Photos: Facebook / Greg Kelley used with permission)
It seems there is plenty of positive outlook for Greg Kelley since his exoneration in November 2019. After two years of faithfully checking court notices every Wednesday morning, he was in New York City with his fiancée, Gaebri, when the decision was finally posted, and life happened pretty fast after that. He and Gaebri were married in January and, while they have enjoyed a staycation or two, both are looking forward to a “legit” honeymoon on an island beach.
“We are enjoying life together,” Greg says. “When all this started, we were in the early stages of our relationship. That long haul of injustice drew us closer together, so when I got out, I knew I wanted to marry her. We just fell so deeply in love, going through so much terror, heartache, and nightmare together.”
Two days after his wedding, he began his first semester at University of Texas studying kinesiology, and is still considering options for playing football. “I am blessed, every day, to spend time as a free man.”
He is happy to share that his family is also doing well. “My mother is a saint,” he says. “[Rosa] has begun doing ministry work. She travels to Guatemala to help children with arts and crafts, and reads the Bible to them.”
Still devoted to fitness, Greg had been working as a personal trainer at a gym in Cedar Park. When gyms closed last Spring, he set out to find something he loved that would not feel like work.
While in prison, he worked in a factory and learned about welding and woodworking. “I love working with my hands, so I felt fortunate to have landed that job. Then, at my bachelor party, we had an ax-throwing game; which is like bowling on steroids. I saw it was a great way to spend time with friends and family, and since I had learned how to work with machinery and tools, I built one for myself.“ Not long after he posted photos of his work, people from all over asked him on social media to create one for them too…and a business was born.
TomahawkTargetATX.com is already having great success with custom, personalized ax lanes and cornhole boards. He and his brother Marlon work together in Leander, and enjoy providing high-quality yard games for families and businesses. “I felt like this idea came from God. We’re all going through a tough time, and being home to spend time with family is a blessing. But I also feel like, now, people might be looking for something different. So we’re here to help. I love having Marlon as my manager. I am twice blessed to be able to provide for him and bring him along to work with me. ”
Having persevered in the system for more than six years, Greg’s interest in justice reform is understandable. Working with him, as he has since 2014, is Jake Brydon. Greg says, “He stepped in, didn’t know anything about me, and fought to the very end. We are good buddies now and we are in the concept phase of an investigative podcast. We want to be a voice for people who do not have one. We plan to challenge convictions; if a person is innocent, they need someone to fight for them.”
Greg shared that while he and Jake don’t feel they have the mental and emotional strength to fight his kind of fight a second time, they do want to provide vocal support for others. “People deserve to have their stories told, and from there, rely on God to call fighters to rally for them. Jake did what he was called to do in a little chapter of his life and he feels fulfilled. Now, we both want to work with God, in a sense, to rally people behind others who are suffering either due to an unjust system, or because they have been swept under the rug.”
The two men plan to tell people’s stories, hire a private investigator, and spend time interviewing inmates who say they are innocent. “Having been through so much questioning, I understand getting to a point where you have to be completely vulnerable and tell people everything, in order for the truth to come forward. I will challenge them with questions because, when the cold hand of injustice comes, you have to open your life to the public, show them your will to fight, and say, ‘Here’s who I am and what you’re doing is wrong.’”
In and out of prison, Greg has not been quiet about his tremendous faith. He is convinced that even the tiniest seed of faith will grow into a huge tree in the hardest time of a person’s life.
Inspired by many individuals he got to know in prison, he is eager to start a corrections ministry. “God has done many things in my life, particularly taking away the hate that was rooted in my heart early in this process. I was just a kid, not knowing what was happening to me. I made a decision that ultimately changed how strong I am, allowed me to persevere, and urged me constantly to ask the question, “Is there anything else I need to learn?’”
Greg’s goal is to give back on behalf of the fellow inmates and friends who encouraged him in prison. “I knew men who made mistakes at 18, and at 40, were no longer knuckleheads. They were forgiven and had learned to live a life of freedom, in Christ. I looked up to them because their positive attitude was an act of God, and they planted seeds in me that other people have watered.”
While in prison, Greg’s unit hosted a different ministry every week. Inmates sat in pews and heard the Word from various churches that rotated about every two months. “It felt good to know so many people wanted to spend time with us, especially since we often felt cast away from the world.”
He says he knew almost immediately he wanted to do that too, particularly if he was exonerated. “I want to go back to prison and preach the Word of God like my life depends on it, because at one point, my life did depend on giving it over to Christ. There was so much hate and anger in my heart, and I knew I couldn’t get rid of it on my own.”
Greg is already preparing his future sermons, and hopes the pandemic will come to an end soon so he can get to work. Meanwhile, he writes in and reviews his journal frequently, so when he is standing in front of 300-400 inmates, he will be ready to share the notion that there is hope beyond the walls.