A Mother and a Murderer: The Unlikely Duo

Mary Johnson outlived her son, something no parent wants to see happen. Mary’s son, Laramiun Byrd, was taken from her in 1993 after an altercation outside of a party ended in a fatal shooting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Oshea Israel was responsible.

Is it possible to forgive the man who murdered your child? Apparently, yes.


In a StoryCorps audio special, Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel speak to one another about forgiveness. Now 34, Oshea has finished his twelve-year prison sentence for second-degree murder… And is now living next-door to his victim’s mother.

Click here to listen to the full audio story.

The two first met when Mary visited Stillwater Prison, where Oshea was serving time. She was curious as to whether or not her son’s murderer was still the same boy she despised in court the day he was convicted. This meeting changed the way Oshea looked at his actions, after seeing the mother of the man whose life he took.

“He became human to me.”

At the end of the visit, Mary broke down in tears and Oshea was there to offer support, in whatever way he could given their current relationship. In what seems to be impossible, they hugged.

“I just hugged the man who murdered my son.”

This moment in time was a revelation for Mary as she recalls, “I instantly knew that all that anger and animosity, all the stuff I had in my heart for 12 years for you… I knew it was over. That I had totally forgiven you.” Oshea responds to this with admiration, noting that he still has not completely forgiven himself. Mary is teaching Oshea how to forgive. 

Oshea goes on to express his gratitude for Mary, his utmost respect he has for her.

“You still believe in me. And the fact that you can do it despite how much pain I’ve caused you… It’s amazing.”

Mary Johnson holds a necklace featuring photos of her son, Laramiun Byrd, and his murderer, Oshea Israel.

The audio story is a beautifully crafted narrative that becomes even more powerful with the medium it’s presented through. The audio really allows the listener to feel the emotions in both Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel’s voices.

With a simple text story, the emotions would not be felt the way they are when heard. With a video, the raw feeling would be lost beneath the images. StoryCorps used audio to present the story in the only way that would allow it to could truly shine.

In a touching tribute to Laramiun Byrd, Mary and Oshea show the world that despite treacherous obstacles, forgiveness is possible. Their genuine relationship is a reminder that we all have the capacity to love with all of our heart, even if some of that love is directed towards someone who has caused you immeasurable pain and suffering. In simpler terms, love will light the way.

What I can take from this storytelling approach is a new, effective way to express emotions through a medium. It’s important to choose an approach that fits the criteria you’re working with. StoryCorps story offered a multitude of subjective quotes that were felt on an incredibly deep level just by listening to them being said by the person who truly felt the words. Just listening to Mary and Oshea’s dialogue was enough for me to understand their relationship, as complicated as it may seem to outsiders. I found this story to be incredibly inspiring, not just because of the content offered but because of the way it was ultimately crafted and presented.