Debbie Baigrie was walking to her car in downtown Tampa Bay when she was shot in the mouth by then 13-year-old Ian Manuel in 1990. But 25 years later, the pair have struck an unlikely friendship and now Debbie is campaigning for his release.
Baigrie, who was 28 at the time of the attack and had just had her second baby, had to go through years of facial reconstructive surgery, while Manuel was convicted with attempted murder and sentenced to three consecutive life sentences in an adult prison. Baigrie feels sympathy for her attacker, because he was so young at the time and is also troubled by the racial discrimination in the case. She told The New York Times:
If he was a cute white boy at 13, with little dimples and blue eyes, there’s no way this would have happened. When you’re 13, you do stupid stuff.
Walk a mile in his shoes.
The unlikely relationship began on the second Christmas of Manuel’s sentence when he decided to call her. She asked him bluntly why he tried to kill her, to which he answered that it was a “mistake”. Manuel then sent her a card with a picture of a hand reaching through prison bars to offer a red rose.
1. Pictured during a court appearance in 2011, Ian Manuel (left) looks back at Debbie Baigrie (right) who he shot in Tampa Bay, Florida, in 1990. She is now campaigning for his release.
2. The mother required years of painful reconstructive surgeries to her face but now feels sympathy for Manuel, saying that ‘When you’re 13, you do stupid stuff’.
I was in such pain. I couldn’t eat. I was angry. But I’d go back and forth. He was just a kid.
The two have now sent letters back and forth for almost two decades. In one of them, Manuel wrote:
You are about one in a million who would write to a person that’s tried to take their life.
Baigrie says that she is the only family Manuel has left — his mother, father and brother have all died.
Manuel was initially given three life sentences, but a Supreme Court decision that juveniles could not be sentenced to life without parole for charges other than murder means that his term was reduced and he is now scheduled to be released in 2031.
Source: The New York Times.
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