A Kentucky courtroom became overwhelmed with emotion this week after a father forgave his son's killer and offered sympathy to him and his family.
On April 19, 2015 investigators say 22-year-old Salahuddin Jitmoud was delivering a pizza to an apartment complex in Lexington, Kentucky when he was was stabbed and left to die in the breezeway.
According to our affiliate WDKY, three men were arrested for the crimes but a grand jury only chose to indict 24-year-old Trey Relford for murder.
Relford was charged with murder, robbery and tampering with evidence.
On October 26, Relford pleaded guilty and took a conditional plea to charges of complicity to murder, robbery and tampering with evidence.
If Relford had pleaded not guilty and gone to trial, he could have faced the death penalty.
On Tuesday, Jitmoud's father gave an impact statement during Relford's sentencing. He said he forgave his son's killer to honor the spirit of islam.
"Islam teaches that God will not be able to forgive" someone until the person who was wronged forgives that person, Jitmoud told CNN affiliate WKYT. "The door of opportunity for God to forgive him is open. ... So, reach out to Him. You have a new chapter of good life coming," he told Relford in court.
Dr. Sombat Jitmoud described his son as gentle, generous, and shy.
Salahuddin Jitmoud was such a warm, unassuming character. A humble soul. We often talk about his raps, and how we could use music as a vessel for good. Would never imagine he'd be stabbed to death. Allah yar7ama.— Kayem (@thisisKayem) November 8, 2017
His father told the courtroom that on the night his son died, he had one more delivery to make before coming home.
Then Dr. Jitmoud shocked the court when he told Relford he forgave him for killing his son.
"I'm angry at the devil who misguided you to do such a crime," Dr. Jitmoud said.
Before he left the stand, Dr. Jitmoud made one last plea to Relford to let police know who cut his son's throat. It was a request that led to an emotional moment in court for the judge, who called for a recess.
When the proceeding resumed, Relford's mother took the stand. She said she believe her son started using drugs around the 10th grade, and that they were unsuccessful getting him help.
"I take total, full responsibility for the loss of your beautiful son," she said. "I am deeply sorry for your loss. I am shocked at your forgiveness."
Then Relford himself stood up in court and addressed the victim's family while wiping away tears.
“I’m sorry about what happened that day. I do applaud you because it takes a powerful man to know that someone has hurt them and to get up there and say what you just said. I can’t imagine the hurt, the pain. There’s nothing I can do. Thank you for your forgiveness.”
Afterwards Dr. Jitmoud offered the 24-year-old a tissue before embracing him and sobbing members of both families in a hug.
According to CNN outside the courtroom Dr. Jitmoud told reporters he whispered into Relford's ear to "do good deeds" when he gets out of prison and that he has "confidence that Allah is forgiving."
During closing statements, the prosecutor Kathy Phillips said that while the victim's family may forgive him, Relford still hadn't accepted responsibility for the crime.
She cited evidence that Relford had downloaded an app so his cellphone number couldn’t be identified and that he, along with two other men, called multiple pizza restaurants and stalked other delivery drivers before targeting Salahuddin Jitmoud.
In his only statement pre-sentencing, Relford said “some associates and I drove around making crank phone calls to Pizza Hut. On the second call, someone killed and robbed the guy.”
Phillips argued that Relford knew what he was doing and that the violent crime had been premeditated. “His actions, not the drugs, brought him here," she said.
While Relford has maintained that it was one of the other two men who killed Jitmoud, Phillips said the evidence indicated that it was actually Relford himself.
“He set up the robbery, he provided the knife, he tampered with the evidence, and he is the one who ate the pizza afterwards,” she said.
In the end, Relford took a conditional plea to charges of complicity to murder, robbery and tampering with evidence and was sentenced to 31 years in prison.
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