Mother of DUI Victim Finds Peace With Her Daughter's Killer
Looking at the mangled wreck of twisted steel brings back the day that changed Renee Napier's life.
"It's horrific, you know it really is, to think about the fact that she got crushed," said Napier.
Her precious 20-year-old daughter Megan was killed while riding in the passenger seat of the car. But what will shock you is this: Napier has not only forgiven the man responsible for her daughter's death—she even thinks of him like a son.
"I'm still blown away every time I hear the story about how you've come to forgive the guy who killed your daughter," said the driver, Eric Smallridge.
It was a Mother's Day, Megan and her best friend Lisa were driving home. Eric Smallridge had 14 beers in him when he got behind the wheel and slammed his Jeep into the girls' car.
"I can't even imagine what was going through her mind at that moment," said Napier.
Both girls were killed instantly.
Smallridge—handsome, clean-cut, a college athlete—was convicted of DUI manslaughter.
At sentencing, he got 22 years in prison and broke down in court.
"I know I've done wrong, and I need to be punished," said Smallridge.
"I believe that the tears were definitely real," said Napier.
"She never once looked me in the face and told me that she hated me. The first thing I heard from her mouth really was, 'I forgive you,'" said Smallridge.
Renee did something many people will find remarkable—she actually petitioned the court, which agreed to cut Smallridge's 22-year sentence in half.
"He was going to be in prison 22 years. That was huge because that's like another life that's lost in this whole horrible tragedy. I could hate him forever. Will that bring my daughter back? No," said Napier.
Now, Eric Smallridge's face is on billboards with the words: "I Drank, Drove, Killed."
Flanked by cops—because he is still incarcerated—Smallridge travels to Florida schools and sits in the audience as Napier speaks to students.
"We definitely do not plan to bury our children. That was most devastating moment of my life," Napier told an audience of students.
Then the big moment: she introduced the man who killed her daughter, and the two embraced for everyone to witness.
Smallridge showed the students one of the prison uniforms he has worn for 9 years.
"At no point did I think I would cause so much pain to so many people," Smallridge told the audience.
To drive the danger home, the wrecked car was driven into the school parking lot. It was a moment of sincere reflection.
"I think it's incredible that she has forgiven him," said one student after the presentation.
"I don't know how she could do that," said another.
Together, Napier feels she and Smallridge are delivering a powerful message of faith and forgiveness.
For more information, please visit Rene Napier's website: http://themeagannapierfoundation.com/home.php