HomeTop StoriesThousands expected to mourn the death of Mary Johnson-Roy, a Minneapolis woman...

Thousands expected to mourn the death of Mary Johnson-Roy, a Minneapolis woman who forgave her son’s killer

MINNEAPOLIS— On Saturday, thousands are expected to mourn the loss of a pillar in the Minneapolis community.

In 1993, when he was 16 years old, Oshea Israel shot and killed Mary Johnson-Roy’s only son, Laramiun Lamont Byrd, during a house party in the Twin Cities. For 12 years, Johnson-Roy lived with pain and resentment until she went to visit Israel in Stillwater Prison.

“Even though I was a Christian woman, I was full of hatred,” Johnson-Roy remembers. “I wanted the worst for him and the worst was for him to go to prison for the rest of his life. I saw him as an animal and he had to be locked in a cage.”

But when she went to visit him, her life changed again.

“God changed my heart,” she told WCCO in 2011. “I mean, he freed me the day Oshea and I met in 2005.”

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Together, Johnson-Roy and Israel traveled across the country telling their story of reconciliation to anyone who would listen. They spoke to community groups, told their stories on national television and even spoke to heads of state. Johnson-Roy also started a group called “From Death to Life” to help mothers who lost their children to gun violence.

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Johnson-Roy died on March 27 at the age of 71. Her legacy lives on in Israel and her granddaughter Rosalynda, a woman her father never met.

Oshea Israel (left) and Mary Johnson-Roy (right).


“It happened five months after I was born, so I’m the one who has to carry it on and keep going,” Rosalynda Boykin-Byrd said. “People deserve a second chance. You can’t always beat someone because of something wrong he or she did. There is good in people.”

Boykin-Byrd still has questions for the man who took her father’s life. But she is willing to work with him to continue spreading her mother’s message of love.

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“The fact that she’s gone now, here we are,” Israel said. “So the work she put out ‘From Death to Life’ still continues. It didn’t die with her. It’s in good hands.”

Johnson-Roy’s celebration of life will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday at Shiloh International Ministries in Minneapolis.

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