WHO IS JOSH PUCKETT?
“My heart stopped, my life stopped, my hope for anything normal stopped. I was alone in this world.”
This is Josh Puckett’s story.
Joshua Puckett was born on the west side of Detroit to a lesbian couple, Christine Puckett and “Michelle,” who were intentional in their decision to have a child. Joshua’s father, Joseph Creedon, was a gay man who consented to donate and be “Uncle Joe.” Christine’s relationship with Michelle didn’t last and she soon found herself a single mother.
Christine was a troubled woman who struggled with bipolar disorder and the social condemnation of being a single mother and a lesbian. She ran a modest real estate business in which she and Joshua moved into a house, fixed it up, rented it out and moved on to the next house. Because of their transient lifestyle, Joshua rarely had the opportunity to develop childhood friendships.
While Christine and Joshua were struggling to make it in Detroit, Joseph Creedon was living in Seattle where he worked for Boeing Aircraft and became very active in Seattle’s gay community. In 1985 Joseph contracted HIV. Shortly following his diagnosis Joseph sought a relationship with his only child. Joshua’s mother took him to Florida where he met his father for the first time. Joseph celebrated the following Christmas with Joshua. What followed were fun-filled Washington summers shared between Joseph and Joshua; hiking, sailing, gatherings with Joseph’s friends and the forming of a true father-son bond. Joseph had established a chosen family from within Seattle’s that also embraced Joshua and treated as a surrogate son.
As Joshua’s and Joseph’s relationship flourished during their summer visits, Christine’s relationship with Susan Pittmann soared. With Susan in her life, Christine’s disposition improved and their real estate business grew stronger. Joshua witnessed their love for one another during their commitment ceremony in Detroit. Even though the State of Michigan didn’t recognize their marriage, for the first time Joshua was overjoyed for the sense of normalcy that came with being the son of married parents.
Beautiful Albeit Brief
In Seattle, however, Joseph sank deeper into his terminal illness. With mortality staring him in the face, Joseph’s desire to be Joshua’s full-time parent grew. Eventually, Joseph fought for custody of Joshua and won. Joshua was too young to understand his mother being declared an unfit parent; he just wanted to be in the place and with the person who made him the happiest. Joshua not only enjoyed spending time with his father, but he also admired him greatly. Joseph was everything Joshua wanted to be: successful, charismatic and intelligent.
Over the years, Joseph’s health went from bad to worse. When the part-time hospital stays became full-time, custody of Joshua was given to a loving gay couple, who were friends of his father. Joshua visited his father in the hospital several times a week. Each visit was more painful than the last. Joseph’s condition worsened and he became a deteriorated version of the man Joshua knew. Joshua struggled with his emotions and began acting out. It was more than any family was prepared for. When his new family were at a loss for how to deal with Joshua’s emotional issues and acting out they were forced to turn him over to the state’s foster care system, where he was bounced from home to home. When the foster care system lost his file, Joshua was left to fend for himself. He spent most days wandering through the streets of Seattle because he chose not to burden the chosen family his father had created when Joshua first came to live with him. His family would have gladly cared for Joshua but Joshua never reached out to them for help. Instead, he ate meals at the Orion House, slept on park benches and even squatted in abandoned houses with other homeless kids.
Thanksgiving 1991: Joseph lost his battle with AIDS
Although the 14-year old was suffering the devastating loss of his father, Joshua was forced to take on Washington courts to get back in his mother’s care. Because she couldn’t afford to live in Seattle throughout the custody battle, Christine resolved to send money to a PO Box so Joshua could sustain himself and appear in court on his behalf. The abuse he witnessed and suffered while living in foster homes was far less appealing than being a vagrant on the Seattle streets.
Back to Michigan, Mom & Murder
In February 1992, Joshua returned to Michigan and the care of Christine. She made a considerable attempt at giving Joshua a “normal” life. Christine enrolled Joshua in a Lutheran school in Huron Township where he did well socially and academically. They lied about their home life; Christine even went so far as to wear dresses and attend church. Joshua settled in nicely and was happy to have a home again.
May 5, 1992, just six months after watching his father perish; Joshua experienced another life-altering event that would prove to be more difficult to bounce back from than the death of his beloved father.
James Brooks, the family’s next-door neighbour had been the ongoing source of annoyance for Christine and Susan. The neighbours squabbled over foliage that bordered the property line. However, Christine and Susan were unaware that Brooks’ anger went far beyond overgrown trees and brush; Brooks was a homophobe and disapproved of Christine’s and Susan’s lifestyle. On that ill-fated day in May, Brooks gunned Christine and Susan down in their driveway in broad daylight – with little concern for their lives, their families or Joshua Puckett. “I had to do it,” is all Brooks offered as an explanation.
For Joshua, however, May 5 1992, was far less inconsequential
It was a typical spring day. Following track practice, Joshua was surprised when his grandfather showed up to pick him up instead of Christine. His grandfather escorted him back into the school where Joshua was informed that his mother had died. Joshua was advised that “all things happen for a reason” and “everything is God’s plan.” Those words were the only counselling/guidance the grieving boy received after the murder of his family.
Joshua’s grandfather took him “home” to gather what he needed to start yet another new life. When they arrived, Joshua bore witness to a horrific site no child should ever have to see. News crews were scattered about. In front of Joshua, the driveway displayed bloody chalk outlines delineating the place where Christine Puckett and Susan Pittmann spent the last seconds of their lives. That moment etched into the 14-year old boy’s memories forever. “My heart stopped, my life stopped, my hope for anything normal stopped. I was alone in this world.” – Joshua Puckett
Alone in the World
Joshua began his new life in Livonia, Michigan. He lived with his grandparents for a short time before he moved in with his uncle and prepared for high school. His uncle was a bachelor, didn’t have experience with children and was not equipped to deal with the grieving teenager. Desperately trying to protect Joshua, his grandfather shielded him from James Brooks’ trial and anything to do with the deaths of his mothers.
Joshua made his best attempt at adjusting to his new life and his remaining family did what they could. His aunt took him to Washington DC to see the AIDS Memorial Quilt which included panels memorializing Joseph. Joshua also appeared as a guest on the Gordon Elliott Show where the topic was having homosexual parents. As Joshua pushed through the pain, he began acting out and his behaviour became something the family couldn’t gain control over.
Joshua dealt daily with feelings of anger, rage, regret, and despair. He started getting in trouble, skipping school, chasing girls, drinking and drugs. It wasn’t long before Joshua ended up in an outward-bound program in Idaho for troubled youth. Despite doing well in the Idaho program, upon returning home the courts placed him in Wedgewood Foster Care. His placement was three hours from Detroit. After his 17th birthday, he ran away to live with “friends” in Detroit.
Where the Outcome is Nearly Always Death or Prison
With nowhere else to go Joshua went back into a “system” merciless on teens nearing adulthood. At age 17, Joshua permanently moved in with an older “friend” and was introduced to a lifestyle where drugs and guns were as typical as toilet paper. When the “friend” stole his truck, Joshua knew he could no longer stay there. He turned to another acquaintance who introduced him to a group that agreed to take Joshua in.
For the first time in a long time, Joshua felt he was part of a family. Indifferent to the fact that his new family was a gang (referred to as the IGMs or Insane Gangster Mafia), Joshua belonged. He had spent many years living in chaos and struggling to find acceptance and love. The gang lifestyle boasted many qualities that were very attractive to the nomadic teen. But Joshua’s motivation was simple, if not conventional: instant family/best friends and steadfast loyalty. Joshua immediately developed the mindset that, in exchange for the complimentary acceptance furnished by the IGM’s, Joshua would do whatever it took to fit into the gang.
Josh had only just turned 18-years-old when he was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the aiding and abetting of a drive-by shooting of a rival gangs apartment.
Tragically, bullets fired by Josh’s co-defendant Roger Cameron were misfired and resulted in the death of an innocent bystander in a car parked in front of the building.
Josh was not the shooter, nor was he in the same car as the shooter.
Roger Cameron testified to Josh’s innocence by signing an affidavit to clear him of any involvement. But when a life is taken in the course of a felony, all parties are sentenced to death by incarceration. Due to Josh’s refusal to testify on the shooter for fear of his own life, the full weight of the law came down on him.
Josh has now served 24 years in incarceration and is set to spend the rest of his life inside. This website documents who Josh has become, and why we believe he is worthy of a second chance at life.
WHO IS JOSH?
Josh is an excellent mentor, and has a great desire to learn and teach his peers.
– Dr A Jones, Phd, Director of Mentor Program
Josh is an activist, leader, and fighter for those who often have no voice of their own. His great work ethic, focus, and drive to help others is refreshing in an environment where people like him are a rarity. So, if you ask me, who is Josh? Personally, for me, I call him my friend.
– Troy Leversee, Fellow Employee within Mentor Program
Josh is a caring, loving, and understanding person. He shows that there are people in this world who will go out of their way to show they care. When I first met Josh, I was to the point of giving up, but Josh turned my life around by being there as a good friend and supporter.
– Heather Nielson
Josh is not a murderer, he is not a criminal. He simply made poor choices. He has changed. During his imprisonment he has worked to better himself academically, personally, spiritually, and is ready to be a productive citizen.
– Cindy Perri, Re-Entry Educator
Josh is committed to being not only a functioning member of society but a positive force in the war against gang membership and violence and remains an inspiration to others who have suffered great loss such as he has, by sharing his life story.
– Christine Ryan, High School Friend
Josh has been and remains an inspiration in my life. He is an intelligent man who is a support to many people, inspiring them to be the best versions of themselves that they can be. He spends a lot of time trying to better himself & others around him.
– Anne Underwood
I met Josh in Kinross prison in 2001. I have continued to stay in contact with Josh as he remains a positive influence in my life. He has taught me many of the qualities that have enabled me to be successful in the free world since my release from prison and has many qualities that are rare to find in someone who is incarcerated. Josh is still very much in-tune with how the world works today through self-education.
– Jeremy Burr
Over the years, I have been able to witness Josh mature. I have seen him educate himself and watched as he went from a high school dropout to a college grad.I have seen his ability to write and express himself catapult. I have observed his self-image evolve from one of youthful misapprehension to one of a wiser adult who sees things from multiple perspectives and appreciates his own strengths and weaknesses.
– Stephen Silha, Friend of Josh’s Father