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Forgiving Their Daughter's Killer

Randy Rudder - 700 Club Producer

“The doorbell rang and we were shocked to find a deputy sheriff on the other side of the door with a woman who identified herself as a victim’s advocate, with the Leon Country Sheriff’s office. She was the one who told us that Ann had been shot,” Kate says.

Kate and her husband Andy had just returned home from a Palm Sunday service in 2010 when they got the news their 19-year-old daughter Ann had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Ann had spent the day with her longtime boyfriend Conor. Kate adds, “I asked, ‘Was Conor with her?’ And it was the deputy sheriff who said that Conor had shot her. “I couldn't process why that would have happened. I knew it had to have been an accident. It wasn’t until we got to the hospital and the detective told us that there had been an argument.”

Conor immediately turned himself in. For now, the Grosmaires could only focus on Ann, who was on life support.

Her father, Andy, stayed right at her bedside all night praying, “About 2:00 in the morning I was standing over her bed and I heard her say, ‘Forgive him.’ She did not say those actual words, but I felt like she was saying it to me,” Andy recalls. “I knew exactly what she was talking about. She was asking me to forgive Conor. And I said ‘No, I’m not going to do it, no way.’ After about twenty-five minutes of saying no to her, I finally said ‘I’ll try.’ But, she never woke up.”

The next day the deputy told them what had taken place at Conor’s house on Sunday. “That’s when we found out that they had been having a breakup fight. And Conor had intended to get his father’s shotgun to kill himself,” Kate says. “But when Ann came back into the house, they continued to argue and he ended up pulling the trigger and shooting Ann instead.”

On Thursday, the trauma surgeon showed the Grosmaires a cat scan of Ann’s brain, riddled with shotgun pellets. It was then they realized she would have to be taken off life support. Andy waited by his daughter’s bedside.

“As I was sitting there gazing down at her I saw her transform in the bed. And what I saw was Christ became one with her. Not separate but just as one completely together. I started sobbing, and it was because I realized that Christ was with my daughter. I realized that it was not Ann asking me to forgive Conor. It was Jesus. And how could I say no to Him who had forgiven me for all my transgressions?”

While at the hospital, Kate discovered Conor had put her name on his jail visitation list. She went to see him the next morning. It was Good Friday.

“He immediately started crying and said he was sorry for what had happened,” Kate says. “And I gave him the message that Andy had given me and that was that he loved him and forgave him. I said ‘Conor, you know I love you, and I forgive you.’ Once I said those words, I didn’t feel like I have needed to take them back then and I’ve never felt like I’ve needed to take them back since.”

Kate returned to the hospital. Ann was taken off life support that afternoon. “She died on Good Friday,” Kate says. “And she died in the 3:00 hour, the same hour that Jesus died on the cross. She is in the arms of Jesus.  She is in heaven. She is at peace.”

Through a voluntary legal process called restorative justice, the Grosmaires were able to sit in a room with Conor while they shared their grief and he expressed his remorse for killing ann. after that meeting, in which Conor revealed details of the two-day argument that preceded Ann’s death, they were able to take the first steps toward reconciliation. “Forgiveness is my part,” Ann says. “Repenting is on the part of the offender. And if you don’t have those two pieces, then you don’t have reconciliation. “

Conor was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Andy and Kate visit him regularly and call him weekly.

“The Grosmaires’ decision to forgive me was the only reason that I ever came to believe in God and believe in Christ, Conor says from his prison near Tallahassee, where he is serving twenty years. “There’s no other explanation for the forgiveness the Grosmaires showed me. Normal people do not forgive the man that kills their daughter. Normal people would hate and condemn. Normal people would be angry and hold onto that anger and wish me nothing but evil and probably want me killed. Instead, the Grosmaires decided to respond with forgiveness and respond in love. And that’s –that’s nothing but the love of God shining through them.”

In the years since Ann’s death in 2010, Kate and Andy have become a spiritual mother and father to the young man who took their daughter’s life, nurturing his newfound faith, and attending his baptism. All because they were able to forgive.  

“The thing that forgiveness has done for me is to keep me from going to prison with Conor, from being locked in the cell of my own hatred and anger and bitterness,” Andy says.

Conor adds, “One thing that Kate said is that she wants me to live a life that’s worth two lives, to live a life that–not makes up for the life I took--but at least puts good back into the world. I’ve got to give back. I’ve got to serve others. I’ve got to help others.”

“I could not define Conor by that one moment, “ Kate says, because if I defined Conor by that one moment, then I was defining Ann by that moment as well. That would make her a murder victim, and she was so much more than that. So every year, even though there’s a date that is the anniversary of her death, Holy Week will always hold that special message for us. That even though there is the death on the cross on Good Friday, resurrection will follow on Easter Sunday.”

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