By EMILY ALLEN
PUBLISHED: 08:10 EST, 10 July 2012 | UPDATED: 09:33 EST, 10 July 2012
- Sharletta Evans’s three-year-old son was shot dead in a drive-by-shooting
- She spent six months preparing to meet his killer Raymond Johnson
- The mother held his hands and prayed they would cause no more hurt
- She says she’s forgiven him and wants to see him freed and living in society
A mother has come face-to-face with the killer of her three-year-old son, and has described the extraordinary moment she took hold of his hands, praying that they would cause no more hurt.
Sharletta Evans, from Denver, Colorado, has spent the past 17 years trying to come to terms with the death of her son Casson after he was shot dead in a drive-by shooting while asleep her car in 1995.
His killer was Raymond Johnson, who is currently serving life without parole for the murder he committed aged just 16.
Brave: Sharletta Evans holds a photograph of her son Casson, killed in a drive-by shooting in 1995 by Raymond Johnson, right, who was 16 at the time. She has met him to discuss the impact his crime has had on her life
But just a few weeks ago Ms Evans decided to meet the now 33-year-old, in a bid to complete her grieving process, becoming the first person to take part in the Colorado Department of Corrections pilot programme in restorative justice.
She has now spoken about the heart-wrenching meeting, and how at the end she took hold of Johnson’s hands, praying that they ‘no longer be hands of destruction’.
The mother-of-two spent six months preparing for the visit, alongside her older son Calvin Hurd, now 23, who was six when the gunshots hit the car where he sat sleeping with his brother.
Part of this process was recollecting the day her son was killed, examining emotions she felt about every aspect of the crime.
Victim: Casson was sleeping in the car with his brother when he was shot in the head in Denver
Ms Evans had driven to a north east Denver duplex to collect her grandniece as there had been a drive-by shooting the previous night.
But while she left her sons in the car and went indoors, a volley of 12 shots were fired at the house and car and one bullet, fired by Johnson, hit Casson in the head.
When Ms Evans was finally ready to visit Johnson, one day in May, she was overcome with emotion just seconds before the meeting. However, she recalled to the Denver Post, how, at that minute, Johnson saw her in the doorway and rose from his chair.
She told the newspaper: ‘He dropped his head and shook it with such sorrow, as if to say, ‘Look at what I’ve done to this woman.’ That gave me the courage to start moving.’
During the meeting the pair recounted the crime from their individual points of view and Ms Evans spoke about her son, what he meant to her and her family, and at times talked with anger.
She also revealed that she had forgiven him at his trial, after realising that his crime did not mean he was a completely bad person. He said that he’d become a better man in prison.
She added: ‘And he asked me, ”Why do you think God showed you who I really am and didn’t show my mother or grandmother?”’
When the pair went to part company, Johnson stood and extended his arms and Ms Evans asked him to turn his palms facing up.
She took hold of his hands and prayed, saying it was his hands which caused the harm. She said: ‘The fact that he actually pulled the trigger, it was something about the hands that kept coming to me.’
She added: ‘I prayed that they would cause no more harm, that they’d be hands of comfort, that they would bring help and serve people and that they would no longer be hands of destruction but hands that bring life.’
Landscaper Mr Hurd, who also went through six months of preparation for the visit, said he took part in the process out of concern for his mother and had few memories of his brother.
He said he was skeptical about how remorseful Johnson would be, but said the visit proved his remorse was real.
Ms Evans, who has vowed to continue meeting Johnson, she felt the need to meet Casson’s killer after ‘reaching a peak in the healing process’.
She has received help and support through counselling and her church for the last 17 years but felt the meeting would offer her complete closure in the grieving process.
Remarkably, she thinks he deserves a second chance and said she would not be ‘at peace’ if he spent the rest of his life in prison.
She said she wanted to see him back in society, functioning as a normal adult.
The pilot project has no impact on the defendant’s sentence but experts who met with Ms Evans and Johnson before and after the visit said such meetings can transform offenders and make them less of a management risk.