One day after Robert Godwin Sr. was murdered by a man who posted video of the shooting Facebook, his three children have stated publicly that they forgive the man who pulled the trigger. Their gesture may not have been what Steve Stephens, the murderer, wanted. When he was finally confronted by police, Stephens shot himself in the head.
[Scroll Down for Video]
The Stephens case has been a hot news item this week. When an unstable individual live-streams a murder on Facebook, it tends to get attention. And then the manhunt captured the headlines. After his suicide, it was the selfless act of the McDonald’s employee that helped police catch up with Stephens that captured the headlines.
Yet it is this moment of forgiveness that might just be the most shocking element of the Stephens case. In an interview with Anderson Cooper Monday night, the three Godwin children said they forgave Stephens. It was, they said, what their father would have wanted.
“The thing I would take away most from my father is he taught us about God, how to fear God, how to love God and how to forgive. Each one of us forgive the killer, the murderer, we want to wrap our arms around him,” Tonya Godwin Baines told Cooper.
“You do?” Cooper asked dubiously.
“We absolutely do,” Baines answered. “I honestly can say right now I hold no animosity towards this man because I know that he’s a sick individual… I promise you I could not do that (forgive) if I didn’t know God, if I didn’t know him as my God and my Savior. I could not forgive that man. And I feel no animosity against him at all. I actually feel sadness in my heart for this man.”
Their forgiveness even contained some genuine empathy. “We lost our dad but this mother lost her son, his children lost their dad.”
Viewers have echoed the surprise Cooper showed on screen. How could they be so forgiving?
“It’s just what our parents taught us. It wasn’t that they just taught it, they didn’t just talk it, they lived it. People would do things to us and we would say ‘Dad, are you really going to forgive them, really?’ and he would say ‘yes, we have to.’ My dad would be really proud of us, and he would want this from us. He would say, Tonya, forgive them, because they know not what they do.”