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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. Missy

    Definitely a bigger person than I am. I dont think I could have forgiven them at all. I am shocked at having 3 children while in jail....why was he ALLOWED conjugal visits? He was in for murder...not just robbery or a misdemeanor. I dont believe he should have had that right. As far as his release I definitely believe he should have been in for the remainder of his life. But hes out and lets hope he does the right thing and stays on the right path.

    April 15, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  2. Lizard Lance

    And somewhere Wayne LaPierre and his NRA minions are celebrating the fact that a gun was used in the killing.

    April 15, 2013 at 1:55 am |
    • Joshua Farmer

      And that is about the dumbest comment I've heard. I think that comment sections should always be disabled to keep 12 year old trollboys and people with "witty" intelligence like you, away.

      April 15, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  3. Robin

    I don't believe that anybody teaches people to treat their enemies with any form of respect. This is the most disgusting article that I've read .... I don't ever believe this behavior when I see it.

    April 15, 2013 at 1:10 am |
    • Nothinbutthetruth

      I am sorry...but thats pretty silly. Its surprising, that someone living in this modern day age, would make a comment like this. Anyway, If you read the Bible, you'll see what Jesus taught about this. Whether you believe the bible or not, is NOT relevant. So whether you want to believe it or not, its been taught. The evidence speaks for itself!

      April 15, 2013 at 5:08 am |
  4. Robin

    That is ridiculous. They should never put this up in the news.

    April 15, 2013 at 1:06 am |
    • bitgod79

      and why not? faith isn't good? forgiveness isn't allowed?

      April 15, 2013 at 3:10 am |
    • nissassa

      it happens mr.robin believe it or not...

      April 15, 2013 at 4:34 am |
    • Nothinbutthetruth

      Whats rediculous? That someone has faith? believes in a God who they claim gave them the strength to forgive? Whats rediculous is that there are people as yourself who have been so blinded that they cant even see the evidence, and results of a person who has faith. What is america coming too? VERY sad!

      April 15, 2013 at 5:13 am |
  5. paulios

    It's sheer madness. Did not know that drug addicted murderers were allowed to have multiple welfare kids while in prison. The prison system is so broken and these inmates are always looking to game the system.

    April 14, 2013 at 11:51 pm |
    • nissassa

      pardon me but where does it say in the article that he wa on welfare?

      April 15, 2013 at 4:31 am |
  6. Clan Destine

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

    A dog isn't going to blame one of the pack for being a dog, now is it?

    April 14, 2013 at 11:49 pm |
  7. DN3

    There is a reason why Jesus said to forgive others. It's the only possible chance at healing both parties. It often takes an act of courage of that magnitude to inspire others to become better people. Although very hard and not sure I could do it myself, the other option would be to drown in hate which helps no one particularly not oneself.

    April 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • Damocles

      I can live a pretty normal life even if I never, ever forgive someone for taking a loved one away from me. Courage is the willingness to punish an evil act, not to lend some sort of weird validity to a murderer because he or she found a way to make people sympathetic to their deed. 'Awww, you killed someone, but, hey, it's ok because you found the smiling, loving deity that required you to murder someone to find it.' The number of ways that is wrong, combined with the number of people who think it is ok, is scary.

      April 15, 2013 at 12:03 am |
  8. james

    incredible story, I am so impressed that it could be brought to us. This message is not lost on me, I fully understand how this opportunity allowed both men to grow past something MOST could never achieve. Neither will live in pain anymore. an amazing transformation for both men. FN-Kudos CNN, something I hardly get to say!

    April 14, 2013 at 8:55 pm |
  9. frankie

    Hmm,keep your friends close,and your enemies even closer.

    April 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
    • james

      ...until they are enemies no more.

      April 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
  10. Joe

    Three kids while imprisoned.

    April 14, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
  11. steve-0

    Had 3 children during imprisonment?? We are out of our f-ing minds in this country.

    April 14, 2013 at 7:01 pm |
  12. hq3hwytqt

    why are we releasing murderers onto our streets? someone kill this guy before he strikes again.

    April 14, 2013 at 6:21 pm |
    • james

      I only feel sadness for you, you obviously didn't comprehend the message, now YOU want to be the killer, I forgive you for being incredibly blind.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:00 pm |
  13. hq3hwytqt

    eye for eye.

    April 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
    • james

      which only makes you blind.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  14. Jack

    If someone murdered your child how much time would they need to serve before they had "paid their debt to society". I someone murdered my child I would extinguish their gene pool and then go on happily with my life knowing that the real God approves totally.

    April 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
    • ThemovieFan

      You knowwhat God thinks?

      April 14, 2013 at 5:25 pm |
    • Nothinbutthetruth

      Who's the "real" God? and where do you find his/her teachings on murder? It CERTAINLY not Jesus Christ for the gospels say something TOTALLY different

      April 15, 2013 at 4:59 am |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ;

    April 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm |
    • Religion is

      Superstition

      I'm an atheist and I'm in perfect health.

      April 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
    • Bob1god

      I AM GOD, STOP WITH CONSTANT PRAYER, OTHER FOLKS CAN'T GET THROUGH. WHAT A MAROOON.

      April 14, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Edd0

      Prayers changes what?

      April 14, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Jack

      I've known many many people that did all kinds of drugs and never murdered anybody by shooting them 13 times when they were unarmed. The reason for this is to get attention meanwhile a man is rotting in his grave, never had a chance to live his life while a murderer is made into a hero. This is stupid stuff here.

      April 14, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • Science

      To.......Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Facts work ........................are you/bible thumbers as smart as a 5th grader ?

      Listening to the Big Bang – In High Fidelity

      Apr. 4, 2013 — A decade ago, spurred by a question for a fifth-grade science project, University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130404170154.htm

      April 15, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      April 15, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Really?

      "Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things"

      That's why the data, has shown that atheists have happier and healthier lives than conservative Christians. Your post is built on a lie!

      April 15, 2013 at 10:57 am |
  16. Russman

    Isn't this story from a few years ago? Why print this dreck if you intend to be a "news" corporation?

    April 14, 2013 at 1:35 pm |
  17. str8whtguy

    I, for one, applaud Mr. Colon for his courage to forgive his brother's killer, regardless of how he achieved it. If you forgive someone who has harmed you, and he appreciates it and takes it to heart and sincerely apologizes, you've both won. At my 20th high school reunion I ran into the class bully who knocked out one of my teeth simply because I was in the band. I went up to him, and said, "hey, aren't you the dude who clocked me in 10th grade?" He put his head down, and said, "yeah, sorry about that." I said, "don't sweat it. let's grab a beer." He later told me that he always felt troubled by what he did. Nothing religious about it, we both had grown up and moved on.

    April 14, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Paul Brosam Jr

      I totally agree with you. Being able to forgive the killer of your family member would be a real challenge for most. Mr. Colon did exactly what God tells us to do and wants us to do. We will not forget, but we can forgive. Mr. Colon has shown that he is a true Christian and adheres to God's word. I commend him on this. I am also glad to see the turnaround in Mr. Rowe. He has found God and taken responsibility for his actions. I'm sure that he has prayed to God and also asked for forgiveness. If this is the case, Mr. Rowe is saved. God does forgive all acts of sin, except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Murderers can be forgiven and saved. I hope that both men can continue working together to reach out and help others in need. This is a great story. May God bless these two men and may they both find peace in the Lord. I feel that God has a purpose in these two men coming together and making peace with each other.

      April 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm |
  18. TSB8C

    The three murderers should have been executed rather than living off tax payers for years.

    April 14, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Tired of it

      Lethal injection only teaches those of us who want to be Euthanized that the only way we have for an easy out is to murder someone.

      April 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      It costs more to put someone to death by way of any state, than to house them for the rest of their lives.

      April 14, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • hq3hwytqt

      money isn't everything, Richard

      April 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm |
  19. goodman

    At the end of the day, this is not about religion. The murderer paid his debt to society, the victims family has forgiven his actions. To those that say "he's still a murderer"; if you feel that the judge did not pass adequate judgement and that this man's life is better spent in the grave also, then perhaps you should start pursuing a legal career to ensure harsher punishments more frequently instead of just inciting reaction on CNN's blog.

    April 14, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Nothinbutthetruth

      Your correct....This has NOTHING to do with religion. It has ALL to do with having a true relationship with Jesus Christ : )

      April 15, 2013 at 4:57 am |
  20. hearyehearye

    This is a very, very moving and unusual story. Would like the details shown in a movie or read in a book one day. True forgiveness bonds. This is an inspiration for me to forgive and I'm sure it takes working together because unforgiveness separates. "If you don't forgive, neither will I forgive you." I hear that in my mind over and over again. I want to be able to forgive because I know, I'm no better than the offender – we're all human and make terrible mistakes.

    April 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • str8whtguy

      Well-said. We've all made terrible mistakes, even some that have caused irreparable harm to others. I don't think I've ever done serious harm to anyone else, but I'm the first to admit that in my youth I did some colossally stupid things.

      April 14, 2013 at 1:45 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.