It was 2003 when 23-year-old Thomas “Bart” Whitaker and his family shared a celebratory dinner in honor of Thomas’ college graduation.
But underneath Thomas’ outward smiles and jokes was a sinister plot to murder his parents and 19-year-old brother.
Thomas had hired his college roommate to enter his parents home with a gun. Upon returning from dinner, the gunman shot and killed Thomas’ mother and brother, and seriously wounded his father, Kent Whitaker.
Thomas, now 38, is on Texas death row, scheduled for execution on Feb. 22, 2018, for masterminding the murder of his family. But his father is pleading for his son’s life to be spared and his sentence to be commuted to life in prison.
At the time of Thomas’ sentencing, the jury was lead to believe that the 23-year-old was after a $1.5 million inheritance. But Kent Whitaker insists that his wealth was overexaggerated in court, and that his son suffered from mental health problems.
Whitaker has since processed the tragedy, healed, and forgiven his son for murder.
His faith in Christ, Whitaker says, is where he found the strength to move forward and the inner peace that comes with forgiveness.
“If he was going to ever trust God, I realized that he needed to believe that forgiveness was available to him,” Whitaker explained.
“And if Dad could forgive him, then maybe God could forgive him.”
He doesn’t want his son to die. As the sole surviving victim of his son’s crime, Whitaker feels he would only be further victimized, watching his last living child die behind a panel of glass.
“I have seen too much killing already,” Kent Whitaker told the American-Statesman. “I don’t want to see him executed right there in front of my eyes.”
The 69-year-old Whitaker has asked state officials for mercy, but so far, to no avail.
Whitaker says that if his son is indeed executed as planned, he and his new wife, Tanya, will be there.
“As he goes to sleep, I want him to be able to look at me and see that I love him,” Whitaker expressed. “I really want him to know that I forgive him, that I love him.”
In the face of an epic betrayal, Whitaker’s story is a powerful example of the choice to forgive.
While Whitaker cannot control the outcome of his son’s sentence, he has the one thing that nobody can take away from him — his faith in God.
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