Story Details

Shooter, victim work together to teach prisoners about forgiveness, life-long impact of crime

forgiveness on Miscellaneous - INDIANAPOLIS - Twenty years ago, Misty Wallace was using a payphone when Keith Blackburn walked up and shot her in the face, point-blank.

"As soon as I hung up the phone, I was lying on the ground. I didn't know what hit me," Wallace said. "The bullet went down through my esophagus, severed my carotid artery and bounced up and lodged in between my muscle and my top two vertebrae were shattered."

Wallace was a high school senior with a full-ride scholarship. Blackburn was a drop-out looking to steal a car, and he didn't want any witnesses.

"In my mind it was just a split-second decision," Blackburn said. "I pulled the gun and pulled the trigger."

Wallace's car -- keys still in the ignition -- wouldn't even start. Blackburn got away with nothing but her purse and left her for dead.

"When I was leaving the scene, I heard her say, 'Help Me,'" Blackburn said. "I walked away. I live with that every day."

Blackburn spent nine years in prison while Wallace miraculously recovered and went on with her life, carrying anger and yearning for one answer.

"I thought, 'He's going to tell me why. He's going to tell me why.' So I sent him a Facebook message," she said. "I needed him to look me in the face and mean that he was sorry for what he did to me."

Two years after making contact with Blackburn, Wallace knows forgiveness is a choice she had to make for her own health.

"Twenty years ago I did what she didn't deserve. Two years ago she gave me what I know I didn't deserve -- I didn't deserve to be forgiven on this level," Blackburn said.

Wallace and Blackburn now tell their story together as part of the Bridges to Life program, speaking to prisoners about forgiveness and about the lifetime impact of their crimes.

While the pain is still piercing for both, the victim and her shooter -- now a prison chaplain -- call themselves friends.

"She's choosing not only to forgive me, but to walk alongside of me and tell this story to others that are struggling with pain and bitterness and anger," Blackburn said.

The two hope to eventually tell their story at every correctional facility in Indiana.

To expand the Bridges to Life program, they need more victims willing to volunteer to tell their stories at prisons.

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