Melanie Washington hugged the young man who killed her son.
“It’s more important to love and forgive than to hold on to the pain and the hurt,” Melanie says on a Long Beach Post video. “I found myself putting my arm around him. I didn’t feel a murderer that killed my son. I felt my son.”
Today Melanie Washington, based in Long Beach, CA, is helping troubled youth make it out of a destructive culture. She herself came out of a childhood that was “pure hell,” she says.
At age 8, she was molested by her stepfather. When “Fred” got on top of her sister Mary, Melanie told her mother, who kicked out the abuser.
He left but showed up the next day with a gun.
“No, Daddy, no,” Mary pleaded.
He shot and killed Mom. He tried to kill Melanie, but the gun jammed.
Shocked and overcome by grief, Melanie, who didn’t know where to turn, blamed herself for her mother’s death.
“I was the one who told my mother that he was doing this,” Melanie explains. “She put him out, and then he came back and killed her the day after Thanksgiving. I went through a life of never forgiving myself for that. I kept telling my mother, I’m sorry.”
Melanie graduated from high school and, falling in love with a handsome young man, married him. After the second month of marriage, he began to beat her.
The horror of seeing his uncle slash and kill his aunt and cousin metamorphosed into survivor’s guilt that tormented Joey Kelly throughout his life.
“Looking into his eyes, it was just pure evil,” Joey said, describing his uncle on the evening of the murders. At 12-years-old, he was at a sleepover with his 9-year-old cousin when it happened. “He was just completely determined to kill that night, and he was on a killing spree at this point.”
Uncle John was blind with rage. His wife, Joey’s aunt, was divorcing him and had obtained a court order to kick John out of the house. John showed up at 3:00 a.m. hell-bent on vengeance.
For his killing rampage, John is today in Huntsville Prison, and Joey suffers from survivor’s guilt, a post-traumatic stress disorder that stems from the fact that he survived and others did not.
Joey’s beginnings were idyllic enough. He accepted Jesus at age 7 when his older sister sat him on her lap and explained the Gospel.
“I remembered it clicking that God loved me so much and there’s nothing I can do to earn God’s love,” Joey recalls on an I am Second video. “It’s what he did for me.”
Mikey was not only his cousin; he was Joey’s best friend, and sleepovers were common for the Texas tykes.
The fateful night when he was 12 ended the innocence and delight of childhood. It also ended his faith in God.
Uncle John broke through the window and invaded the home. First he went upstairs where he hacked his ex-wife, Phyllis, mercilessly with a butcher’s knife. Mikey woke up Joey and begged him to help. Mikey, who was 9, watched helplessly as his father murdered his mother.
In his hellish altered state, the father turned on his own son. He tackled and stabbed him multiple times, slitting his throat – right in front of Joey.
Lastly, John came after Joey.
“He slams me against the wall,” remembers Joey, who raised his arms to protect his chest. “My uncle John tries to stab me in the chest. He actually ends up stabbing me through my arm. The tip of the blade just scratches my chest.”
Joey has scars to this day from the incident.
But then a miracle occurred. Joey blinked and suddenly he was 10 feet away from his uncle.
“It’s like God got him off of me just for a quick second and pushed me out of the way or something,” he says.
He looked at his arm and saw raw muscle hanging out of the slit. He pushed it back into his arm. There was no time to think. He ran from his uncle, who chased him.
“John, please stop,” he pleaded. “You don’t have to do this. Please stop.”
The little kid was able to elude the uncle. The next thing he knew, his uncle stopped stalking him and returned upstairs. Joey ran outside to the neighbor’s house and rang the doorbell 40 times.
It was 3:00 a.m. When the neighbor eventually opened the door, she screamed.
“Oh, my God! The house is on fire.”
Uncle John set the house ablaze, burning half of his own face in the process.
Uncle John survived and “looks the monster he is,” Joey says.
“I survived that night,” he says. “This feeling of survivor’s guilt is intense and has been with me for a long time now. It’s a real crappy feeling to know you’re the only one to live and others didn’t. I didn’t feel like I was a good kid or special kid. I didn’t do anything to deserve that. If anything, Mikey was a way better kid than me.
“It never made sense.”
Joey was furious at God. He would go into his backyard to curse God.
“F___ you, God!” he screamed. “What the F are you thinking? How could you let evil win in such a big way?”
He hoped to anger God. Maybe God would strike him down for his blasphemy. Then his inner anguish would cease.
Therapy did not draw out a favorable response from Joey, who growing up decided he deserved to act up.
“If anyone had the right to go crazy, it was me,” he remembers. “I got into partying, alcohol, and smoking. I was struggling from everything from depression, to post traumatic stress, to survivor’s guilt.”
Most of the time, he wore the facade of a happy-go-lucky guy. At least he could compartmentalize the torment.
Figure skating brought moments of peace to Katherine Thacker. She needed a healthy outlet because her mind was obsessed with hateful thoughts directed toward the suspect who killed her father, a cop, while he was on duty.
“I started writing very angry letters to the man who killed my dad and expressed my hurt,” Katherine says on a 700 Club video. “But not only did I express my hurt, I also expressed what I wished could happen to him. And they were really really hateful.”
Her ever-present hatred started in 1998. That’s when three Kentucky police officers arrived at the front door of their home to break the bad news to the family.
“It was like being hit by a Mack truck,” she says. “Watching the relationships that my friends had with their dads, I definitely envied them.”
Ice skating was a moment of beauty in her life. “It was always an outlet for me,” she remembers.
Broken in spirit, she turned away from God.
“Why did God let my dad die?” she asked. “If God’s good, why did He let the man who killed my dad do this?”
Her distancing from God continued until she became a junior in high school when she went to a week-long summer Christian camp. The motivational speaker displayed a genuine joy that Katherine realized she lacked. Read the rest: Forgiveness for her dad’s murderer.
Incarcerated for a schoolyard murder, a psychologist told 12-year-old Ronnie Legg there was no forgiveness available to Him from God.
“I was like, ‘Wow, I’ll never be able to get into Heaven,” he says on a video published by a Texas outreach group. “I might as well be the devil’s #1. As soon as I was found guilty and sentenced to 21 years, I started pushing hard to try to do the devil’s work. I was pushing hard to be the ultimate gangster.”
Ronnie’s troubles began early: a single mom, abused as a tyke, living in poverty. For selling drugs on the wrong street in East Houston, his brother was killed. Nine-year-old Ronnie followed in his footsteps with drinking and smoking dope.
His mother, brokenhearted at the loss of one son, steeled her heart against what she thought was the inevitable demise of Ronnie.
“There’s no more love here for you because you’re going down the same path your brother went down,” his mom told him. “You ain’t going to do nothing different, so I’ll be danged if you break my heart.”
Ronnie responded to the rejection by throwing the first object he could find at her.
“I hate you,” he yelled.
At age 12, he was on the schoolyard when a group of young gangsters tried to jump him. But they didn’t count on Ronnie being armed and he shot three of them, killing one. He was arrested four days later. Even without a jailhouse confession, prosecutors secured a conviction.
By age 15, he was in the penitentiary because he was so dangerous. While there, he joined the Houstone Blast gang and fought every day to make a name for himself.
“As I started doing that, everybody was patting me on the back,” he recalls.
Released from prison, he trafficked dope, pimping and kidnapping in Houston.
In December 1999, the Feds tracked him down. It seems his best friend snitched on him. Sentenced to 72 months, he got into trouble in prison so much that his sentence was lengthened to 9 years and 4 months and then into 12 years.
“I ended up walking around some of the worst prisons in the whole United States,” he says. He was in Beaumont prison during the racial riots. He was transferred to Oklahoma and then to Pollack, Louisiana. Of 100 Texans in Pollack, only he and another survived.
Ronnie eventually was transferred to a Death Row penitentiary in Indiana. In Victorville penitentiary, he was thrown in with the Crips and Bloods. It didn’t matter to him that he was the only Houstone. Almost immediately, he stabbed someone on the yard.
Finally, he was transferred to the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” in Florence, Colorado, the “worst of the worst. Everybody there is a killer. Three people a day get stabbed,” Ronnie says.
When he was admitted, the warden gave him one warning:
“All I ask is that you don’t put no steel in my officers.”
When he was finally released, Ronnie went home and immediately resumed drug trafficking.
Viewers have called this video “surprising,” “gross,” “informative,” “accurate,” and “inhuman.” Can you bear to watch it? And this goes on regularly in the United States of America. Why do we fight for everybody’s right except for babies’? Why does “inconvenience” trump babies’ right to life?