Thursday, September 18, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Ex-inmate picks up pieces in Rays of Hope program

francis03

Francis Cunanan, center, talks with Pastor Gary Hill, right, during bible study at Mission Solano. Cunanan began reading the bible in San Quentin but has found a deeper connection to Christianity during his time in Mission Solano's Rays of Hope program. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | February 04, 2013 |

FAIRFIELD — The first few days out of prison for Francis Cunanan were spent in homeless shelters.

While he was happy to be free after three years in county jail and prison, he never planned to be shipped around to local churches at night while volunteering during the day.

Because he arrived at Mission Solano late in the week, he needed to return Monday and take care of some paperwork before being admitted to the Rays of Hope program.

Cunanan said he had to make a decision to change his course, to reject thoughts of taking the easy route and going back to his life of crime. Essentially, he started over and gave himself to whatever Mission Solano’s program had in store for him.

“I kept saying ‘I can’t believe I’m in a homeless shelter.’ I thought about leaving. But if I went back to Vallejo, I’m going to start using again,” Cunanan said. “I was willing to change. If you’re not willing to change, it’s not going to happen.”

Time served

He thought about how easy it would be to hook back up with his friends. It wouldn’t take long to get a laptop computer, a printer and whatever other tools he needed for identity theft and check counterfeiting.

When he was finally arrested the last time in Napa near the end of 2008, he had a record in nearly every surrounding county. He’d been locked up and let out so many times he has to stop and think about each stint at a jail, even confusing them at times.

Fueled by an insatiable habit of crystal methamphetamine, he forged checks to get cash or goods. He stole identities while “ripping and running.” His weight dropped, staying up days at a time.

He lost the trust of family members along the way. His mom gave him a car and money to find a job. After having trouble finding anyone who would hire someone on probation, he up and left. Cunanan returned to his life, which led him back to a familiar place.

Cunanan thought of the 50-year-olds in prison. He knew by jumping back into the game, it would mean being locked up again. He knew that if he showed up begging, his mother couldn’t refuse to help. Then again, he knew that would only be temporary.

“I did this to myself. I need to get myself out,” he said. “Is that the kind of life I want?”

The kind of life he wanted was the one he gave up.

Cunanan came to America in 1999 from the Philippines. He talks about working two jobs. He drove a truck for 7-Up in the day and worked as a part-time server at Chevy’s at night. He lived comfortably, often working too much to be able to spend the money he made.

That all changed when he met a woman who introduced him to drugs, he said. It didn’t take long before he was messing up at work and quitting when his bosses started asking tough questions about his behavior, opting for a life of crime instead.

Settling in

When the Daily Republic first met Cunanan, it was his second day in the program and his fifth day of freedom. He spoke with brutal honesty of his past and how he was ashamed, his shyness mixed with a gentle calm. Cunanan desperately wanted to build something new.

“When I got here, I was broken. I had nowhere to go,” he said. “The first month was a lot of listening. A lot of adjusting. You don’t know what the results are going to be. You don’t know if it’s worth it.”

That first weekend was spent hanging in the smoking area of the Mission Solano parking lot. He wasn’t smoking, though, just passing time. Cunanan made the choice while still in prison to give up cigarettes, knowing that one vice would likely lead to more.

His first trip into society was a walk with another man at the shelter. They walked down to the CVS pharmacy to fill the man’s prescription. While waiting, Cunanan was filled with anxiety because of all the people walking around him.

When a woman approached him, which he later said was to possibly get his phone number, his paranoia took over.

“She came up and asked me something about her phone,” he said. “I put my hands up. I said ‘I don’t know you. I didn’t touch your phone. Leave me alone.’ ”

His first purchased meal was a Subway sandwich. He brightened, describing the first bites of something not made in a mess hall or shelter.

House rules

Shedding the prison mentality was also a challenge. Being segregated by race and constantly being on guard came natural to him.

“For two and a half years, you can’t talk to any white boys,” he said. “But I’m not in prison. No one is trying to get over on me.”

At Mission Solano, Cunanan was placed in the house with nine men from a variety of races and backgrounds. He sleeps in a small room, sharing it with another man. One of the first jobs he got was cleaning the bathroom. Then came cleaning the kitchen. After that was cooking.

As part of the program, a one-month blackout period is enforced. He was confined to Mission Solano activities only and most contact with the outside world was cut off for 30 days.

He began meetings: Narcotics Anonymous three times a week, Bible studies twice a week. He also attended a recovery group twice a week, where other men shared their stories and struggles.

Right about this time is when Cunanan started his devout Christianity. He said the only time he prayed was when the police were behind him or he was in a cell. Cunanan soon jumped feet first into religion.

Those principles would guide him through the next six months and help center him when he strays. Cunanan now works Scripture or a Bible story into most of his conversations about recovery.

“Basically, I’m walking on water right now. When I get off course, I ask for help,” he said, referring to Matthew 22. “Right now, I feel like God is opening doors for me.”

Reach Danny Bernardini at 427-6935 or dbernardini@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/dbernardinidr.

Danny Bernardini

Danny Bernardini

Danny is a newspaper man born and raised in Vacaville. He attended Chico State University and has written for the Enterprise Record and the Reporter. Covers the City of Fairfield, education and crime. A's, Warriors and Saints fan. Listener of vinyl, frequent visitor to the East Bay. Registered "decline to state" voter. Loves a good steak.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 10 comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Teddy BruiseveltFebruary 04, 2013 - 8:21 am

    Why has this convicted felon and "Filipino immigrant" not been deported to his country of origin?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • SavetheRepublicFebruary 04, 2013 - 8:39 am

    I am stating for the record that I am not Teddy Bruisevelt, this in not me. Thanks

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Danny BuntinFebruary 04, 2013 - 1:29 pm

    @Teddy: Perhaps you might like to give a helping hand to him Teddy? I am sure someone helped you somewhere along the line in your life. Or let me guess, "You Built it". On a serious note, do you have a problem with second chances?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • AnonymousFebruary 04, 2013 - 3:34 pm

    Proud of you Francis!! Keep doing what your doing!! ;)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich GiddensFebruary 04, 2013 - 4:58 pm

    Please stop casting stones at this man from the Philippines. Everybody deserves a second chance. If he was here illegally then ICE would have already deported him.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • sprdhewrdFebruary 04, 2013 - 6:52 pm

    I have seen God work in the lives of many men and women who have been touch by the love shown at Mission SOLANO over the years. They are loved because God loved us and touched our lives and we want to show that love, peace and hope with others who are lost. Many of those I have known have since left this earth, many I still have contact with. Many had no hope here and left with hope for eternity.God loves each and everyone of us. There is Hope in Jesus Christ. DMM Norman,OK

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • NOLIA REMBERTFebruary 04, 2013 - 9:07 pm

    I AM SO HAPPY FOR MY BROTHER, ME TOO HAVE COME DOWN THE ROAD OF RECOVERY SO I DO KNOW HE IS RIGHT WHEN HE SAY GOD IS OPENING THE DOOR FOR HIM AND AS LONG AS PASTOE HILL IS HELPING I KNOW ALL IS WELL; I LOVE MISSION SOLANO - THEY REALLY HELP OUR PEOPLE WHO WANTS TO CHANGE THEIR LIVES AND DON'T KNOW HOW, I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO VOLUTEERING FOR THEM ONE DAY

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • RyuFebruary 04, 2013 - 9:39 pm

    This is a great story...we can focus on the negatives and ignore what the story is really about. But I think this can be inspirational to men and women of all ages. I was following this story before this was printed and it has given me hope and a little more understanding in my life.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • IFebruary 05, 2013 - 10:18 pm

    Praise the Lord! <3 :)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • linzMarch 04, 2013 - 11:04 pm

    I am so glad to hear you're doing so well. You never had to be alone. I loved you with all I had. I'm sorry.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
.

Solano News

 
Theatre DeVille in Vacaville closes

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A1, 15 Comments | Gallery

 
Focus on school attendance now, always

By Mayrene Bates | From Page: A2

 
Suisun City Senior Center seeks holiday donations

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

Lunafest returns to Fairfield in November

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

 
Pepperbelly’s for sale

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3, 3 Comments

Jury selection begins in 2011 Fairfield murder trial

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3

 
Seniors get help at Kroc Center health fair

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Drug court success stories tell their tales

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 16, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

Weather for Sept. 18, 2014

By Daily Republic | From Page: B10

 
.

US / World

Emotions mount on final day of Scottish campaign

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

 
More than 2,000 homes threatened in California fire

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

Maps provide early warning of California fire risk

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
NASA’s Maven spacecraft reaches Mars this weekend

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

US military role in Iraq raises combat questions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Police: Ambush suspect was military re-enactor

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment | Gallery

House grudgingly approves arms for Syrian rebels

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 2 Comments

 
Ex-VA doctor: Phoenix report a ‘whitewash’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 1 Comment

School district police stock up free military gear

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5, 3 Comments | Gallery

 
Doctor says Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has cancer

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

US scientist: Ebola unlikely to become airborne

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

 
Liberia president praises US for Ebola help pledge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Obama reaffirms opposition to US combat in Iraq

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

 
AP Interview: Iraq premier says no foreign troops

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

.

Opinion

 
Homeless find welcome in Vallejo

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A7, 7 Comments

 
Give new crime report a chance

By Kelvin Wade | From Page: A7, 16 Comments

 
.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 18, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
Community Calendar: Sept. 18, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

Horoscopes: Sept. 18, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

 
My brother fails to make an effort to when it comes to my kids

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

 
U2 returns to iTunes Top 100 — 26 times

By Los Angeles Times | From Page: B4, 1 Comment

Directors Guild finds TV diversity hiring stalled

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4

 
.

Sports

Rodriguez gets 1st MEL soccer win since return to league

By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B1

 
Giants snap tie in 9th, beat Arizona to narrow gap in West to 2

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

 
49ers’ Kaepernick fined for inappropriate language

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 4 Comments | Gallery

Panthers remove DE Greg Hardy from active roster

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Barry Bonds appeal heads back to court

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

NFL, union agree to new drug policy, HGH testing

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Raiders rookie Derek Carr focuses on job at hand

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Pegulas’ bid to buy Bills OK’d by NFL committee

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
FSU benches Winston for 1st half of Clemson game

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Umpire West suspended 1 game for grabbing jersey

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
After making ‘mistake,’ Vikings bench RB Peterson

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Sharks sign D Braun to 5-year, $19 M extension

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Rockets acquire Jason Terry, picks from Kings

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

.

Business

Wells Fargo pays $290,000 in sex harassment case

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Fed signals plan to keep key rate at record low

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Brown signs ride-sharing insurance legislation

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
US homebuilder confidence soars in September

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

Anthem, hospitals join to offer new insurance plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Drag queens dress down Facebook over names

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5, 1 Comment

.

Obituaries

Margaret King

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Cryptoquote

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9