Amazing grace: Dad forgives daughter's killer, inscribes poetry book to him
Lorenzo Araujo, 69, told Jeremiah Jakson that his daughter Laura would have also forgiven her murderer.
Lorenzo Araujo would have been forgiven had he railed at Jeremiah Jakson, cursed the day he was born, wished him a life of pain.
Jakson, after all, killed Araujo's 23-year-old daughter, Laura, in July 2014. He strangled the recent Art Institute of Philadelphia graduate, stole some of her things, stuffed her body into a duffel bag, and dumped her in a North Philadelphia lot.
Instead, what happened as Araujo stood in a Philadelphia courtroom Friday to make a victim-impact statement before the 25-year-old Jakson was sentenced left veteran prosecution and defense lawyers stunned and still talking four days later.
Araujo, 69, told Jakson that he forgave him and "hoped he found some peace in his life."
And then the Oklahoma City psychiatrist took out a pen and a book of poetry he wrote reflecting on his daughter's death – dedicated to "my daughter and her murderer" – and inscribed the book to Jakson before handing it to a sheriff's deputy to give to him.
"I have never seen anything like it," said Jakson's attorney, Andres Jalon. "He's a magnificent man, an amazing man."
Jalon said Jakson accepted the book and had trouble maintaining his composure.
Assistant District Attorney Gail Fairman, a veteran homicide prosecutor, described it as one of those rare moments when individual character and spirituality rose above the horror of a homicide trial.
Fairman said Araujo described a "deep spirituality" he shared with his daughter and said she would have wanted him to do this.
"He thanked everybody, and he said he wanted to show [Jakson] that there was still love for him in the world," Fairman said.
Araujo's book of poetry, A Journey of Life, Death and Rebirth with My Daughter, was published last year and is available online. Araujo said that proceeds from sales of the book would go to create a foundation in his daughter's name to people to travel to help others abroad and to fund prisoner education.
Araujo could not be reached Tuesday for comment. A native of the Dominican Republic, he has published several books of short stories, poetry, and literary critiques. He and his wife, Anania, 55, attended the trial.
Jakson was found guilty and sentenced Friday by Common Pleas Court Judge Glenn B. Bronson, who heard the case without a jury. Jakson waived his right to a jury trial in exchange for the prosecutor's agreeing not to seek the death penalty.
The verdict carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole, but Bronson tacked on 62 1/2 years for robbery, burglary, and abuse of corpse, calling Jakson's conduct "despicable."
Jakson testified in his defense, blaming the murder on another woman, but his defense was undercut by an ATM surveillance video that showed him trying to use Araujo's bank card at a local gas station.
In July 2014, Araujo and Jakson, a sometime security guard and aspiring musician, were living in different rooms on the same floor of
a boarding house on 40th Street near Brown, in Mantua.
Araujo, who volunteered with a Christian outreach group and taught English as a second language, had all her possessions packed in her 2011 Toyota RAV4. With a new degree in fashion marketing, she was looking for a new job and a new place to live.
Around 3 a.m. July 14, 2014, police found Araujo's Toyota reeking of gasoline and ablaze on Bambrey Street near Tasker, in South Philadelphia.
Later that day, police found Araujo's bound body in a lot near an abandoned house on Third Street near Susquehanna Avenue in North Philadelphia. Her belongings were scattered around her.
Police suspected Jakson because he went to the emergency room of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania shortly after the burning SUV was discovered, seeking treatment for burns to both forearms.