Marijane Tripp is working hard for her future - and she's not letting her past stand in her way.
|Marijane Tripp, former convict, now intern at the Wood County Prosecutor's Office. (Photo: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
Tripp, 26, is now acting as an intern with the Wood County Prosecutor's Office. She had previously served two years in prison following an armed robbery.
"I have learned a lot of lessons since that time," she said during a recent interview. "I have learned a lot about myself, and I'm definitely a stronger person than I was."
Tripp spent a total of two years and three months in custody for her part in a November, 2007, robbery at Huntington Bank in Bowling Green.
Originally adopted from Lithuania when she was 9 years old, Tripp "grew up in a pretty strict household and I just wanted to push boundaries," she said of what led up to the crime. "I moved out of my parents' house a little bit before I should have to pursue a lifestyle of partying. I guess that's kind of what I wanted at the time, unfortunately, and that just led to me meeting people that got me more involved in that type of lifestyle. I made some bad choices."
Tripp and Joel Westfall, who also took part in the crime, phoned in bomb threats to elementary schools in the city as a distraction before the robbery, and later set fire to their getaway vehicle in Union Hill Cemetery, northwest of the city. They were later caught in Bowling Green, Ky., after a hold-up at a pharmacy.
Tripp was originally sentenced to four years, but successfully completed a number of programs while incarcerated and completed 475 hours of community service and was granted early release.
Tripp said the day she was released from jail was a major turning point in her life. While incarcerated, she'd heard the other inmates talk about what they'd do once released: party, get high, or go shopping. That didn't fit in with her own ideas.
She wanted to "go back to school. Finish my degree. I knew from the first week in jail that I didn't what to end up there again. I would do anything possible not to end up in that position again."
She began working at her father's pizza shop in Findlay. Her mother had passed away of lymphoma while she was incarcerated.
"My father expected that I go back to school, that I have a job, that I live a law-abiding life, and that's exactly what I did. It's wasn't very difficult for me. It wasn't a struggle ever."
Tripp, as a Bowling Green High School student, had participated in the post-secondary options programs at Bowling Green State University. After high school, she'd started an associate's degree at Owens Community College, but never finished it.
After her release, she finished her associate's degree in business administration at Owens and then, after being denied admission at BGSU, enrolled in the University of Findlay, earning a degree in business management. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in the top 3 percent of her class as a member of Phi Kappa Phi honors society.
"I did two years in one year," she said of her breakneck class schedule at Findlay, generally taking 26 to 28 credit hours at a time.
"I was on the fast track, I knew what I wanted," she said, noting her passion for school and learning.
"I finished that up. I graduated last year in August, and since then I have been searching really hard for employment."
She said that from the first day of her release her biggest struggle hasn't been staying away from drugs or the wrong crowd. It's been getting a job.
"The hardest thing I struggled with is finding employment," Tripp said, noting that she's made hundreds, if not thousands of applications, but when she discloses information about her past, the opportunities stop in their tracks.
Along her journey to find work, she called perhaps the last person one might expect: Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson, the head of the office that tried her case and sent her to jail.
"I think she was just kind of reaching out in any direction she could," said Dobson.
"I had heard about her from time to time that she was doing really well and that she was trying to turn her life around, so when she called me I said, if you're willing, I don't have a job for you, but I'd be willing to let you come in here and intern here for a little bit and write you a letter of recommendation."
"She was very excited about the prospect," Dobson added. "She's been working as much as she can ever since."
"I'm incredibly grateful for Prosecutor Dobson giving me this opportunity at the Prosecutor's Office," Tripp said. "I love what I do there."
For the office, Tripp works on discoveries in criminal cases - that is, evidence that must be submitted to the defense counsel. She looks through evidence to ensure everything necessary for a trial is there and forwards it to the prosecutor. If something is missing, she contacts the relevant law enforcement agency to make sure it's sent over. The prosecutor then looks the evidence over and publishes it for the defense.
"She's doing great," said Dobson. "She is the kind of person who does just a little bit more than you ask her to every time."
Tripp is still looking for the kind of job that will inspire her passion. While working at the Prosecutor's Office and the pizza shop, she also finds time to volunteer at the Wood County Hospital - on her own, and not as a part of a probation requirement.
"I learn things very quickly," she said. "There are just so many different areas that I'm looking at and trying to get to."
"I don't have employment that fulfills some of my needs, like being passionate about my job," she said. Tripp noted that her own current success is due to the support of others, including her father, as well as her fiance.
"He is so supportive. I work about 70 hours a week now with the pizza shop and (Prosecutor's Office) and he is just... I'm a lucky woman. That's all I need to say."