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Seven years ago, Hector Black’s daughter was murdered after she surprised an intruder in her Atlanta home.
“We learned about what had happened in bits and pieces,” Black says.
Patricia Ann Nuckles had come home, where her attacker was hiding in a closet, hoping to jump out the back window and escape. But she opened the closet door and fell backwards. The man tied her hands behind her back, Black says.
Nuckles told the man that he needed to get help with his drug habit, her father says. Her captor gave her advice about how to prevent a burglary.
“He asked her for sex and she said, ‘You’ll have to kill me first.’ And so he did,” Black says.
“We were all just devastated. Nothing like this had ever happened. I mean, we’d known death, but not like this.
“I’d never been in favor of the death penalty, but I wanted that man to hurt the way he had hurt her. I wanted him to hurt the way I was hurting.”
Black says he wanted to know “what kind of a monster would do a thing like this.”
He went on to learn that the man, Ivan Simpson, was born in a mental hospital.
“When he was about 11 years old, his mother took him and his brother and sister to a swimming pool and said God was ordering her to destroy them,” Black says.
The two boys escaped, but Ivan Simpson “watched while his mother drowned his little sister.”
Black and his wife went to the district attorney’s office to ask that Simpson’s life be spared. “He was quite upset when we told him that we did not want this man killed,” Black says.
Black read a statement in court saying, “I don’t hate you, Ivan Simpson, but I hate with all my soul what you did to my daughter.”
Black looked into Simpson’s eyes. “The tears were streaming down his cheeks,” Black says. Before he was led away, Simpson apologized twice for “the pain that I’ve caused,” Black says.
Black says he couldn’t sleep that night “because I really felt as though a tremendous weight had been lifted from me … and that I had forgiven him.”
Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Michael Garofalo.