Grieving parents forgive drunken driver

Debbie and Tim King of Fruitvale admire a painting of their daughter, Rebekah, who was killed by a drunken driver. Through their spiritual quest, the Kings met with the driver, Henry Stoltman, at Mesa County Jail. “We’ll continue to write, go visit him,” Debbie King said.

In the end, Tim King prayed for his daughter’s killer.

Not for his death.

It wasn’t a desperate cry for revenge.

What King calls the “acid” eating away in the lives of some victims of crime had been drained long ago at the family’s Fruitvale home.

On March 22, Tim and his wife, Debbie, sat in a conference near the Mesa County Jail and clasped hands with Henry Stoltman, the killer of 20-year-old Rebekah Joy King, and asked for what they believed was the one thing they should ask for.

Restore Henry Stoltman.

“I asked (God) for him to have new beginnings and put the old things behind him, start looking at being new,” Tim King said.

The Kings’ meeting with Stoltman, now serving a 12-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to vehicular homicide in Rebekah King’s death, was nothing short of remarkable and a rarity in Mesa County criminal justice for a case of such gravity, local system observers said.

“Typically, victims are not interested in facing the offender,” said mediator Laurel Jones, who was present for the March 22 encounter as coordinator of Mediation Center of Mesa County. “Not only were they (Kings) so willing to meet, they were ready to make peace.”

Tim King said the couple’s spiritual quest drove their desire for the meeting.

“We knew there would be forgiveness down the road, but my own understanding of my faith goes beyond that ... it’s also reaching out and finding restoration for people,” King said.

“I think for us it was just a matter of getting a sense of him as a person,” he added.

According to accounts by the Kings and Jones, a shackled Stoltman was escorted into a conference room at the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department. He was shaking and had a written apology in hand.

A deputy waited outside the room as Stoltman read the letter, sitting next to the Kings.

The Kings said Stoltman expressed interest in a pursuing an appeal for a reduced sentence, but he pledged he wouldn’t file the appeal if it upset them. They said they wouldn’t object.

“I think he was still confused about the severity of the sentence,” Tim King said.

King said he told Stoltman about the early hours of Aug. 3, 2010, when he woke to a knock on the front door and thought his daughter had been locked out.

Instead, it was an investigator with the Mesa County coroner’s office.

King hopped in his car to gather his two surviving children, who met at King’s home and were informed about Rebekah King’s death.

With nearly four times Colorado’s legal limit for alcohol in his system, Stoltman was speeding east on F Road in his pickup when it slammed into a vehicle driven by King, who was headed to meet friends at a restaurant.

Her last posting on Facebook that morning read: “I’m going to make this a good day.”

The Kings’ March 22 meeting lasted roughly an hour. They said it won’t be the last.

“We’ll continue to write him, go visit him,” Debbie King said. “And who knows, after he gets out of prison.”

Tim King suggested parallels to his life and Stoltman’s circumstance.

A bitter split from the Baptist Church some 10 years ago, which King characterized as “like a divorce,” led King to involve himself with a new church that holds services in the living rooms of local homes, not a chapel.

The name: Restoration Ministries.

“We know the damage that can be done when people get ground up in the system,” King said.


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