Each time the barbed-wire fence closes behind me and I see the
men sitting in a circle waiting for me, I begin to pray, "Please
Lord, I want them to see You in me."
I'm often asked to speak to inmates about being the victim of crime.
On March 23, 1995, my 17-year-old daughter, Nicole, opened the door
of her father's house to a 16-year-old young man named LeVaughn
whom she knew. LeVaughn came into the house and they began to
argue over drugs.
LeVaughn picked up the butcher knife from the kitchen counter and
stabbed Nicole to death. My only child lay dying on the floor of the
living room, her eyes still open. The last sight she saw that day was
the face of the young man who was killing her. This young man whom
I had never met in my life, came into my life that day and changed my
I buried my daughter, and one week later the District Attorney informed
us he was asking for the death penalty for LeVaughn. He began telling
us how he wanted to try the case, and then he proceeded to ask us
if we believed in the death penalty. Everyone said, "yes," except for
me. I said "no."
I don't believe in murder. Murder is murder, no matter how you look at
it. It was no more right for me to take LeVaughn's life then it was for
him to take Nicole's life. I did not need revenge.
I waited one year to be faced with the young man who had changed
my life forever. He was hostile and angry during the trial. My greatest
fear was that he would get the death penalty and that I would then have
to fight to never allow that to happen. But God knew that wasn't
how He wanted me to spend my time. LeVaughn was found guilty of
second-degree murder and sentenced to thirty-eight years with
God had other plans for my life. LeVaughn still looked angry when
he was sentenced two weeks later. Only now, he was sitting right
next to me as I stood at the podium to address the court and the
judge, but I was warned not to address LeVaughn. I was told I
couldn't speak to this person who had changed my life forever,
and he was sitting right next to me.
I began reading what I had written and then God spoke to my heart.
I needed to talk to this young man. It might be my only opportunity. I
turned and looked into his face. This was the face that my daughter
saw as she lay dying on the living room floor just one year ago, and
now I was looking into that same face. I told LeVaughn that I was not
angry with him, but that I felt very hurt. I told him that I had
compassion for him and that I hoped that he could somehow find
a way to turn his life around.
And lastly, I told him that I would be praying for him. The face that
was so full of anger was now looking at me in disbelief, and the
anger was gone.
When I walked away from the courthouse that day, I knew that God
had given both of us a gift. It was the gift of forgiveness. I was able to
forgive the young man who murdered my daughter. Not because he
asked me too, but because it was what God wanted for both of us.
God was never going to be able to use me if I was angry. Forgiveness
brings peace. And with that peace comes overwhelming joy. The joy
of knowing that God will forgive me just as I have forgiven.
Two years ago, I became a Prison Fellowship volunteer. I also
volunteer for the Pre-Release Programs in several prisons in
my area. I do a Parenting Program, Personal Development
Program and the Victim's Sensitivity Program. I have also become
a trained mediator, mediating minor offenses for the District
Attorney's Office, and I'm currently working on a program to do
mediations between victims and offenders of violent crimes. I
believe in rehabilitation.
As I walk out of the prison I feel so much peace. I don't see
myself as a victim. I see myself as someone who has had
something happen in my life, and I chose to let God use it so
that I might be of greater service to Him. There is a sense of
God's presence in prison. God is everywhere, even in prison.
And to think I might never have known that -- if I wasn't able