Joshua Lee Wade was born in Springfield, Ohio, on April 26th, 1988. The cards were stacked against him before he was ever born. His mom, in an attempt to "escape" problems in her dysfunctional relationships and abusive family system, was taking acids, and found out she was pregnant with Joshua after going to the doctor when a ring appeared around her belly.
At the end of her pregnancy, Joshua was delivered with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Due to the reduced amount of oxygen that he received, he was born with a blue appearance. His mother's struggles, and Josh's entrance into the world were only a foreshadowing of things to come.
Josh showed great potential to be a happy child (see picture, Josh in his mother's lap with his older brother, Bubby). After all, no child is born bad. Unfortunately, despite Josh's innate curiosity and desire for love and affection, his upbringing was far from loving. Josh's dad was addicted to crack cocaine, and his mom struggled to provide for her children.
Joshua, his older brother (Bubby), and his younger brother (Luther) grew up closely together. And while things may have looked somewhat "normal" to people outside the home, what went on behind closed curtains was far from normal. As a child, Joshua was sexually abused by one of his uncles. This abuse went on for several years, and caused Josh to feel shame, guilt, and hatred for many years. The spark that Josh brought into this world was dulled by his environment and completely suffocated by his abusive family member.
Luther, Joshua, Bubby Bubby, Joshua, Joshua's mom, Luther
The sexual abuse by his uncle wasn't the only pain inflicted on Josh. At home, physical and emotional abuse were the norm. To escape the madness at home, Josh turned to the streets. Unfortunately, the neighborhood that Joshua grew up in wasn't one to make up for the shortcomings at home. Josh and his brothers witnessed drug abuse, prostitution, and gun violence on a daily basis. And the people he surrounded himself with often came from families that went through generational abuse as well.
In April of 2005, Joshua started to hang out with Jason Dean, a man twice his age who had just been released from prison. Shortly thereafter, Joshua was arrested. The verdict: life in prison. (You can find one of the many newspaper articles that was written about Josh right here.)
The one person that stood by Josh's side through trials and tribulations was his mother. She fell into a severe depression, though, especially after Josh lost his appeal in 2007. (You can find Joshua's appeal here.) In an attempt to support Joshua in prison, his mom agreed to visit Joshua together with his father. The two had separated after Joshua was arrested. During the only visit that Josh received from his father at the Correctional Reception Center, his father and his mother started to fight. Joshua, unable to intervene, told his dad not to come back if fighting was all he could do. Josh hasn't seen his dad since then. It's been well over 15 years.
Luther, Josh's father, Josh, Josh's mom
When Josh was first incarcerated, he didn't always make the smartest choices. He received tickets, hung out with the wrong crowd, and didn't really care about his education. In his mind, he was going to die in prison.
Then, in 2011, Joshua received mail from Stefanie Tengler. When Stefanie stumbled upon Josh's case on the internet, she was dumbfounded. In her home country (Germany), teenagers would never receive a 56-years-to-life sentence. Germany's juvenile justice system is based on principles of restorative justice rather than retribution.
Josh and Stefanie started to send each other JPays. In 2012, Stefanie visited Joshua for the first time. The two have been inseparable ever since and plan to get married in 2022. When Stefanie came into Josh's life, Josh started to feel motivated and hopeful. He completed his GED and enrolled in numerous programs: The Family is First Project, the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program through Xavier University, and the dog program that 4 Paws for Ability offers. He is currently completing his Associates Degree in Business Administration through Sinclair Community College.
Today, Joshua has over two thousand supporters from all over the world. People from Germany, the U.K., France, Puerto Rico, Canada, Uganda, and the U.S. are united for his freedom.