/ Why he’s interesting / Towler spent 29 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. DNA testing proved his innocence in 2010, and he now spreads a message of hope and redemption through Spirit-N-Truth, the gospel group he formed with other inmates while in prison.
/ A musical release / Having developed a fondness for melody in childhood, Towler found himself drawn to the prison’s state-provided instruments. He bought a guitar while in prison but also spent time learning to play the drums, piano, trumpet and saxophone. For Towler, the benefits of music were threefold and depended on his state of mind each day. “When you have hope of getting out, then that’s the career move. Maybe when you’re in between, it’s staying grounded with God. When you feel secure, then it’s just something to do to have fun.”
/ Banding together / Several other inmates shared Towler’s passion for music, and soon a band was formed. Spirit-N-Truth played primarily at prison services but was also summoned to play for outside guests. As members left or were sent to other prisons, the group often found others. “We’d add and lose members. It was whoever happened to be at the same place and could keep the group alive.” Today, Spirit-N-Truth’s five members (four of whom were inmates) are focusing on creating an album.
/ Art therapy / To earn the money to purchase his own guitar, Towler spent hours drawing portraits from photographs. “Portraits have been what I’ve been paid for, but I kind of like painting abstract. I just have a lot of stuff in my head.”
/ Full-speed ahead / Towler plans on working on the group’s album, concentrating on his painting, fixing up his new house and trying as many local restaurants as he can, while working with the Innocence Project, the Cincinnati nonprofit organization that labored tirelessly for four years to free him. “It’s like going a thousand miles an hour.”
/ On being wrongly imprisoned / “It’s like stubbing your toe. It hurts like hell. But you look at it, and it’s not broken, it’s not bleeding. So you just move on. The pain will go away.”