MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Families of the murder victims in the 2013 Centennial Hill Bar and Grill shooting experienced justice this week for the first time in nearly four years.
Barbara Green has mourned the loss of her daughter, Kimberle Johnson, every waking moment since she was killed in December 2013, days after her 21st birthday. Tuesday, she felt the early stages of closure as Darius Thomas, the first of three defendants went to trial.
"I prayed he would take a plea", Green said of Thomas. "A plea was presented to him last week at the pretrial hearing, and he didn't take it."
Green said she made constant eye contact with Thomas during the trial proceedings. Thomas was indicted on capital murder for two people, for her daughter's death and the death of Glenn Thomas – also known as local rapper Doe B, reckless murder for the death of Timnarious Hamilton, two counts of murder, and three counts of first-degree assault.
"He always looked at me. He knew Kim was an innocent bystander," Green said of Thomas.
After the jury was seated and the first witness left the stand, Thomas had a change of heart and pleaded guilty to three counts of murder. He asked to speak to the victims' families.
"Tears began to roll down his face," Green remembered. "He said he was sorry that he took my child and for what he had done."
At that, the grieving mother shared what she'd been waiting nearly four years to say.
"I told him I forgave him and I had forgiven him since day one," Green said. "I have to have peace. I have to have serenity in my soul and my spirit to move on with life."
Green said she never wanted to do harm or hurt any of the defendants. On Tuesday she felt compassion.
"All I wanted to do was to grab him and hold him," she said.
Christmas Day would have been Kim's 25th birthday. This week after the plea Green felt she was able to put up her tree and decorate for Christmas.
"I wake up thinking of Kim. I think of her all day and I think of her as I go to sleep," the mom said. "This year on Christmas we will go out to the cemetery and put happy birthday balloons on her headstone and celebrate her birthday."
Green credits her faith in God for the strength to go on, describing the loss of her daughter as a spiritual journey.
"Prior to Kim passing, my prayer was 'God I give her back to you,'" Green explained. "I don't know why I said that because she was living, and ten days later she was gone. Kim is in a better place. She was my only child and she meant everything in this world to me outside my relationship with Christ."
Thomas will be sentenced in January. The trials for Jason McWilliams and Taboris Mock haven't been rescheduled.