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He Shot Her in the Mouth During a Mugging—26 Years Later, She Lets Him Kiss the Bullet Wound

“Let’s not waste his life.”

As Ian approached his second Christmas behind bars, he gathered the courage to place a collect call to Debbie.

“What do you say to somebody you shot, you know?” Ian explains. “As soon as she accepted the call I said, ‘Miss Baigrie, this is Ian. I’m just calling to tell you I’m sorry for shooting you, and I wish you and your family a merry Christmas.’”

Debbie says that the call came as a complete shock. “I was shaken by it because [the attack] was still so fresh at the time,” she said. “But he called to apologize. I found it unusual and rare, especially from somebody that young.”

Soon after that, he began sending letters, which at first Debbie admits struggling to believe were written by him.

“His letters were so articulate and he was so young,” she said. “I don’t even know if he had started high school yet.”

After being transferred to another prison, he continued to write Debbie and tell her about his experience and time being locked up.

“I thought, wow, this kid is smart,” she said. “Let’s not waste this life. Let’s give him a chance. He was smart, he was remorseful.”

So she began writing him back.

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Photo: YouTube

The two quickly developed a tight bond. They’d even call themselves friends. Debbie even began going to his court hearings, and the two would casually exchange waves.

But many of Debbie’s friends and family members didn’t understand her empathy. Some of them still don’t, often calling her delusional and foolish.

“I figure if I didn’t help and support him, it would be a life lost,” she said. “And my life wasn’t lost, and I felt like his punishment was way beyond what it should have been.”

At the beginning of his sentence, Ian was placed in solitary confinement, a measure taken according to officials because of his age and size. Though their interests seemed protective, the isolation did more harm than good. It had a severe impact on Ian’s mental health.

“Once in solitary confinement, it’s very hard to get released without achieving performance objectives that were impossible for a 15-year-old boy who had been told he would die in prison,” said Bryan Stevenson, the founder and executive director of The Equal Justice Initiative.

Ian repeatedly acted out, which ultimately cost him nearly 20 years separated from other people in prison.

In 2010, the Supreme Court threw out life sentences for Juveniles, and Debbie began advocating for Ian’s early release, arguing that he had served sufficient time.

After being thrown out completely, his life sentence was reduced on two separate occasions.

On November 10, based on time already served, Ian Manuel was released from prison at the age of 39.

A Second Mom

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Photo: Debbie Baigrie

Once his release was processed, he was headed to Alabama to join a program that helps former child inmates adapt to life outside of prison.

But first, he had one very important stop to make. He met Debbie at a Florida gas station, and the two embraced like the old friends that they’ve become.

“I didn’t feel like I was hugging a stranger,” Ian explained. “Debbie’s not only like a guardian angel, she’s like a second mom.” His real mother, along with other immediate relatives, died while he was in prison.

“I got to do something that I had only dreamed about for so many years,” he said. “I got to kiss her on the same exact spot that the bullet either went in or came out.”

Right down the road, just a few blocks from where the shooting took place, the two friends shared slices of pizza, snapped selfies and talked about future plans. Debbie shared photos of her daughters who were 1 and 3 when she was shot.

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Photo: Debbie Baigrie

Ian is now adjusting to his day-to-day life. It’s a slow and long process, but Debbie and his legal team are helping him through it. She hopes her friendship with Ian will inspire others to forgive.

“We all make mistakes, we all try our best and life is so short,” she said. “And if anybody knows how your life can be gone in one minute, it’s me. I understand that. We have to forgive, because it helps us heal.”

**This article originally appeared on faithit.com on November 29, 2016. 

Bri Lamm
Bri Lamm
Bri is an outgoing introvert with a heart that beats for adventure. She lives to serve the Lord, experience the world, and eat macaroni and cheese in between capturing life’s greatest moments on one of her favorite cameras.

Chip and Joanna Gaines: 11 Godly Secrets to an Epic Marriage and Family

Chip and Joanna Gaines are teaching us important lessons about marriage and family as they walk away from their HGTV show for the sake of their family.

‘My abuser is here today’: Miss Kansas Uses Interview Portion of Pageant to Call Out Abuser Before Being Crowned

Miss Kansas 2024, Alexis Smith, has captured national attention not just for her beauty and charisma, but for her bravery in addressing a deeply personal and harrowing issue: domestic abuse.

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