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Saturday, December 07, 2019

10-07 Hickory Daily Record

Group shares experiences of choosing to heal while rejecting death penalty
By: Bryan Bliss

    The North Carolina Journey of Hope --- an anti-death penalty speaking tour --- will be stopping in Hickory on Monday.
    The tour is a 17-day event that brings family members of murder victims and others together to support alternatives to the death penalty.
    Sponsored by People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, the Journey of Hope will travel to all ends of North Carolina.
    “For 17 days North Carolinians will be blessed to hear these stories of survival, of healing and of forgiveness firsthand from Americans who have lost loved ones to murder,” said Stephen Dear, Executive Director of People of Faith Against the Death Penalty, in a press release.  “These people are taking time off from their jobs and are traveling great distances to share their experiences of choosing to heal while rejecting the death penalty.”
    Hickory will have two different times to hear the speakers.  Marietta Jaeger Lane and Eloise Williams will kick the day off at Lenoir-Rhyne College at 10 a.m.  Kristi Smith will share her story at 7 p.m. at Saint Andrew’s Lutheran Church.
    Marietta Jaeger Lane lost her 7-year-old daughter to murder in 1973 after being abducted from a family vacation.  Shortly before the one-year anniversary of her daughter’s disappearance, Lane told reporters she wanted to speak with the person who had taken her child.  On the anniversary, the kidnapper called to taunt Lane who startled the man by asking what she could do to lift his heavy burden.  The man broke down in tears and was later apprehended because of the phone call, a press release said.
    Eloise Williams had lost three family members to murder – in three separate incidents.
    “God has chosen me to give love, not to seek vengeance and the death penalty,” she said in a statement.
    Kristi Smith lost her father to murder in 1978.  Several years after the crime, Smith felt a deep need to let the killers know she felt no bitterness towards them.  One of the perpetrators, Billy Lemmons, was visited by Smith and the two continued a correspondence.  In March, 1997, Lemmons was released from prison and along with Smith, the two speak at churches and other groups about reconciliation.
    The Journey of Hope leaves the Hickory area Tuesday.