March 24, 2005
|A UMNS photo by John Gordon
The Rev. Walt Everett found peace when he forgave his son's murderer.
By John Gordon*
HARTFORD, Conn. (UMNS) -- Three simple words – “I forgive you” -- were the hardest ever written by the Rev. Walt Everett.
penned those words in a letter to the man who murdered his son.
Now, the two share what might seem an unlikely friendship. And the
Connecticut minister encourages other crime victims to forgive while he
also works to abolish the death penalty.
“My anger was destroying me,” said Everett, pastor of the United Methodist Church of Hartford, Conn.
was keeping me from relating to people as I ought to, keeping me from
doing my work,” he said. “And I began to ask, ‘Is this what the
rest of my life is going to be like?’”
journey of faith began July 26, 1987, when his son, Scott, was shot to
death at his apartment complex. Scott was 24, the oldest of Everett’s
Everett was killed by Mike Carlucci, who concedes he was a drug seller
and addict, someone who describes himself as the “troublemaker of the
life consisted of drugs, alcohol and violence since I was a young boy,”
said Carlucci. “I was the person that your mother told you to
stay away from, don’t dare bring home.”
seeds of reconciliation were planted at Carlucci’s sentencing hearing.
Everett stood and described the pain of losing his son. Carlucci said he
few weeks later, on the first anniversary of his son’s death, Everett
wrote a three-page letter and sent it to Carlucci in prison. Everett
began the letter by describing the “extremely difficult” year since
Scott was killed.
Then Everett wrote, “I do accept your apology and, as hard as these words are to write, I add: I forgive you.”
Carlucci said he was still struggling to overcome his drug and alcohol problems.
night that I killed Scott, I was up for a couple days and I was out in a
bar drinking and went home to change some clothes to go out to New York
and finish the party,” he said.
“And I remember having a gun against Scott’s head, and I knew if I
pulled the trigger, he was going to die and I was going to go to jail
for the rest of my life. It didn’t matter. I pulled the trigger.”
|Photo courtesy of the Everett Family
24 year-old Scott Everett was murdered in 1987.
in prison, Carlucci said he sought counseling and began attending
meetings trying to overcome his addiction. He said one of his counselors
recommended that he pray for forgiveness.
remember saying to God, ‘God, please forgive me for what I have done,’”
he said. “I honestly can say from that moment on, my life began
to get better.”
Meanwhile, Everett would not have been surprised if the letter had been his last contact with the man who killed his son.
“I did this initially, primarily, for myself,” he said. “What God did for Mike was a bonus.”
Carlucci did respond, and the two exchanged letters for several months.
Then, Everett got a surprise. Carlucci wrote and asked him to visit him
first, Everett was apprehensive about the meeting, which started with
small talk about Carlucci gaining weight eating prison food. Then, their
discussion turned to faith and their lives.
got up and started to shake hands with Mike. But instinctively, I felt
that wasn’t the thing to do, and we embraced,” said Everett. “His
counselor said, ‘I think I’m going to cry.’ And Mike and I had both
beaten her to it.”
visited Carlucci at least once a month in prison for the next two
years. Then, Carlucci asked Everett if he would support his early
release. Everett agreed and met with the parole board, which agreed to
release Carlucci after nearly three years behind bars.
told them I didn’t think he was the same guy who had gone to prison,
that he could be a productive member of society and that God had made
tremendous changes in Mike’s life,” Everett said.
“God prodded me, prodded me, until I was able to forgive. And I’m
thankful for that. I feel sorry for people who can’t, because they live
with that pain for the rest of their lives.”
|A UMNS photo by John Gordon
The Rev. Walt Everett and Mike Carlucci share a friendship today.
meetings between prisoners and their victims are rare. More prison
systems are beginning to study or offer victim reconciliation, but such
programs are still in their infancy.
Carlucci’s release, Everett presided at his wedding. But Carlucci’s
tragedies were not over. He said his wife died from an overdose and he
has gone through a bankruptcy.
Today, Carlucci is a supervisor at a trucking company.
“I like to think that Walt was the chauffeur of God’s limousine to get me where I had to go,” he said.
70, plans to retire from his church in June and move to Pennsylvania.
He is writing a book about the death of his son and his relationship
said he would continue encouraging other crime victims to forgive. He
is also one of the founding members of the New York-based Murder
Victims’ Families for Human Rights, a group that opposes the death
18 years after his son’s death, Everett and Carlucci continue their
friendship, occasionally telling their story to church groups.
“I look at Walt as my friend today,” said Carlucci. “Unconditional love. That’s the description of a friend.”
Everett said he is often questioned about how he could forgive someone who killed his son.
it’s something small, I say, ‘You broke it, now you fix it, and then
we’ll be even,’” he said. “But with something too big to be fixed, the
only thing left for healing is forgiveness.”
*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer in Marshall, Texas.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.