Tony Rossi, Director of Communications                                        

June 6, 2021

Mercy in the Footsteps of Jesus 

On April 7, 1990, Jeanne Bishop felt overjoyed for her sister Nancy and brother-in-law Richard, who

announced she was pregnant. The next morning, that joy turned to devastation when Jeanne received

a call saying that Nancy, Richard, and their unborn child had been murdered. Jeanne sobbed at the

news and raged at God, “Where were You when this happened?!”

 

It was only after police revealed a particular detail about the crime scene that Jeanne moved beyond her anger. During a “Christopher Closeup” interview about her memoir “Change of Heart,” she explained, “In Nancy’s last moments, she had dragged herself across this basement floor where they’d been shot…And next to where her husband lay dead, she had dipped her finger in her own blood and written the shape of a heart and the letter U, next to him: Love you. I knew that nothing but the presence of God in her last moments could explain the serenity, love, and strength to do that…That changed everything for me. I knew the response to this could not be hate. It had to be something much bigger.” 

It took six months for the killer, David Biro, to be caught. He was only 16 years old and received a sentence of life without parole. Jeanne noted, “I had always opposed the death penalty, and I opposed [it] after my sister’s murder, even more because I saw that shedding more blood…and creating another grieving family like mine was never going to heal us, that it was only going to drag me closer to who the murderer was.” 

Jeanne put Biro out of her mind for 20 years. She began work as a public defender in Cook County, Chicago, and kept running into people that prompted her to think about mercy more deeply. She came to see life without parole sentences for juveniles as “merciless [because]…it forecloses any possibility of redemption, change, and remorse.” And when she once described Biro as “remorseless” to legal scholar Mark Osler, he responded, “How do you know? You’ve never even spoken to him.” 

Despite not feeling like reaching out to Biro, Jeanne did it anyway, explaining, “It was realizing that as Jesus hung on the cross, He was praying for the people who were killing Him, who had not apologized, who weren’t sorry. And this was completely an act of trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.” Twenty-three years after the murder, Jeanne mailed Biro a letter saying, “I forgave you a long time ago, and I never told you…I waited all these years for you to apologize to me. I’ll go first. I’m sorry. And I’ll come see you if you want.” 

Biro answered her letter with his own. Jeanne recalled, “It was his confession for the first time ever, and this expression of deep remorse, shame, regret, heartbreak. He had waited to hear from me because he didn’t want to traumatize me by reaching out and having to see his name in the mailbox unexpected. It was his expression of empathy for my family…and inviting me to come and talk to him about what happened.” 

Jeanne visited Biro in prison, and has done so several times since then, because she believes he is truly repentant. She added, “At first, the guards didn’t know…that I am the family member of the murder victims that brought [Biro] to that prison. Some of the guards have asked me about it, and I’ve gotten to give my Christian witness to them about this forgiveness.”