Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Leslie Basham: When Craig Owen arrived in California from Canada, he took some deliberate steps.

Craig Owen: We applied for a birth certificate, went to the library and got a library card. That gives you two pieces of I.D. The next step is you go down and apply for a driver’s license. Once I had that, then I applied for a Social Security number. So that gave me the package of identifications that was needed.

Leslie: Needed? For what? Well, we’ll hear Craig’s story on Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. It’s Monday, September 30.

If anyone seemed hopelessly lost, it was Craig Owen. He’d been writing bad checks. He’d been involved in drive-by shootings and gang wars. He was a fugitive from the law in two countries. So when he and his wife Terri showed up at a church where Life Action Ministries was holding a Revival Summit. He didn’t look like a typical church goer, but God met him there in powerful ways.

We’ll hear the story this week. Nancy recorded this interview with Craig and Terri Owen several years ago before Craig passed away. His final battles weren’t with rival gang members but with cancer.

Here’s Nancy talking with Terri and Craig Owen.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: First of all, you were living in Covington, Indiana, at the time, but you were not from Indiana. You were from Canada. So what were you doing in Indiana? Let’s start there.

Craig Owen: I had grown up in Toronto, Ontario. I was a Canadian, born and raised. I got in a lot of trouble as a youth. I was a street punk, a street criminal, and got involved in violent crimes, armed robberies, weapons, and drug-related stuff.

Subsequent to that, I had been arrested and did prison time for a couple of years. I had been released. I was on parole and had come up with a new idea of my criminal adventures by learning how to rob drug dealers since they wouldn’t call the police on me. I had a team of guys, and we would do this—small scale, but that’s how we would get our money, get our drugs.

It was in one of those escapades of doing that, by happenchance the police came by and happened to see us. It was a fairly major altercation of the police trying to stop us, resisting, and struggling to get away. We all got away initially, but there was enough of an identification to track down some of the guys in the group.

They had the SWAT teams at our place of business, where we lived. I went back to the apartment, and they were completely surrounded, so I didn’t try to go in. I left the area. My friends that were inside the building got caught. Needless to say, my name came up as being one of the ones wanted.

So with all the warrants, being an ex-parolee, still on parole, and all these new charges pending, I decided to leave the country and try to get as far away as possible.

Nancy: How old were you at this time?

Craig: I would have been nineteen at this time.

Nancy: So all of this was in your teenage years.

Craig: All my teenage years, yes. I was raised in an upper middle-class family. There was not a poverty issue. There wasn’t issues of home-front violence or any dysfunctional family. On the contrary, it was a very stable, normal family—other than me. I just seemed to be the one that always challenged authority in every corner.

I challenged my parents. I challenged wherever I could. I just didn’t expect it, and to this day I couldn’t tell you the core reasons as to why, but that was basically what drove me. I had an intense feeling that whoever had control made the rules; therefore, that’s what authority was, it was based on your position.

But then mixed with that, I had this very strong appetite for curiosity, to experiment, to try something new, to live out on the edge. You mix that all together, and it’s where I got the criminal side of things going on.

Nancy: So you left Canada—by yourself?

Craig: Yes. I got a ride out of the city in the trunk of the car. I took a bus outside Niagara Falls and crossed over.

Nancy: And papers weren’t an issue?

Craig: No, in those days the Canadian border was very solvent with the American border. “You’re just going to visit? Have a good time.” All you needed was a basic birth certificate or something like that to cross.

So I went to California. I had an aunt that lived there. She put me up for a while, at their place, but the next step was what to do. I couldn’t just stay there indefinitely doing nothing. I’m still a Canadian citizen.

But through some common friends, we determined I needed to get an American identity so as to be able to function there. The process was to find a birth certificate that was issued to somebody that had been born but had died before they had any new records made, like before they had gone to school.

If you had a child who was born or a baby who was four years old or younger and if there was an accident or something happened and they died, there’d be no school records or any other records. The death records were kept separately back in those days, so there was no connection. So that was the process in how we applied for a birth certificate.

Nancy: So you’re not just talking about getting American papers. You’re talking about getting a whole new identity.

Craig: Yes, a whole new identity. This is a thorough identity.

Nancy: This was so you would not have to deal with the Canadian . . .

Craig: This would be to fully assimilate into the U.S. as an American citizen without any questions, document wise. So, obviously, it was a new name. The new name was Donald Ray Love. I had a new birth date, of course, to correspond with that one there.

After we got the birth certificate, I went to the library and got a library card. That gives you two pieces of I.D., and the next step is you go down and apply for a driver’s license. I got my driver’s license, or my permit, and once I had that, then I applied for a Social Security number. So that gave me the package of identifications that was needed.

Nancy: So at that point, as far as the law was concerned, you were a U.S. citizen, Donald Ray Love.

Craig: Yes. I was entrenched in that I.D. I learned it. I had a fictitious school . . . well, it was a real school, but I had fictitious school records that we had written up as a track record of where I’d been, so I could say what schools I’d been to.

The irony was (I don’t remember why), but the next step was I felt I had to go farther away. I was nervous that the Canadians would still be looking closer and closer for me. I was just paranoid. So I said, “What about joining the Air Force?”

I went to the local recruiting station and talked to them, and so I joined. I went to Boot Camp in Texas, and in the process, I had an option of bases to go to. There were two bases. I had volunteered for overseas duty, and that would allow me to go to a base at Guam, which was in the South Pacific—beautiful area, tropical. Or another base in Washington, D.C., Andrews Air Force Base. So I opted for the overseas assignment.

Nancy: You changed your circumstances, but you took you with you.

Craig: Yes. The same old me is still in the flesh.

Nancy: Your heart hadn’t changed yet.

Craig: I still had the same core issues of attitude of authority. How I made it through Boot Camp I’ll never know. But when I got there, I was still always involved in low-level drugs like pot and stuff like that. As soon as I got to the island, I connected with like-minded people, those who were getting high and using pot and stuff like that.

We would have packages come from one plane, and I would be picking up the officers off the plane and driving them to their quarters. I would pick up a package off the plane at the same time—unbeknownst to them—and pass it along, and that would be stuff for our base.

In the midst of this, what turned out to be the irony is that the law enforcement of the base had already been of the understanding that this stuff was going on, so they already had informants planted. They had agents undercover in this group of people that I knew as well as around some of the other bases in the region. So I walked into a pre-set inevitable trap that was going to come down around me.

But I had a good service record while I was there. I may have done myself in with my extra-curricular activities, but my day-job I did very well. I got commendations for innovativeness and trying different things and just having a good work ethic. I worked hard at anything done.

So at the end when they came down with the warrants for those who were involved with these drugs and they did this sweep, I was given an option—because of my work record—that they would allow me to take rehabilitation. Taking a sabbatical is what I called it. They would send me to a rehab center state side for six months. Once I completed that, I could be reinstated without penalty back at my own base. So I opted for that versus a dishonorable discharge.

We came back state side after all the trials were done, and I was discharged. I had a friend of mine from my base that was along with me, and we decided to strike out across country—just hitchhike across country. So we started going from California to Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas.

Eventually, in Texas we tied up with some friends and relatives of this friend of mine I left the service with. They were involved in criminal enterprise, too, at low level. Again, I was just staying with like-minded people. You’re still lost; you still magnetically attract to those around you that do like you do, that make you feel comfortable.

I got into some trouble. Short store, we stole some credit cards, and I got caught with mine. I ended up doing three months in the county jail. The friends I was with all left. So even though we’d been friends cross country, the friendship wasn’t very thick. Once I was locked up, I mean, within days, they’d left the state. So I was by myself.

I did the three months in jail. I got probation, and the day I got probation, I was released. They gave me three eight-year probation terms to run together. It just meant that I had to report on the street for eight years of monitoring. I knew not one person in the state. I had no connection. I had no address. So when I was released, the following day I left the state and went to Oklahoma because that was the next state over.

Nancy: It was in Oklahoma that you actually met Terri for the first time.

Terri Owen: Yes, at my husband’s birthday party.

Nancy: You were married and had four children at that time.

Terri: Yes, I was married and had four kids.

Nancy: And you did not know the Lord yourself at all?

Terri: No—far from it.

Nancy: So the two of you connected, and what happened?

Terri: I met Craig at my husband’s birthday party. His friend Kevin had brought him there to introduce him to me because he thought I would like him. I didn’t at the time, but shortly thereafter, my husband was murdered, and I sort of fell apart. I lost the kids—the state took the kids. We lost our house, and Craig sort of rescued me and helped me pull the pieces back together, and I very quickly fell in love with him.

But he wasn’t Craig at the time. He was Donald Ray Love. I didn’t know he was Craig.

Nancy: So you met this man you met as Donald Ray Love, and what did you think he was doing or did, or who was he?

Terri: He was a very gentle person, which was something I was never accustomed to. He actually cared about people where most of the people I met didn’t treat women with respect at all, so that attracted me to him.

Nancy: Did you know about his lifestyle?

Terri: I did, but there was still that respect that he showed, and I was pretty much in the same type of lifestyle he was in, so that part didn’t shock me. But the fact that he respected me shocked me, and that he would care enough to even take care of my kids. That shocked me.

Nancy: You say the state had your children. Where were they?

Terri: They were in foster care. So we got them back very quickly as soon as I got a house to put them in. It was like five weeks they were gone. But Craig helped me through that process of getting the kids back. I’d just never met anyone that cared enough about someone that would do that. He really didn’t know me. So I very quickly fell in love with him.

Nancy: Were you thinking, Craig, that you were ready to settle down? Were you looking to get out of a life of crime and into a family life?

Craig: No. A life of crime to me was so much integrated with what I did, I didn’t look at it like a life of crime. I looked like . . .

Nancy: . . . that was your vocation.

Craig: Yes. I recognized I was doing wrong and that it had repercussions and the threats of law enforcement, but it was just a calculated call. So that was my lifestyle.

Nancy: So it wasn’t like you were planning to turn over a new leaf.

Craig: No.

Terri: On the contrary.

Nancy: Of course, without the Lord, you had no motivation.

Craig: Absolutely. At that point, I had no connection with the Lord or hadn’t encountered any of that.

Nancy: So you and Terri got married?

Terri: Later.

Craig: No. After we got together, she got the kids back; she had the house, and there was a relative time of tranquility there, a couple months maybe. But I was still involved with . . . I guess you would put it “street-level fighting.” Her husband that was killed was part of a group of friends. There was a splinter in that group. Amongst us there was fighting starting to grow, and so we were having drive-by shootings with each other.

Terri: Sort of gang wars.

Craig: Right. I guess now days, it would be considered your typical gang-banger activity. The difference back then is we had no defined gang. There was no defining of who was in this group or that group. It was very loose.

Nancy: Kind of anarchy.

Terri: Yes, it was.

Craig: Actually, that’s the best way to put it. So there was no top dog or anything. It was just each man for himself, but you would always have alliances. But it got to the point where. . .I tried even to blow up this guy’s service station, auto garage he had, and he had put a contract out on me to have me killed for doing that. So we had left the city.

Nancy: We being?

Craig: Terri and the kids. I had a friend that had a plot of land in northern Oklahoma that was just wooded land with water—a beautiful area. We had a large two-room army tent, like a barracks tent-type thing. We actually lived out there for three-and-a-half, four months with the kids in the wilderness.

Believe it or not, that was probably the strongest bonding time we had as a family. We were living together, but we weren’t married. Because everything we did was so isolated and there was no interference, we didn’t go anywhere. I took the kids hunting, fishing. We had crafts that we did. We did puzzles. Whatever it was we had to do, we made do with what we had. But it was all family stuff. Everything we did during our waking hours was with the kids. There was a beach nearby, so we could swim.

Terri: It was awesome.

Craig: To a lot of people on the outside looking in it seemed like, “Oh, you poor people,” but it became probably one of the strongest binding moments of our family unit as a family because it was all one to one.

Terri: You were the father they never had.

Craig: Yes.

Nancy: But you couldn’t stay there forever.

Craig: No. We had to move on. We decided to make our way north. We made our way out of the state because we realized everything had gone to such a mess in Tulsa, there was nothing left there for us. The violence had gotten to where the drive-bys were so unpredictable in whether I was going to get shot or I would shoot somebody. It was a flip of the coin. And luckily, so far, in my personal experience, I hadn’t shot anybody yet that had been hit, and I hadn’t been shot yet.

So we left and went on the road with the kids in a U-Haul trailer. I still had all my guns with me and all my armaments—I loved to have my toys. We happened to be in Arkansas when we had some engine problems. We were working on the car at a roadside state park. In the interim while trying to get it functioning again, I was working on one of my guns. The spring popped, and sure enough, the hammer dropped, and away went the gun. I shot myself just above the knee in the left leg, and it came out down above my calf on the other side.

It did some significant damage. So now we’re at this state side park, and I’m bleeding quite profusely from an arterial wound and a bullet in the leg, and she’s here with the kids in the car.

Terri: And I didn’t know how to drive.

Craig: We had the engine still partway apart at the top where we were working on. I had a friend who was traveling with us. He agreed to drive me to the hospital, but he also had warrants. So it was kind of a slow drive, not to cause any attention. We couldn’t call any ambulance or police. So he put me in his car, and he drove me, leaving Terri with the kids in the car at the parkside. He took me to the local hospital in Little Rock.

He dropped me off and basically waited until the nurse came out. They put me on a gurney and took me inside and started working on me. He never returned back to where she was. He went elsewhere. He just took off. Again, the depth of the friendship shows you it was not deep there.

So Terri was in a conniption. She had the kids screaming. I’m sure she was screaming, not knowing what to do. Everything was just falling out in front of her. She actually managed to put the pieces back on the car. I’ve told people over the years, 99% of the people out there wouldn’t have the capability of understanding it, never mind doing it, to get it done. And, actually, the car ran. I mean, it may not have run well, but it ran.

Terri: It was desperation.

Craig: She wasn’t a driver. She had a trailer hooked to this thing, but she managed to get that put together and find a way into town all on her own that same day. I was in the hospital, obviously, going through treating of the gunshot, trying to figure out what was going on, cleaning the wounds, looking at things, cleaning things up. She made it to the hospital and just parked the trailer and the car in the parking lot.

She would come up and check on me, but she would keep the kids with her in the car. They would just sleep in the car overnight while they were working on me in the hospital. That eventually drew some attention of the nurses because they see these four little kids traipsing up and down. Obviously, we’re taking stuff off our food tray to help give them food.

Together, the nurses tried to help out during the shifts. They would watch the kids inside, using one of the rooms in the hospital, just to see what they could do to help.

Terri: So the nurses started taking the kids home. One nurse would take two of the kids, and two other nurses would take one. They’d take the kids home at night. Then it hit the newspaper, and so fundraisers started. People were sending in money to try and help this family that’s stranded at the hospital.

So shortly after that, the police got involved because they wanted to know about this gunshot wound, and that’s when we found out he was not Donald Ray Love but Craig Owen.

Nancy: How did that come out?

Craig: Because I was under the impression I had all these warrants out in Oklahoma under Donald Ray Love. I figured it was safer to use another name.

Nancy: So you went back to Craig Owen.

Craig: I went back, yes, but I didn’t have any supporting documentation. So they kept asking me more and more questions. It got to the point that I left it enough to say that I didn’t have the I.D. but I really was Craig Owen—not as a Canadian citizen, just that.

That’s when she was asking, “Well, where did you get that name from? Instead of just using it, why did it come out of the blue?” So I was explaining to her, privately, that that’s really who I was.

As far as the police were concerned, I still stayed Donald Ray Love. It was a ploy to throw them off. There were no warrants that were existing, so there was no problem. My fear of getting pressed and having more warrants coming, it was unfounded at that point.

Nancy: And did you start using Craig Owen then?

Terri: Yes.

Craig: Pretty well, that’s when we started doing the transition because we felt it was just a matter of time before the stuff in Oklahoma would manifest to have the police warrants out under Donald Ray Love.

Leslie: Deception makes life complicated, doesn’t it? Craig and Terri Owen were experiencing the results of sin that kept hounding them, giving them no peace.

We’ve been hearing a conversation Nancy recorded with Terri Owen and her late husband, Craig. So far, it’s been a story of a couple on the run from God and, as a result, on the run from the authorities God put in place. I hope you’ll stay with us this week as this couple discovered the true source of peace and rest from their running.

Maybe you can relate to parts of this story. Maybe some of your choices are giving you grief, but you’re still not giving up control. We’d like to send you a book Nancy wrote called, Surrender: The Heart God Controls.

This book isn’t just for criminals on the road. All of us continually discover new areas of life to surrender to the Lord. Nancy will show you why surrendering completely to the Lord matters so much. She’ll help you address fears that keep you from surrendering, and she’ll show you practical implications of living a surrendered life.

When you support the Revive Our Hearts podcast with a gift of any amount, we’ll send you Surrender. Just visit our website, ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can call 1–800–569–5959.

Well, tomorrow we’ll hear from Craig and Terri Owen again. As Craig ran from state to state, changing identities, find out what caused him to stop running and find freedom. That’s tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Teacher

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love for Christ and His Word is infectious, and permeates her online outreaches, conference messages, books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him.

She has authored twenty-two books, including Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, Seeking Him (coauthored), Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together, and You Can Trust God to Write Your Story (coauthored with her husband). Her books have sold more than five million copies and are reaching the hearts of women around the world. Nancy and her husband, Robert, live in Michigan.