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April 13th, 2013
06:00 AM ET

From anger to forgiveness: Man befriends brother's killer

By Rose Arce, CNN

New York (CNN) - The day Anthony Colon heard his older brother had been gunned down in East Harlem, he began struggling with a rage that would last for years.

The anger wore him down. He missed him desperately.

He hated the three men who had fired 13 bullets into his brother who was unarmed.

“Oh, God, it just - it just put so much hate in my life. I hated everybody. I hated everything. It made me to be a person, like a monster,” said Colon, who considered his brother Wilfredo his only stable family.

“I loved him because he always stood up for me from a little kid. He would not even allow me to fight. He would stand up for me, whatever happened, because he always saw that goodness in me.”

But as the years passed the fog of anger began to lift.

He married. Had two children. He welcomed religion into his life.

And, he was overwhelmed by a desire to find reconciliation with his brother’s killer.

“I just wanted it to be OK,” he said.

Then one summer day, a chance encounter while visiting a friend at the Eastern Correctional Facility in Ulster County, New York, changed his life.

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He looked across the room and saw Michael Rowe, one of the men who had murdered his brother.

Rowe saw him too and tried to duck down.

“I was expecting that we would be you know, it would be a fight, some type of physical violent altercation ,” said Rowe.

Rowe recalls feeling remorse and shame, unable to forgive himself for murdering another young man – and afraid of retaliation.

Colon walked straight up to him and said: “Brother, I’ve been praying for you. I forgave you. I’ve been praying I would see you again.”

The meeting would transform both men’s lives.

Rowe had married the same girl he was dating when he went to prison. They were able to have three children together during his imprisonment, and he wanted desperately to parent them even as he served a sentence of 20 years to life.

“I figured I would die in prison. Or at least leave there a very old man with grey hair,” he said.

“I still don’t think that I’ll ever truly be able to forgive myself because of the things that I’ve done. Because I take full responsibility for what I did. And I completely, and as best as anyone could, understand the pain that I have caused.

“I think for me, forgiveness will come in doing good works, trying to help others. But as far as forgiving myself I don’t think I will ever get to that place.”

In prison he was befriended by Julio Medina of Exodus Transitional Community, which prepares inmates for their release.

Rowe studied and soon he got an associate’s degree, then a bachelor’s. As he was studying for his master’s degree in Professional Studies, Colon began visiting him regularly.

CNN Living: A killer in the family

“To have that kind of support from the man whose brother he killed, that is remarkable,” said Medina. “Not only does it lift that cloud of shame that he walks with, but more importantly it allows him to have a second chance with the blessings of the victim's brother.”

The day of his graduation, Colon surprised Rowe by coming to put on his robe. He also came to his parole hearing, where Rowe said this to the board deciding his fate:

“Anthony is my hero. I have two sons, and if my sons grow up to be half the man that Anthony Colon is, I will be an incredibly proud father. And I don’t know if I can sum it up or explain any better than that how I feel about Anthony Colon. He has changed my life.”

Colon believes religion has propelled him to forgive Rowe.

“For some reason I felt that he was dealing with all that he was dealing with. Like condemnation. Self-pity. Just like this hovering darkness that was around. I felt that, when people think that’s strange, but it’s just the part of the nature of a person that’s closely connected to God. There’s a connection with God that can allow you to see past what’s in front of you,” he said.

Rowe was released from prison this week after 20 years, a man who has not seen the world since he was barely grown up.

He showed up at one of his children’s elementary schools with cupcakes and gave her the surprise of her life. He saw the home where he will be living with his wife and three children for the first time. And he went to see Anthony Colon, who he will join at Exodus reaching out to young men at risk.

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“God has a purpose for me. God has a purpose for us,” said Rowe, sitting alongside Colon at the offices of Exodus. “Yes, us,” adds Colon smiling.

Meanwhile, Rowe is adjusting to life on the outside.

He is mystified by cell phones and the gentrification of the neighborhood where he fell into drugs and killed a man.

Exodus is helping him cope with routine life skills that seem overwhelming to him like having the power to make daily decisions over what to eat, when to talk, going outside.

Colon is helping him with that too, so he can see a life beyond prison and they can both put an end to 20 years of pain.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Faith • Spirituality

soundoff (734 Responses)
  1. calvin

    Forgiveness is a Blessing from God!!! God truly was and is at work in all involved here. My prayer goes out for both these men and their families!!! God Bless them In Jesus Name!!

    April 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Science

      Sorry to inform you ................but there really is no fairy in the sky .

      Peace

      April 22, 2013 at 7:16 am |
  2. jamaal johnson

    From the article, Rowe made 3 babies while he was in prison for 20 to life? Are these kids sponsored by the taxpayers?

    April 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • maria

      Of course "our" tax dollars and the welfare and he got college degree pay by us too everything free ,but my kids pay student loans to go to college how sad the criminals get help and honest people don't, my kids work hard babysitting,delivering newspapers,washing cars,packing groceries,cutting grass oh that make me so proud of my kids! while this murdered was breeding kids getting college paid I wonder if instead of teaching my kids good morals and good standars teach them how to kill people I bet they got free education ! I wonder.....

      April 22, 2013 at 6:53 am |
  3. tony

    I think forgiveness pre-dates religion by a few hundred thousand years. Along with many other "good" human characteristics.

    April 13, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • DaTruth

      Amen!! *rim shot*

      April 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Isma'il

      well, it doesnt. Blood fueds was the way of the world until the messagers of God was revealed and brough guidence to mankind

      April 13, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Oh My

      I wouldn't bet on it, tony. I think religion, like other forms of charlatanism, has been there as long as men have thought they could do anything to control or monopolize on another.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  4. KidIndigo

    I can't imagine the journey both of these men have traversed. I'm glad for the forgiveness. For the haters here, these men are, at least in some ways, transcendent to you. Not that you'll get that.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Archeopteryx

      Forgiveness is simply a psychological state & if this helps Mr. Colon deal with this horrendous crime I'm happy for him .. Not so much for the killer.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  5. stephano

    Ether this guy really forgives him or he is plotting a really good revenge.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • maria

      I don't think so! he is just a IDIOT! maybe forgive but be his buddy ? that is too much for me! you notice the murderer don't even look at his face? because he is SHAMEFUL...

      April 22, 2013 at 6:56 am |
  6. Kyle

    "Bigger than bullets" - CNN is sewage.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  7. Roberto

    No remorse on the murderer's part. He was still worried about himself and just glad that he wasn't going to have to deal with "retaliation" as he said.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • ghastly

      "Rowe recalls feeling remorse and shame, unable to forgive himself for murdering another young man"

      April 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Sondra

      This is what remorse looks like . . .
      "Rowe recalls feeling remorse and shame, unable to forgive himself for murdering another young man – and afraid of retaliation. Colon walked straight up to him and said: “Brother, I’ve been praying for you. I forgave you. I’ve been praying I would see you again.

      “I still don’t think that I’ll ever truly be able to forgive myself because of the things that I’ve done. Because I take full responsibility for what I did. And I completely, and as best as anyone could, understand the pain that I have caused.

      “I think for me, forgiveness will come in doing good works, trying to help others. But as far as forgiving myself I don’t think I will ever get to that place.”

      I pray God will bless them both!

      April 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
  8. jonat

    How about doing a story on some black men that did not kill someone or do prison time? There are plenty of them but you would never know it by reading CNN stories. Is it because many of these successful black men are conservatives? Is that why they are ignored?

    April 13, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • tony

      Lots of good men and women of all colors who aren't of particular political persuasion. I'd like to see more about non-sports persons and non-entertainers myself.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • ..

      Um....what??

      April 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • gwood25

      I'm a successful black man. I know what you are saying...But being successful has absolutely nothing to do with being a conservative! I consider myself to be liberal, as many of the successful brothers I know are!

      April 13, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  9. Paul Neale

    Wow! What a POWERFUL article!!!! GOD is always GOOD and HE knows exactly what needs to done to heal the pain of all of us. Truly, a lovely story.... GOD bless BOTH of you and good luck with walking the path......

    April 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Jordan

      I think the dead brother might argue against "god's" plan.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • Archeopteryx

      Forgiveness is psychological .. God(s) had nothing to do with this. Jordan said it well, the murdered brother isn't so happy about God's "plan".

      April 13, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
  10. Georgie

    Both of these men r delusional

    April 13, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
    • maria

      Exactly! what a duo of loosers......

      April 22, 2013 at 7:09 am |
  11. bettykay

    Anthony Colon represents all the things I hope to be, and more. Wow... what a guy.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  12. BBALLBM

    This gentleman felt like he NEEDED to forgive to make HIS life complete. For his wife and children's sake I think it is great. Hatred and revenge can ruin a man AND his family. Can the killer realize his mistakes and become a great man? Of course. Do I think it will happen in this case? I really do. Would I have fried him 20 years ago for the "mistake" he made then. YES. Doesn't mean I am right or wrong. This guy took a future away from somebody else and now has an opportunity for his own future. MANY would argue this isn't fair and I happen to agree. But I also hope for the brothers sake that this guy appreciates what he has been given and can prevent a kid from going down the same path he did and killing someone else. JUST MAYBE this guy will stop someone from killing you or your loved one.......

    April 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Andy0126

      To God be the glory. Mr. Colon is elevating the name of GOD, bless him. The bible says we should be quick to forgive and slow to judge. It was very big of him and let him stand as an example of how all God's children should behave. I hope their kids can learn from their father's actions and experiences.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Matt Lipscomb

      BBALL – Very nicely worded, I enjoyed your comment and appreciate. Starts with forgiveness any yet I understand why it's so hard to do.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
  13. skinnymulligan

    Finally.....someone using their fake religion for something good. nice.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Equalizer357

      Now the Great spoiler, Satan himself in flesh....

      April 13, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Not my will but yours

      Actually, if religion is defined in terms of what you are compelled to do as a believer, than I would say his religion is pretty real. Could you forgive your brother's killer? And I'm not even asking if you consider yourself "religious." Whatever he's got, it's pretty strong stuff.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • skinnymulligan

      I said it was nice. It is also one of the many fake RELIGIONS....feelings are not fake...but religions are. THANK YOU

      April 13, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Keith

      pretty impressive. If that is what it takes, good for them.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
  14. Richie from the boogie down Bronx

    This is such an awesome piece. It would be nice to see more stories like this that show us that we can overcome hate and vendettas.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
  15. Greg

    Finally an uplifting tidbit in mainstream media. Then when those who appreciate it take the initiative to say so and give thanks the atheists feel compelled to wave their lack of faith and assault those with faith for their faith.

    Religious, atheist, agnostic, or just faith full its hard to argue that more of this type behavior (forgiveness) would result in less conflict and greater peace in the world.

    But this aside and for the athiests feeling the need to waive and debate their beliefs in front of the world I have to ask – what is the meaning of life to the atheist? Eat, sleep, crap, repeat endlessly sounds pretty empty to me.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Damocles

      My goodness, why does this always have to be explained to people like you? My life is rich, I have wonderful children that I spend time with, teach them to have respect for themselves and their fellow man. I have friends that I hang out with, have cookouts and laugh when we tell stories from the good old days. Yes, I crap, sleep and eat and hey, so do you, but that isn't my whole life.

      There is much that I can forgive, but don't get all bent out of shape when I can not forgive a murder.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • ..

      ...and yet you're here, being judgemental. Good man. Not.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm |
    • Answer

      Project the words out and label them 'bad' atheists.

      "They're so empty. I love for them to be so empty that these things are true in my mind. I need these spiteful words echoed out for them to read. I want it to be confirmed that they are empty and will rot."

      ==Too bad. Your little minds want those meager words for your own small satisfaction, but aren't facts. That's why it's so funny.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Athiesm's 2 tenets: 1. There is no God, and 2. I hate Him.
      But I am glad to know the fellow poster also has cook-outs and enjoys people...sounds like a life that is a mile long and an inch deep. When athiests start, and continue, hospital systems, mercy missions (Salvation Army etc.) and the like which benefit society, they JUST MIGHT have something to add to society. Otherwise, they just seem to want to wear dark clothes, act intellectual...and spend a lot of time arguing about someone, they say, doesn't exist. Empty empty empty.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Greg

      Nice list Damocles.
      Then what? Your kids repeat it all again for until humanity evolves into giant telepathic brains rulling the universe?

      April 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • Answer

      ** Religious freaks want to give tenants to atheists.

      Failure as always. Try harder under a new name. <<– They will do that – always.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Damocles

      *facepalm*

      How many hospitals have you two started?

      I do give to the needy and I have helped out in soup kitchens? Why? Because I wanted to.

      @greg

      Who said anything about giant brains? Stay focused, friend.

      @elliott

      It tickles me that you think you know me. Hate a deity? That's akin to hating Bugs Bunny or Luke Skywalker. There are atheist charities that do good work around the world and for your info, I've donated to both atheist and religious charities as long as I know that the money will be used for the intended purposes. Sorry if I didn;t run through everything my life is, if you need the complete list, well, just keep waiting.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Anonymous

      Okay Greg, listen. Don't generalize people by their religion. Not all atheists hate God and have no purpose to life, many are just very informed about the science of the earth and find it impossible to believe in God without seeing any proof of Him first. Why does it matter anyways? It doesn't make athiests worst people than faithful people. They just believe in different things. Respect it. Faith wouldn't make athiests any more forgiving for such a tragic murder. In the Anythony Colon case, it did, but that doesn't mean it always would and that doesn't mean that everyone who believes in God would forgive that murder. Don't generalize.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Greg

      Anonymous – I don't think I generalized. My comments were directed at "the atheists who..." as written.

      Although I will admit I took the indescrition of amusing myself with the giant brain nonsense.

      I do have to wonder why people feel the need to prove God to accept God. We accept love and hate defacto yet we can't see them, we only see peoples reactions to feeling them. How often do we see debates over if love and hate are real. Now carry that a step further. Six people from six languages gather to discuss love. Instead of acknowledging that that all feel good when they are loved they waste their energy arguing over which word (language) used to describe the concept is the right one.

      Kind of bears some similarities to much of this debate doesn't it?

      April 13, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
  16. Lisa

    I'm all for forgiveness but what I find really annoying is that I have had to pay for my education as a law abiding citizen AND get to pay for a criminal's education too! Where's the justice in that?

    April 13, 2013 at 12:21 pm |
    • Rickpitinoseyejob

      What about the three welfare babies he fathered while in prison? Who's paying for them?

      April 13, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • stephano

      He has to apply for loan like everybody else the only difference is he has to take online courses.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • stephano

      I actually paid for those babies becuase there not really his , she wasnt faithful while he was away.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • ByeByeUSA

      Exactly.

      I suppose that we have to weigh paying for his college with the hope of the dude getting out and using the education and become a productive person versus him sitting in there and learning to be a better criminal and getting out.

      Still sucks paying for it, though.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm |
  17. Nagorki park

    Forgive.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
  18. phijef

    I am an atheist and I'm glad that these two men find comfort in religion. I don't begrudge religion, it just isn't something for me. I don't want to do away with religion, because I see the value it offers for many people. The only request is that it isn't shoved in my face and we keep church and state separate. That's it. Pretty easy, right?

    April 13, 2013 at 12:19 pm |
    • potppotsie

      I couldn't have said it better myself! I'm on the other part of the spectrum, being religious, but I see exactly how you do. You don't want it, don't have it. I don't think it's right to force anyone to be religious if they don't want to be.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • Richie from the boogie down Bronx

      Wise words of tolerance and respect.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • WCATHOLIC

      Good point...a spirit of mutual respect and dialogue. Although I am Catholic I understand that spirituality (however you choose to define that term) and Religion are not always synonymous. Brings to mind many highly spiritual, yet non-thiests such as Albert Einstein, the mythologist Joseph Campbell, etc. Athiesm if honestly held seems a different thing altogether than anti-thiesm, which seems to me a form of secular fundamentalism.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • bettykay

      phijef – I am a Christian and I completely respect your view and agree with it as well. Some of the best people I know never set foot in church, temple or synagogue... but I still consider them, and you, a child of God. The best to you!

      April 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
    • Elliott Carlin

      excellent post...and I'm a Christian.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  19. weric8

    Bravo fellas, bravo!
    Best to both of you!

    Don't judge, don't hate.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Answer

      Don't forget the most important point of religious spewage –> "You need god for it to happen. It doesn't happen without a god. No way – no how – yeesim ma'am. No way." XD

      April 13, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
  20. God Here

    You people call that weasel Satan evil, I made him, he is nothing compared to me. I smite like no one else, I'll show you evil, quakes, tornado, hurricanes, massive polar shifts, hail, locusts, disease, famine like no one can you puny pets.

    April 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm |
    • Wowyouredumb

      You're completely delusional, and not funny.

      April 13, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Seyedibar

      God, why did you kill this guy's brother and make him befriend the murderer? Couldn't you have killed the murderer and let the brothers live?

      April 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.