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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. tongue tied

    Amen. Great things come from great struggles. Humanity is forever reaching past the limits of our logic. Who knows. Maybe these two will be like brothers.

    April 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm |
  2. Chris

    Why not go be friends with someone who didn't kill your brother? This is a stupid story.

    April 13, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  3. taxedmore

    The brother is still dead.

    April 13, 2013 at 5:24 pm |
  4. That Guy

    Yes Forgive and Forget i wish african americans would learn this value.....

    April 13, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
    • Candyapple

      YOU must be a REDNECK.....LOL

      April 13, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
  5. mdc

    What ye sow so shall ye reap. He's forgiven by this family member, but karma will eventually bite him in tha aZz.

    April 13, 2013 at 4:29 pm |
  6. Obama

    Really nice story of redemption and forgiveness....

    April 13, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  7. Kathy

    This is wonderful. God can take the bad and turn it into good.

    April 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Louis

      If your God is so powerful that he can turn bad into good, why couldn't he just prevent the bad from happening in the first place?

      April 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  8. Lauradet

    There would be no way that I would ever befriend the person that killed my brother. I would be an eye for an eye.

    April 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • Obama

      I'm sure it's because you lack the love of God imbuing heart that this man has...

      April 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
    • Peter

      I would hope to have a response like the guy in the story, but I don't think anyone can stand in judgment of what one might do in a similar situation. I admire the brother in the story, but I would understand a response like yours.

      April 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
  9. Roger

    "They were able to have three children together during his imprisonment ... as he served a sentence of 20 years to life."

    Dirtbag kills a guy, goes to jail, but gets conjugal visits and has 3 kids.. now a ward of the state has spawned 4 more wards of the state (incl. mother). Total = 5 people that I have to support, while I can't afford to have kids myself. This is why I'm for the death penalty.

    April 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm |
    • mike

      I for one am bothered that I have to share oxygen with people as ignorant as yourself.

      April 13, 2013 at 4:02 pm |
    • Brian

      You make no sense man. Where does it say that his 3 children, or wife are wards of the state. Are you assuming that she has no job, education, training, etc.? Do you know what happens when you assume!

      April 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
    • Obama

      Wow Rogar really?? Where did you read anything about this family being a ward of the state??, your a lost sound retarded!!!

      April 13, 2013 at 4:10 pm |
    • mdc

      I agree.

      April 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
    • Steve

      What really astonishes me is this...I read on here where people who do not serve or follow God, write and condemn Christians for "judging" them. Don't judge me, they say!!! Well, then I read all the time where these same people, or others like them, constantly judge others for any and every thing, especially sentencing them to death!!! How can one say DONT JUDGE ME, then turn around and sentence another to death?

      April 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • Mike

      Obama just served you Roger! Albeit with some awful grammar.

      April 13, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
  10. sanjosemike

    There are some crimes that are too big to forgive (like the Holocaust, or Pol Pot's genocide or Stalin's or Mao's.)

    One does not forgive to "spare" the guilty party.The reason why a person "forgives" is to reduce their own personal burden of anger and hate. It actually has very little to do with the perpetrator and more to do with the victims'.

    That said, while forgiveness is fine, the perpetrators STILL must serve their complete sentence. Forgiveness does not equal exoneration.

    sanjosemike

    April 13, 2013 at 3:45 pm |
  11. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things,

    April 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm |
    • ironfray

      Yes.. because all livings things like crickets and bacteria believe in Jesus.

      April 13, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Bostontola

      I am happy that prayer changes thing for you (I assume for the better). Do you really want to signal such divisiveness with your name?

      April 13, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      If you are not Christian will prayer to your non Christian god also change things?

      April 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm |
  12. SS

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1Lu5udXEZI

    April 13, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • amy

      Boooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggggg!

      April 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • Tammy

      LOVE MATTHEW WEST! Here ago.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuJWQzjfU3o

      April 13, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  13. Jaimee

    I just have one question....how did Rowe and his wife have 3 children together DURING his imprisonment??

    April 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
    • Luis

      LoL.

      Maybe during special visitation hours.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Tom

      It's called a conjugal visit.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:35 pm |
    • dee

      Hmmm. I bet it's tough on his wife to work full time to support their 3 children while he's in prison. Unless, of course, we all get to support their offspring conceived during conjugal visits...

      April 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • Todd

      laughable story, if it werent sad. His brother is turning in his grave.

      April 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm |
  14. Luis

    This is the beauty in the power of the blood of Jesus. Not only does it cover and remove all sins but gives an individual a new heart; full of the love, compassion, and mercy of the Lord.

    April 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • Tom

      It's the beauty of loosening the grip on hatred and having a forgiving heart. Christians did not invent that, nor do they corner the market on it.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Harangue

      So apparently believing in Jesus makes murder okay.

      If you say so.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
    • Damocles

      Funny that the mystical blood power doesn't show up at a better time like, you know, before the guy murders someone.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • njemnu

      Amen Brother. Glad to see real Christians walk the walk and talk the talk.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
  15. Mike Howell

    I'm glad Paul & Moses were able to find grace in the sight of man and God. but of course, what am i thinking. About 95% of this Nation & world think GOD'S Word is fiction anyhow. THERE'S sure to be alot of disappointments at the Judgement that day. PRAISE THE LORD JESUS.....HIS MERCY ENDURES FOREVER!

    April 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You will go through life anticipating a glorious afterlife, and you will never know disappointment. You will die and cease to exist before you get the chance to realize that your afterlife was nothing more than wishful thinking. I suppose your ignorance is indeed bliss.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

      6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

      7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

      Amen.

      April 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  16. JustTheFax

    The thing I was taught about forvigeness.....you don't forgive for the sake of others, you forgive for the sake of yourself.

    April 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Bostontola

      Where were you taught that?

      April 13, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • JustTheFax

      @Bostontola......it wasn't a "where", it was a who. And in case you're wondering, there were no religious references.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Matthew 6:9-15

      Amen.

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

    Yadda, yadda, yadda. He's still a murderer and should rot in hell.

    April 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Bostontola

      I think you may have missed some key tenets of Christianity in Sunday School.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
    • Luis

      Is anyone bitter here?

      This story shows us the redemptive love God has towards us.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Pastor_P

      We are all sinners. Even if you don't believe in Jesus Christ. We have all made mistakes and done thing that we regret and some of us do a lot more good when given a second chance. I thank God for his grace and mercy.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:52 pm |
    • Steve

      cp...how would you feel if someone were to judge YOU about something YOU have done? And tell you that you should be rotting in Hell for it?

      April 13, 2013 at 4:24 pm |
  18. WowMan!

    You fool! He killed your brother! You should have nailed him while you had the chance. You give religion a bad name.

    April 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Annie

      I hope you never have to find yourself on the receiving end of needing a person`s forgiveness. Maybe you wont because maybe you are perfect?

      April 13, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Luis

      Oh my!

      April 13, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Winnah

      Visitors are searched, so he couldn't have "nailed" him in prison. But if he pretends to befriend the perp, facilitate the perp's release, then gets the perp to work next to him outside ... well, NOW he can nail him anytime. Good planning, dude!

      April 13, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  19. HeavenSent

    Damocles, one believer is clouded by the lies of man and will be nudged to read His truth..

    Matthew 19:18
    Deuteronomy 19:7-12
    Deuteronomy 19:20-21
    Deuteronomy 19:13
    Numbers 35:11-16
    Matthew 5:17-18
    Luke 16:17

    Amen.

    April 13, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
    • Oh My

      Gosh, HeavenSent, someone asked the other day who the author of Matthew was, and you said Matthew.
      L O L.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Luis

      The author of Matthew was ... Matthew himself! He was a tax collector Jesus called to follow Him.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Oh my, that must have been the phony heavensent wrote that post. I said that Jesus inspired Holy men to scribe His truth. Jesus Christ is the author.

      April 13, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  20. Isma'il

    I dont liken myself to a woman, but I surely cried like one reading this story. Praises due to Allah

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

      You can't hold a candle to women. Amen.

      April 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Luis

      Praises be to Jesus!

      April 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
    • Pastor_P

      Hi bro. Just for the sake of clarification does Allah forgive or does he say "eye for an eye"

      April 13, 2013 at 2:55 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.