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Mother Forgives Daughter's Killer

In November 2012, Jordyn Howe, a 14-year-old student at South-Miami Dade High School, took his stepfather's pistol from its hiding place in the bedroom closet and brought it to school. He just wanted to show off the weapon to friends. Howe boarded the school bus, walked to the back, and allowed a friend to load a bullet.

According to a witness, Howe began "playing with it," pulling the trigger and aiming around "like pretending." But then Howe lifted the gun toward a 13-year-old girl named "Jina" Guzman-DeJesus and pulled the trigger. The bullet struck the girl in the neck and eventually killed her.

Jordyn Howe immediately confessed, pleading guilty to manslaughter with a deadly weapon, among other charges. Two years later, in June 2014, the victim's mother, Ady Guzman-DeJesus, faced her daughter's killer in court. But instead of rage and revenge, she gave Jordyn Howe a tearful hug. "I'm sorry," Howe stammered as Guzman-DeJesus wrapped her arms around him, fighting back his own tears.

It was part of an extraordinary gesture of forgiveness from a grieving mother who also blessed a plea deal that will allow Howe to avoid prison. Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Ellen Sue Venzer said, "In 20 years, I've watched human tragedy unfold in this courtroom. I could have never imagined a victim's mother embracing her child's killer." Howe will remain under the supervision of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice until he reaches 21 years of age. He must also speak to schools about the dangers of gun violence at least 12 times a year— alongside the mother of the girl he killed. In light of the unusual display of forgiveness and the gracious sentencing, Judge Venzer had the final words to Howe: "I hope and pray you do not squander this opportunity you've been given."

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