“I FORGIVE HIM” proclaimed Joseph Walker, Sarah Anne’s Father
With every cell of my being and with every fiber of my memory I oppose the death penalty in all forms. I do not believe any civilized society should be at the service of death. I don’t think it’s human to become an agent of the angel of death. — Elie Wiesel
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu
All the hoopla over Pope Benedict XVI‘s unexpected announcement of retirement last week just goes to underscore another tragedy in the modern church. And that is that the church has been defined by its hierarchy rather than its adherents. Its hierarchy is in trouble. Its adherents are heroic.
People like Joseph Walker, whom I met with a couple months back while researching a book on faith.
Second pew to the left. Last seat to the left. That’s where he prays every single morning for the soul of his daughter and for the man who murdered her.
On July 8, 2006, with their hats in their hands, police knocked on Walker’s door in Greenville, Texas, to inform him that the body of his daughter, Sarah Anne Walker, had been discovered inside a model home in a new residential development north of Dallas, where she worked as a real estate agent.
The brutality of the crime drew national news. It was featured on the program “America’s Most Wanted.” The attention helped investigators track down the killer. It also helped Mr. Walker get an important message out through the media.
“This crime has devastated my family,” he told reporters, “but we need to pray for my daughter’s killer.”
Sarah Anne, a 40-year-old mother of two, was the oldest of three children born to Walker and his wife, Carol. When she was a child, her father traveled a lot, and she would miss him dearly. So much so that, while only in grammar school, she read a copy of one of his favorite books at the time, “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” by Og Mandino. She wanted to impress him. The book is a treatise on the philosophy and spirituality of salesmanship. Among the many words of wisdom is this: “I will live this day as if it is my last. This day is all I have, and these hours are now my eternity. I greet this sunrise with cries of joy as a prisoner who is reprieved from death. I lift mine arms with thanks for this priceless gift of a new day.”
The message took. Sarah Anne would grow to live by those words and to make her father proud.
“She was full of life, a beautiful young lady,” says Walker.
Investigators say a couple looking at a model home discovered Sarah Anne’s body.
“The FBI says it was one of the most brutal single murders they ever investigated,” Mr. Walker says. “He stabbed her 27 times. Bashed her skull in. She had bite marks on her. It was senseless. It was a horrible, horrible crime.”
No motive for the murder was stated, but police say Sarah Anne’s Rolex watch and a ring were stolen.
Walker’s pastor, the Rev. Paul Weinberger of St. William the Confessor in Greenville, recalls the first clue people got of how the Walkers were handling the murder of Sarah Anne. Father Paul was just about to lead mourners in the rosary at the funeral home when Walker interrupted and said to all those gathered, “And we’ve got to pray for the one who did this.”
Close friends of the Walkers were not shocked by Joseph Walker’s response. A member of the Knights of Columbus, he is well-known in his parish for his works of mercy. He purchases and distributes classroom materials to underprivileged school children. To help foster a future generation of Catholics, each Sunday he buys and distributes doughnuts and other treats for the children. He was a successful retail executive after all, and he is accustomed to keeping a keen eye on the bottom line. In matters of children and church, if it takes doughnuts to get them interested, then it takes doughnuts.
Kosoul Chanthakoummane, an immigrant from Laos who had no connection with Sarah Anne, was convicted of her murder. Against Walker’s wishes, the Collin County district attorney’s office successfully sought the death penalty for Chanthakoummane, who was 25 at the time of the murder. Chanthakoummane, now on death row in Livingston, Texas, is to die by lethal injection.
“People want revenge,” Walker says, “but revenge never works. Yes, it was just a totally senseless, random act. But everyone deserves every bit of their life so they can have a chance to repent and go to heaven. I believe that totally, completely. God wants to not lose even one soul.”
Back at his favorite pew, Mr. Walker explains what he will do on Chanthakoummane’s execution day.
“If I am still alive, I’ll go down to the prison and make a big scene,” he says.
If he were to ever meet the man who killed his daughter, what would he say to him?
“I told him through the newspapers that I forgive him,” Mr. Walker says. “I truly do. I would say to him in person, ‘I hope in your heart you could really understand our Lord loves you.’ That would be it.”
On his death row Web page profile, Mr. Chanthakoummane writes, “I pray God’s mercy on my soul.”
Ukuthula/UBUNTU. IT IS WELL.
mon oct 17 2022 REmbr… G is, as G can only BE. GOOD
amen. so BE it. laff THRU it…yes. in Time.