Sue Fridsma fumbled over her words, struggling to deliver one final message to her nephew, Andrew De Young, before he was executed by the state of Georgia.
Fridsma contemplated whether this visit would be her last. She did her best to put her feelings into words, waiting for prison officials to cut into her conversation with De Young.
As the hours passed and appeals were exhausted, Fridsma made peace with the moment’s finality.
“I knew there was nothing more I could say,” Fridsma said. “There was nothing more I could do.”
De Young died at 8:04 p.m. on July 21.
De Young was executed for the 1993 murder of his parents, Gary and Kathy, and his 14-year-old sister Sarah, over a $480,000 inheritance he hoped to use for a business venture. His younger brother Nathan escaped unharmed. The family had belonged to New Hope Christian Reformed Church in Dunwoody, located in Atlanta, Ga.
Fridsma, a member of Willard (Ohio) CRC, was Kathy De Young’s sister.
The day before De Young was executed, he handed Fridsma a one-page letter. He apologized for the pain he had caused. He pledged to spend the final hours of his life in prayer, although he wondered if God would hear him.
Fridsma had made the 12-hour drive from Ohio to the Georgia prison a dozen times over the past 12 years.
For Fridsma, De Young’s execution brought 18 years to an emotional close.
“It was all over, but it was sad,” she said.
De Young’s execution came nearly two decades after the three murders sent shock waves through New Hope Church, where De Young’s father served as an elder and where his mother created colorful stained glass windows.
Several families subsequently left the church, which currently includes only a few members who knew De Young.
New Hope pastor Rev. Paul Hackett said the church council voted not to discuss the matter in the days leading up to De Young’s execution.
Fridsma has remained in contact with De Young for more than a decade. De Young’s maternal grandparents visited for 15 years until they were no longer able to travel. Both Fridsma and her mother communicated with De Young through weekly letters.
After years of letter writing and annual visits, Fridsma left the prison one final time, still unsure of De Young’s spiritual well-being. In visits and in letters, he told Fridsma that he believed in God but that he struggled with who God is and whether he would be forgiven.
Fridsma said that Nathan had met with his brother a few times over the years, that Andrew had apologized, and that Nathan had forgiven him.
Fridsma has sensed God’s presence throughout her journey with her sister’s killer.
“God has been over this the entire time,” she said. “I just hoped that ever time we spoke to him or visited Andy that the love of Jesus Christ would come through.
“That’s all we ever wanted.”