hope that, over time, my words will reach out to someone who has been seduced by evil and, perhaps, will initiate a change in direction that will spare him–or her–and his family and friends the enormous spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial price that all of this evokes.

We have not even begun to scratch the surface, and I hope you all have the patience to bear with me as I ramble.

To my children, my brothers, sisters, other relatives, friends–I love you all, and I am sorry.

(Author’s note: Thanks for reading. May God bless each and every one of you and keep you and your families safe.)

At the Intersection of Freedom & Hope

(also posted on The After-Oakdale Chronicles)


“For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.”
Galatians 5:13 NLT

When we have found the path to true freedom, we have discovered the joy found in service to others. By exercising our individual freedom serving others, we become beacons of light for others to follow.

“Serve one another in love.”

In those five words can be found the steps we need to take to follow Jesus. In those five words is the key to understanding the true nature of Christ. Those simple words contain the road map to the complexities of living on this earth that will lead us to eternal life in God’s Kingdom.

Following the admonition of the Apostle Paul, we discover a way to use the talents and gifts God gave us in a manner that serves Him and glorifies His name. God never said we couldn’t own things. God never said we could not be successful. In fact, God gave us the ability to design, develop, and build the images of our dreams into the reality of successful businesses, but He also gave us the ability to do it in a way that gives Him glory and serves our brothers and sisters with love.

In a post from August 24, 2013, I wrote about the freedom that comes with allowing God to open the ‘eyes’ of our hearts:

“God has opened wide the eyes of my heart, and He can open YOURS as well. With our eyes wide open we can see many things we could not see before: We can see hope; we can see peace, happiness, joy, love, and forgiveness; we can see the goodness that lives and breathes all around us.

And with our eyes wide open we can also see the hunger, the pain, the suffering, and the desperation of other people. But these are not bad things to see, because once our eyes are open, we can also see our place in God’s plan to HELP those who are afflicted. Seeing our place will allow us to take the action necessary to improve the condition of our brothers and sisters who are all God’s children.

And THIS, my friends, is freedom.”


“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Imagine a place where leather goods, pottery, jewelry and other quality hand-crafted items are produced and sold; a place where a variety of unique restaurants are clustered; a place where tasteful Christian-themed apparel is printed and embroidered, then offered for sale in an attractive shop containing other Christian books, gifts, and music; a place where fine herbs and a colorful variety of gourmet tomatoes and other select produce items are hot-house grown and sold the day they are picked; a place where beautifully re-upholstered sofas and chairs and professionally refinished and refurbished dressers, tables and other furniture can be found; a place where you can take your car to get an oil change or perhaps even a custom paint job; a place where vehicles laden with workers and tools leave daily to go out and assist those in need while helping to make the community a more beautiful place; a place where you can drop off a load of canned goods to be distributed to area food banks and then park your car and peruse some locally produced Christian-themed paintings and sculptures; a place where adults can go to learn how to read and then enroll in a group to read about God; a place where Christian musicians are offered training, the opportunity to join with others to create music and then afforded the opportunity to record that music while others learn the art of doing the recording; a place where anything that can be produced by the hands of man is produced and sold in an environment of restoration and renewal of the human spirit; a place where anything is possible if it can be imagined; a place where no one is refused the services or the opportunities offered, regardless of their faith, but where everything is done in an attitude of Christian service and love.

Such a place will be built by people who believe that there is, indeed, hope and a future for those who are ‘hopeless’ and cannot see the future. Such a place will be called “HOPE CITY”.

Imagine that you are a part of it.

Imagine yourself standing at the intersection of Freedom and Hope.

This Woman…A Gift From God

by Tony E. Casson

“Many will say they are loyal friends.
But who can find one who is truly reliable?” Proverbs 20:6 NLT

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive,
and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” Anais Nin, The Diary Of Anais Nin

God rarely announces His gifts with a lot of fanfare, as evidenced by the gift of His Son, whom He sacrificed in order to offer Hope to the world.

Shortly after arriving here at Oakdale FCI, a friend of my sister – a person I had never heard of, let alone met – sent me a note of encouragement written on a card which had a verse taken from the Bible printed on the front. That card arrived quietly and without fanfare, and while it was appreciated, it certainly was not viewed at the time as being anything beyond a nice gesture which required me to remember my manners and send a note of thanks by return mail.

The name of the woman who sent that card is Diane Woodall, and while I did not view this unknown person as any sort of gift from God at the time, the relationship that was begun when Diane first put pen to paper and reached out to another human being has blossomed into the most beautiful friendship imaginable, and her placement into my life could ONLY have come as a gift from God as evidence of His grace and His indescribable ability to attend to even the minutest details of our lives if we only afford Him the opportunity.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.’ They are plans for good, and not for evil, for a future and a hope.'” This quote from the Holy Bible, Jeremiah 29:11, was the message on the front of that card. It has occupied space above the mirror in my cell since it was first received. It is my personal assurance from God that the insanity which precipitated this period of incarceration is over, and the future is at hand. They are words that have kept me focused on God and the task before me of building a relationship with Him that is enabling me to become the human being He intended me to be when He first gave me life.

The card itself was an introduction to the woman who would grow to become the best friend I have ever had. Quietly, unobtrusively, and totally devoid of fanfare, God gave me the gift of a stranger’s Christian love which has guided me, kept me company, and helped me to take confident steps toward His promise of a future and a hope.

I have written – and wadded up for the wastebasket – several attempts to continue beyond this point. There is so much to say about this person who has given so much of herself, her time, and her money to type, print, mail, copy, research, edit, redo, reprint, recopy, remail, advise, consult, console, and correct. Hundreds of hours and hundreds of dollars spent lending support to a very, very broken man as God walked him through the process of healing, restoration, and renewal. And for what? Because God dumped me in her lap, and said, “You need to help this person.”

There is so much of what I have been able to accomplish that would have been extremely difficult, if not outright impossible, without her invaluable assistance and devotion. She took over the management of these “Chronicles” some time ago and she was utterly irreplaceable in completing “TODAY IS….A Gift From God” (my book of daily devotionals on Kindle, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention). I literally shudder to think how much less I would have achieved here without her friendship. I am leaving here eager, confident, and prepared to face the future, and a very large part of my ability to be that way is directly attributable to her.

When I expressed reservations about going back to the state of Florida, Diane quietly investigated a possibility which has recently become reality. In May, upon my release from this place, I will be heading to Washington, DC rather than the sunshine state of Florida. Some may view this as a step in the wrong direction, but I can only say the reasons why this is the greatest blessing I have ever received are numerous, and I am completely overjoyed! I humbly offer thanks to God and all of those who helped make it happen! I will be taking up residence in the Central Union Mission in downtown Washington (www.missiondc.org), and I will be participating in programs to help me continue to grow in my relationship with God, and I will be immersed in an environment of service to others. An environment I believe is one God Himself chose for me. Don Woodall (Diane’s husband), is very involved with the Mission and provided the link to Reverend David Howard, who is the director of the Spiritual Transformation program at the Mission. My sister Kathy spoke with the person who will be my new Probation Officer upon my release and was able to gain approval for the transfer, which will also serve to place me close to family members. Did I say I was blessed?

In making this move, I will be able to learn how to follow Christ OUTSIDE of this prison, and I will be able to focus on a life of service to other people. I have learned many valuable lessons while in prison. Some directly from God, through the Holy Bible; some from reading what others have written as daily inspiration in devotionals such as “Streams In The Desert”, “Our Daily Bread”, and “The Upper Room”; and I have learned many valuable lessons from the friendship of Diane, and the willingness of her husband and Reverend Howard to lend a hand to a stranger. I have prayed, meditated, walked and talked with God, and through it all, I have thanked Him for His gift to me of this person who is as important in my life as any person has ever been. Rising above all that I have learned is this: We can do the most to help ourselves, when we reach out to help another. You see, folks, this is what God intended all along. It’s not complicated or difficult.

Diane Woodall helped me to learn this, and other, valuable lessons and I am forever grateful. No one person has ever exhibited such kindness to me. It is an amazing thing to think about, and I do think about it often.

For those of you who think it is impossible for a severely broken human being to undergo a complete, and total, spiritual transformation, you simply do NOT know God! And for those of you who don’t believe that friendship, kindness, Christian love, generosity, and selflessness can contribute mightily to that transformation, you simply do NOT know Diane Woodall.

Diane, my dear, dear friend, may God bless each and every one of your days and show you the love, kindness, and compassion that you have shown me, increased 10, 20, 30…..a HUNDRED times!

Man Imprisoned, Man Freed.

We are steadily approaching what will hopefully be my dad’s release from Oakdale, and many days I consider the journey. I admit, I smile.

Many years ago there was a man who did what he could. He had a house, some work, a son and a growing relationship with a long-lost daughter. He had dreams of creating. He had many things that, when stacked against the idea of imprisonment, were considered highly favorable. But because of delusions, these conditions were contaminated.

Several years ago there was the same man. Still with a son, and a rocky but existent relationship with his daughter. He barely had a home, and he had recently lost his parents. He fixed and cleaned filthy objects and was once attacked by someone while working, but he had a job. He lived in a sunny environment, albeit amidst financial poverty. He had dreams of improvement and then of creating. And still, when stacked against the idea of longterm imprisonment, he had some favorable conditions. But because of delusions, these conditions were contaminated.

A few years ago there was the same man. But imprisoned. Cut in many ways from the world outside an institution built for punishment; a place that, when stacked against the outer world, had terrible conditions. But because of a release from delusions, these conditions were purified.

For those of you wonderful readers who have followed this story over the weeks, months, years, you see it too. For those of you new ones, you will see it soon. You will feel, “Which of the men were imprisoned, and which of the men were freed?”

When I consider my father, I am not disturbed by his situation as others may think I am — have thought I am. Ordinary appearance reveals a human being who had freedom and was then locked away; ordinary appearance reveals ugliness and sadness. And yet there is neither ugliness nor sadness.

There remains only beauty and joy and hope and inspiration. And internal freedom for a very worthy individual.