A woman who was shot in the face back in 1990 gets to meet her assailant Monday in a gas station parking lot. Debbie Baigrie fought for the man’s freedom and finally got him free after 26 long years.
Manuel, the Debbie Baigrie shooter, was just 13 when he shot her in downtown Tampa, leaving her critically injured. He was arrested a few days hence in a totally unrelated case and later confessed to shooting Debbie on the fateful July night.
Debbie Baigrie: Fight For Manuel’s Freedom
Manuel never gave up fighting for his freedom, nor did Debbie. As reported by NBC 8, he had earlier agreed to a plea deal hoping he will be sentenced just for a few years. But, that didn’t work in his favor — the judge awarded him life sentence.
Things changed, however, as the Supreme Court ruled out life sentences for Juveniles in 2010. A Hillsborough County judge realized Manuel had received a fair share of his punishment and could be released. On Nov. 10, Manuel’s release orders were being discussed; he finally walked out free Monday morning.
“It was like this reunion with a long lost son. I got out of the car, and we just hugged for two minutes. It was very like 26 years in the making,” said Debbie, who kept fighting for Manuel’s release.
Debbie and Manuel sat down later in a pizza joint for the latter’s first meal as a free man.
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“It’s the fact that he survived against all the odds and solitary confinement for over 20 years. He educated himself; he came through this and he came through it as a nice guy, not hardened,” were Debbie’s emotional words.
Return To The Civilized World
Manuel, now 39, has enrolled in a program which will help him re-integrate into society. As soon as he was set free, the first person he wanted to see was Debbie, said a report by Today.
“I got to do something that I had only dreamed about for so many years,” said Manuel who almost killed the woman 26 years ago. “I got to kiss her on the same exact spot that the bullet either went in or came out.”
Debbie’s sympathy for her shooter had been controversial for many. While some would call her delusional, others said she was suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
“I figure if I didn’t help and support him, it would be a life lost,” she argues. “And my life wasn’t lost, and I felt like his punishment was way beyond what it should have been.”
Debbie who hopes her friendship with her shooter will inspire others to forgive, said, “We all make mistakes, we all try our best, and life is so short.”
“And if anybody knows how your life can be gone in one minute, it’s me. I understand that. We have to forgive, because it helps us heal,” she further added.
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