Excerpt for Gone in an Instant: Losing my son, Loving his killer by Tammy Horvath:
After several more negotiations, the Assistant District Attorney contacted me in early December 2018. They wanted to know if I’d agree to a plea deal of thirty to sixty years. In my opinion, anything less than life without parole was unfair, but I also knew it wasn’t really up to me since the DA’s office, not me, would make the final decision. Asking for my input was simply a courtesy to the victim’s family.
In the end, I agreed to the plea deal, as did the defense. A few days later, I received a call informing me that Wednesday, December 12, 2018, would be the date for Tyrone’s sentencing. I would have the opportunity to present a victim’s impact statement during the sentencing.
This was all happening right before Christmas. I was emotionally distraught and cried so much that I was having a hard time functioning at work. I originally prepared just three short, simple points for my impact statement. But God had other plans. On the morning of the sentencing, I listened to a daily devotion from Saddleback Church (drivetimedevotions.com) as I did every morning. God never fails to speak if we listen for his voice. By the end of the short broadcast, it couldn’t have been clearer what God wanted me to say to Tyrone.
Mike, my mom, my sister Jamie and her husband Jerry, and a couple of Luke’s friends accompanied me to the sentencing. My stomach lurched with nervousness as we arrived at the courthouse, but I was also energized that this would finally be over.
As we were escorted to our seats in the courtroom, I spotted Tyrone seated at the defense table with his public defender. He was reading some legal documents, and it seemed odd that he wasn’t wearing any handcuffs. If he was a dangerous killer, why wasn’t he in handcuffs? I reminded myself that God was with me and that one of the most repeated commands in the Bible is to “fear not.”
Everyone stood as the judge entered the courtroom. After we were all seated, the judge read off the charges against Tyrone, including criminal homicide and robbery. I was so emotional I couldn’t stop shaking. Just then I noticed that no one was on the defense side of the courtroom. Not a single member of his family had shown up to support Tyrone.
With that sad realization, a love only God could give overwhelmed me for this young man. It was so intense I felt my heart was going to burst. I wanted to sit on his side of the courtroom so that he wouldn’t be alone.
About ten minutes later, my shaky legs barely got me to the front of the courtroom to give my victim impact statement. I waited to see if Tyrone would look at me. He didn’t, so I began.
“Tyrone, when I was listening to a devotional program this morning, God laid on my heart what he wanted me to say to you today. It was a Christmas-themed devotional, and the word for today was love. So I’m going to share that devotion with you.”
For the first time, Tyrone glanced at me. I went on, “If I asked you to summarize Christmas in one word, you might say giving or joy or family, maybe even hope. But the essence of Christmas at its very core is about love. L-O-V-E.” I spelled out the individual letters. “In fact, maybe the most well-known verse in the Bible is John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.’”
Praise God. I now had Tyrone’s full attention. “That’s it. Christmas is all about love. The love of God who was willing to step into the brokenness, messiness, and sinfulness of humanity and redeem us to himself. Just think about the depth of God’s love for you by answering this question. If you knew your son was about to die unjustly because of something someone else had done and it was within your power to prevent his death, wouldn’t you stop it from happening?”
Was I getting through to Tyrone? I prayed for God to speak to his heart as I continued, “Of course, you would because you love your son. Imagine then how much God must love you that he would give his only begotten Son to take your place and die for you even when you were sinning against him. The Bible says while we were sinners, Christ died for us. It may not seem to make sense that God would love you and me so deeply. But it’s true. The manger shows it. The cross proves it. We worship the only God who loves sinners. He loves the world even when we are sinning against him, and he wants us to love others even when they sin against us.”
I finished reading the devotional, then looked directly into Tyrone’s soul. “Tyrone, because I am a follower of Jesus, I am required to forgive you. And I have forgiven you from the moment you took my son’s life from this earth. I want you to know that God will also forgive you if you ask him. The Bible says that if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us. But the Bible also says we reap what we sow. I believe thirty years is too short of a sentence for taking my son’s life. But in those thirty years, God is also giving you a chance to find him. And maybe someday you will feel the need to let me know why you decided to kill my son Luke.”
Shakily, I rushed back to my seat. Now it was Tyrone’s turn to agree to the charges. I tuned everything out, feeling vulnerable and crying a little. At one point, the judge asked Tyrone if he wanted to say anything.
“No.” But just as the judge started speaking again, he looked at me and interrupted her. “Your Honor, I do have something I would like to say.”
“Do you want to speak to council first?”
“Then go ahead.”
Tyrone turned and addressed me directly. “Like you said before, I don’t have any children, so I can’t really begin to imagine what you feel.”
I was stunned at his words. I’d gotten through to him. God had gotten through to him. Oh, me of little faith. Why did I ever doubt the all-powerful, all-knowing, almighty God?
I had tears in my eyes as Tyrone continued, “There was a reason behind what I did. It may not be right, and I don’t want to put it on record, but given a chance, I will have my lawyer contact you. All I want to say right now is I apologize for your loss. If I could take it back, I would.”
Whether he was saying this because he’d been caught or because he genuinely wished he’d never killed my son, I couldn’t know. But I felt so blessed God was granting my plea that Tyrone would speak to me that I found myself smiling at him as joy washed over me like buckets of cool water on a sweltering day. Finally, I’d been promised answers as to why he’d shot my son.
Jumping up, I begged the judge. “Your Honor, would it be possible to hug him?”
My whole family and the ADA gasped. Then everything was silent except for the hammering of my heartbeat. The judge pursed her lips and stared at me. I held my breath, saying a silent prayer that God would give me this. I really wanted to hug Tyrone. I wanted him to feel my love.
It felt like minutes passed, though I’m sure it was only seconds. Then the judge said emphatically, “No, not for a few reasons, okay? Because he is incarcerated.”
My heart dropped to the floor. Pain swept over me like a rip current grabbing hold and pulling me under. I couldn’t breathe as I plummeted to the ocean’s floor. Back in my seat, tears poured from my eyes like water from a faucet, knowing I wouldn’t get the chance to hug Tyrone. Beside me, I could feel Mike’s relief. I knew my husband well enough to guess he was figuring Tyrone might very well snap my neck if he got his large bony hands on me. But at that moment, I didn’t care.
Tyrone was still staring at me, so I looked him straight in the eyes and said with complete sincerity, “I’m sending you a hug, Tyrone. I really wish I could give it to you in person.”
After the sentencing, I tried to get permission to visit Tyrone in prison. I found someone willing to talk to Tyrone on my behalf, and Tyrone agreed to see me. But I wasn’t able to get authorization to visit him. So I did the only thing I could. I sent him another message to let him know it wasn’t my choice not to see him.
I didn’t know if Tyrone had people in his life who’d let him down, but I didn’t want to be one of those people. He would have a long life ahead of him in prison, and my heart broke for him. I could not explain my love for him, a love which only God could have placed in my heart. He remains on my daily prayer list, and maybe someday God will open the door for me to share God’s love and forgiveness with him in person.
Review from the United Kingdom with the link embedded:
Lisa 5.0 out of 5 stars powerful and candid memoir of forgiveness Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 1, 2022
Losing a child has to be every parent’s worst nightmare. Having that child murdered horrifically is beyond imagining for most of us, but not for Tammy Horvath. Given the distressing subject, I was initially wary of reading ‘Gone in an Instant’, Tammy’s incredible memoir of love, loss, and forgiveness. I had, however, read so many reviews praising the book, I put my qualms aside and I’m so pleased I did. ‘Gone in an Instant’ is a powerful, well-written and candid memoir which draws the reader in and leaves you flapping, open mouthed in awe at Tammy’s resilience and strength. Could I have forgiven the man who murdered my son? I really think I could not, but Tammy can, and does. She pulls no punches about her, or her son’s, past mistakes but rises incredibly above them all to forgive, even as she faces his killer. Wow!
Whether climbing pyramids in Mexico, scaling glaciers in Iceland, or island hopping in the Caribbean, Tammy Horvath lives life to the full. She loves getting immersed in a good book (reading it on the beach), playing pool, or singing karaoke—although she’s severely voice challenged to the point where her husband only lets her sing at home. She has a background in real estate and insurance, and for over ten years, she’s volunteered with a Christian nonprofit that serves children at risk around the world. Tammy lives in western Pennsylvania with her amazing husband Michael. Contact author at firstname.lastname@example.org
Social Media Links:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Tammy-Horvath-Author-105123048249378
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Tammy-Horvath/e/B088TW87D3?ref_=pe_1724030_132998060
Amazon book link: https://www.amazon.com/Gone-Instant-Losing-Loving-killer-ebook/dp/B09PJQWNYV/
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gone-in-an-instant-tammy-horvath/1137019625?ean=9781736886113