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By Eun Kyung Kim

Debbie Baigrie is the most unlikely advocate for the man who, as a teenager, shot her in the face and then received a life sentence for the crime.

But the mother of two says Ian Manuel, who was 13 at the time of the 1990 shooting, has served his penance and deserves to be freed from prison.

Here’s how their connection developed:

  • The phone call: Around Christmas a year after the shooting, Manuel placed a collect call to Baigrie. “I was shaking and just very, very shook up by hearing his voice."

  • The letters: Baigrie started corresponding with Manuel, who told her about his family and troubled past. "I went back, for many years, back and forth between anger, sadness, pity. I felt everything, the whole gamut.”

  • The bond they built: Baigrie helped Manuel get his high school equivalency degree. She testified in favor of reducing his sentence. "Anybody has the capacity to forgive," she said. "You don't have to forget, but you have to say, I have to forgive you because I have to move on."

Manuel’s sentence has since been reduced to 65 years, but Baigrie believes he has served enough time and deserves to be released. She said her two adult daughters don’t understand her compassion and can’t bear to hear his name.

Follow writer Eun Kyung Kim on Twitter.