Watch CBS News

Thousands expected to mourn death of Mary Johnson-Roy, Minneapolis woman who forgave her son's killer

Mary Johnson-Roy will be remembered as a pillar of the Minneapolis community
Mary Johnson-Roy will be remembered as a pillar of the Minneapolis community 02:09

MINNEAPOLIS — On Saturday, thousands are expected to mourn the loss of a pillar in the Minneapolis community.

In 1993, when he was 16 years old, Oshea Israel shot and killed Mary Johnson-Roy's only son Laramiun Lamont Byrd at a house party in the Twin Cities. For 12 years, Johnson-Roy lived with pain and resentment until she went to visit Israel inside Stillwater prison.

"Even though I was a Christian woman I was full of hatred," Johnson-Roy recalled. "I wanted the worst for him and the worst was going to prison for the rest of his life. I saw him as an animal and he should be caged."

But when she went to visit him, her life changed yet again.

"God changed my heart," she told WCCO in 2011. "I mean, he delivered and set me free the day Oshea and I met in 2005."

RELATED: Love thy neighbor: Son's killer moves next door

Together, Johnson-Roy and Israel traveled across the country telling their story of reconciliation to anyone who would listen. They spoke in front of community groups, told their story on national television, even speaking with heads of state. Johnson-Roy also started a group called "From Death to Life" to help mothers who lost their children to gun violence.

Johnson-Roy died on March 27 at the age of 71. Her legacy lives on through Israel and her granddaughter, Rosalynda, a woman who never met her father.

Oshea Israel (left) and Mary Johnson-Roy (right). WCCO

"It happened five months after I was born, so I'm the one who is supposed to carry it on and keep on going," said Rosalynda Boykin-Byrd. "People do deserve a second chance. You can't always beat down somebody because of a wrong that they did. There is good in people."

Boykin-Byrd still has questions for the man who took her father's life. But she is willing to work with him to continue to spread her mother's message of love.

MORE NEWS: Sister of missing Minnesota woman Maddi Kingsbury says her pleas for help on TikTok generated more tips

"The fact that she is no longer here now, here we are," said Israel. "So the work that she put forth 'From Death to Life', is like really still going. It didn't die with her. It's in good hands."

Johnson-Roy's celebration of life will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m. at Shiloh International Ministries in Minneapolis.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.