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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

09-29 Dayton Daily News

Anti-death penalty tour comes to Valley
By: Tom Beyerlein
    DAYTON – Maria Hines said the 1989 murder of her younger brother, Virginia State Trooper Jerry Hines, was “like a bombshell exploding in my life.”
    Yet nine years later, she visited Dennis Wayne Eaton on Death Row and told him she forgave him.  She called upon the Virginia governor to grant clemency.  And, on June 18, 1998, she joined a candlelight vigil against the death penalty outside the Greensville, Va., prison where Eaten was being executed.
    Speaking in Dayon on Sunday, the former nun and retired psychotherapist said the murder caused her to examine her views on capital punishment, and her soul searing showed her “that killing another human being is wrong, even if it’s done in the name of justice and even if that human being is my brother’s killer.”
    Hines, 71, spoke before a small crowd at Corpus Christi Church as part of a 17-day tour of Ohio by the Journey of Hope, survivors of homicide victims who oppose the death penalty.
    The local leg of the tour began Thursday and continues through Tuesday, with events at various churches, school and civic clubs.  It includes a march from Wright Dunbar Park on West Third Street to the Montgomery County courthouse at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.
    Jerry Hines, a husband and the father of three, was shot to death after he stopped a driver on suspicion of drunken driving.  Eaton, who had killed two other men just hours before, was in the car.  After a police chase, he killed his girlfriend then tried to kill himself by shooting himself in the right eye.
    Eaton was sentenced to life in prison for the three other murders and to death for the trooper’s slaying.
    Maria Hines became an anti-death penalty activist in 1996 after watched the film Dead Man Walking, based on a book written by Sister Helen Prejean, who also is part of the Journey of Hope tour.  Hines wrote a letter to Eaton, telling him she forgave him.
    “Hell has been defined as the absence of love,” Hines wrote.  “Forgiving you is not only for you, but also for me – what it would do to my own soul if I refused to forgive you.”
    She later met with Eaton three times on Death Row, and found him to be a reformed man.  “I saw Dennis was a living example of what Christians refer to as redemption.”
    Eaton asked her to witness his execution, but her plans to do so fell through.  While keeping vigil outside the prison, Hines said, she was child when officials announced his death at 9:00 p.m. and when she saw the hearse bearing Eaton’s body pull away from the prison.
    The next day, she expressed sympathies for Eaton’s death to his nephew on behalf o the Hines family.  “In doing so, I felt forgiveness and reconciliation had come full circle.”
    But Hines’ support of Eaton had a price: Her brother’s family has disowned her, she said.
    “For those I have lost,” Hines said, “I console myself with words I once read, ‘Grief is the price we pay for love.’”