Forgiving Her Daughter's Murderer

ByABC News
July 18, 2000, 1:22 PM

— -- Marietta Jaeger Lane knows what it is to be consumed by rage and to want revenge.

In the summer of 1973, her youngest of five children, Susie, was kidnapped on a family camping trip in Three Forks, Mont.

"I was just ravaged with hatred and a desire for revenge," she says. "I was seething."

Looking back, she remembers feeling as though she could have killed the man who had taken away her 7-year-old "with my bare hands and a smile on my face."

A Commitment to Forgive

Then Marietta made a decision.

"I knew that hatred wasn't healthy, that it would obsess and consume me," she says. "Were I to give in to that kind of mindset, it would be my undoing. It's not to say that it was an easy realization, because I felt absolutely justified. I had every right to feel how I did."

But as a woman who was raised a Roman Catholic, Marietta says, "I was called to forgive my enemies not to kill them. So I made the commitment to work toward an attitude of forgiveness. I promised to cooperate with God in whatever he needed to do to help move my heart from fury to forgiveness."

The resolution she made was more than a demonstration of faith and a means to preserve her mental health.

Marietta also hoped that letting go of her rage would benefit her little girl. "If he had Susie, I wanted him to be good to her," she says. "I tried to think positive thoughts for him. And they were simple unsophisticated things: Let the weather be good for whatever he's doing today. If he's traveling, may he not have car trouble."

One Year Later

Exactly one year to the minute after he had taken Susie from the Jaeger's tent, the kidnapper called. Marietta spoke to him with compassion and patience.

"You know I've been praying for you ever since you took her," she told the man on the phone. She asked him how they might help him and what they could do both for him and also to be able to see their little girl again.

"When he called, I genuinely wanted to reach him," Marietta says. "I don't think he was expecting that. And I really meant it with all my heart."