A mother whose only son was shot dead displayed the ultimate sign of forgiveness when she invited her son’s killer to not only move into her neighborhood, but she encouraged him to live next door to her. The 59-year-old woman known as Mary Johnson now lives in a house adjoining her son’s killer, 34-year-old Oshea Israel where the two unusual neighbors even share a porch.
Oshea killed Mrs. Johnson’s son, Laramiun Byrd when he was just sixteen following an argument that occurred at a party held in Minneapolis, Minnesota. As a result of the killing, Oshea was tried and convicted as an adult even though he was still a minor. He received a 25-year jail sentence but only served 17 before being released. At the time of his arrest, Oshea had been involved with gangs from his neighborhood and had even dabbled in drugs.
Originally, like any parent would after losing a child in such an unjust manner, Mrs. Johnson wanted justice for her murdered son and she wanted the young murderer to get locked up for his crime. ‘My son was gone. I was angry and hated this boy, hated his mother,’’ she said. As a way to deal with the heartache and the consternation of losing her only child, Mrs. Johnson decided to join a support group that specialized in counseling mothers who had lost their children. The support group encouraged the parents that attended to make contact with their children’s killer as a way of letting go of the pain, the hurt and the hate.
Mrs. Johnson, who is a well-liked local teacher and devout Christian reached out to her son’s killer and asked to meet him at the Stillwater State Prison where Oshea was serving his sentence. Mrs’ Johnson says she felt compelled to forgive Oshea, but the ex-convict would not agree to see Mrs.’ Johnson until nine months later. When asked what she said the first time they met, Oshea says that the 59-year-old woman asked him to wipe the slate clean so that the two could embark on forging a new relationship. Mrs.’ Johnson continued to visit Oshea in prison regularly until his release upon which Mrs. Johnson invited and insisted that Oshea moves in next door after the landlord’s approval.
Now that he has re-integrated into society, Oshea is unwilling to let Mrs. Johson’s clemency and forgiveness go to waste. Determined to become a respected member of society, he has enrolled in college and is taking night classes as he works in a recycling plant during the day.