use this michelle stafford phyllis gallery bjoern kommerell
Credit: Bjoern Kommerell

To say that he made a lasting impression on the actress would be an understatement.

Heaven knows Michelle Stafford has met a lot of fans over the years. But at the L.A. Kings game last week, she encountered one that she isn’t likely to ever forget: John Klene.

“He whispered to me before the third period, ‘Hey, I’m a big fan! I’ve been watching you for years. I watched you in prison,’” she said via Instagram. “Of course I couldn’t let that go. I wanted to know his story. He told me.”

It was a doozy. “Last year, he was let out of prison after being wrongly convicted of murder. He spent 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit,” the Young & Restless star shared. “His story is a humbling and remarkable story of persistence and herculean strength. This man has emerged to freedom from the muddied confines of our very flawed judicial system.

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“If you would like to hear his story, please start following him [via the post above] and click on the link and read,” she added. “His story is phenomenal.”

Klene’s support system impressed Stafford, too. “His friends were with him last night as well. They never gave up on him,” noted Phyllis’ portrayer. “Damn… that’s friendship.”

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As remarkable is Klene’s perspective now that he’s at last free again. “This man is a warrior. He wasn’t bitter, he wasn’t upset, he was filled with joy and so grateful to be sitting there at an L.A. Kings game and living again,” she said. “Just an amazing man.”

The interaction impacted Stafford in another way, too. It made her realize anew how happy she was to be able to be out and about once more. “I’m truly so grateful to be among people again,” she said. “It has been a couple years of locking myself inside because of the strict protocols I had at work. I am so happy to be out with people.

“I am so grateful to have met John,” she went on. “I’m really honored that I was part of his life — even through television — for that time. A remarkable man with a remarkable story.”

Check out the latest additions to Young & Restless’ cast portraits collection in the below photo gallery.