Melissa Nielsen kissed her husband Curtis goodbye and told him she would see him soon. She then left for her daily morning walk around their neighborhood in Rigby, Idaho.
Within minutes, Curtis’s phone rang. It was Melissa’s friend saying she’d discovered her on the side of the road. Curtis rushed to the scene, where he found his wife lying on the ground. Their next-door neighbor, Lincoln Lear, was standing nearby in horror.
Lincoln’s life was already deeply difficult. His wife suffers from a debilitating respiratory condition. In 2014, the couple lost their oldest son to a neuromuscular degenerative disorder. Then came the news that their two other children have the same disorder.
That morning, Lincoln said he had been driving to work and reached down to plug in his phone to charge. In that moment, he swerved and hit Melissa.
As Curtis knelt beside his wife’s body, their four children (ages fifteen, eleven, eight, and four) were sleeping at home. “I started breaking down,” he recalls. “I started to pray. I knew she wasn’t going to be with us after this.”
However, Curtis knew Melissa would want him to forgive Lincoln. So that’s exactly what he did.
Lincoln was subsequently charged with vehicular manslaughter and pleaded guilty, but Curtis has been supportive of him. Lincoln’s offense is punishable by a year in jail and steep fines, but Curtis insisted he not go to jail or pay anything. “He was always being tortured enough by his own actions,” Curtis explained, “and I didn’t want to jeopardize him not having time with his own family.”
Lincoln says, “I feel so grateful. Everybody’s been so supportive, caring, and sympathetic. If his attitude was different, I’d be in jail.”
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