Friday, July 19, 2024

HOUSTON — By now, C.J. Stroud knows the routine. His phone buzzes, and when he picks up, he’s met with an automated message telling him he’s receiving a call from an inmate at Folsom State Prison. He’s asked if he wants to accept. He selects 5. He waits.

After a few nervy moments, he hears a voice on the other end. It belongs to his father.

For a while — for almost six years — C.J. would have silenced the call and ignored it. He wasn’t ready. He was still hurt, still bitter. Coleridge Stroud III, prisoner-turned-pastor, went away when his youngest son was only 13, sentenced in California to 38 years after pleading guilty to charges of carjacking, kidnapping, robbery and misdemeanor sexual assault, a repeat offender paying a price for crimes committed decades earlier.

C.J. had grown up calling him Pops, thinking of him as his best friend. Then he was gone, gone in an instant, leaving the family to scrape by, to sweat the bills that kept piling up, to live in a cramped apartment above a storage facility 40 miles east of Los Angeles but a world away.

For years, the son couldn’t forgive. He refused to speak to his father. …

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