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Left to die in a car with two gunshot wounds to the head and one in the arm, Stephanie Powe refused to take her last breath. She miraculously dialed the car phone and told a friend, “I’m not playing. I’ve been shot two times in the head…”
She gave her location, kept herself alert by talking, bit her acrylic nails to make sure she could still feel. On that day, February 19, 1992, Powe’s life changed forever. But after hospitalization and a year of arduous rehabilitation, she was walking again. She had lost her right eye and had 50% usage of her right arm, which was her dominant one.
“I prayed to be saved,” said Powe, now 44. “I said my parents couldn’t handle it, my sisters were too young; my brother would hurt. I thought I had too many things to do in life, but I didn’t know what.
“For the past 20 years I’ve been on a journey to find out why I was saved.”
She was born and raised in Chicago, one of 10 children. Her father had five children from a previous marriage before he married her mom and had five more. She is the oldest of her mother’s children.
“I grew up on the Southside of Chicago in a typical middle class house with four bedrooms. My mother was an RN, my father worked for General Motors,” said Powe.
But her father was also a numbers runner and he taught his teenage daughter how to earn money shooting pool, rolling dice and playing poker.
“When you get money like that and it’s coming in hand over fist, you seek it in all kinds of ways,” said Powe.
At the age of 20, with her father’s backing, she opened a jewelry store called “Miss Prissy’s.” Some of her best customers were drug dealers who impressed her with the amount of cash they had. Before long, she was dating a dealer she met at the car wash.
“He didn’t sell on the streets. He would meet with Italian guys and bring in kilos.” she said.
He was older, drove a new Cadillac, wore Armani suits and she would later find out was a member of the notorious Gangster Disciples.
“I could buy what I wanted, drive what I wanted– and travel,” she said.
They had been dating about nine months and were living together when they were both arrested. Powe was charged with possession of cocaine and being affiliated with a gang. Her parents got her out on bond and the experience frightened her enough that she vowed to change her life.
“I started going to church every Sunday,” said Powe, who ended her relationship with her boyfriend. “He was in prison, anyway, for another charge. I told him I wouldn’t turn state’s evidence.”
She enrolled in cosmetology school and got a part-time job. She did, however, continue to talk by phone with him and she asked him for $20,000 to take care of bills he had left her with.
“He told me he had the money and all I had to do was meet with these guys and they would give it to me,” said Powe, adding, “I don’t know if I was arrogant or naive, but I didn’t believe they would hurt me.”
When she got in a car with them they drove off. Her boyfriend called on the car phone and Powe remembers he kept asking who she was sleeping with and told her, “If I can’t have you, no one can.”