The widow of Minnesota First Baptist Church Pastor Verlyn Strenge reportedly surprised the court on Nov. 24 as she told the drunk driver who killed her husband, "I forgive you."
Inforum said that Strenge's 66-year-old widow, Merry Gale, walked up to the driver, David Nelson, together with her children after the court's hearing to hug him and tell him him upfront that they forgive him. The family of the deceased assured Nelson that they will be praying for him and his family while he serves his three-year sentence in state prison for vehicular homicide. They also urged Nelson on the need to forgive himself for taking away the life of the head of their family.
"I forgive you, David. Please forgive yourself," Merry said before hugging Nelson.
Prior to this very emotional moment, CBN News highlighted that the court's Judge Eric Schieferdecker was shocked to witness and hear something he had never seen and heard before. First Baptist Church member Rick Moore initially caught everyone's surprise when he spoke in behalf of the congregation addressing Nelson.
"We have been forgiven so much, how could we not forgive you," Moore declared.
Moore's statement was then followed by that of Jayme Nelson's, the daughter of Strenge, that eventually brought County Attorney Katy Lorsback to tears.
"We forgive you, Mr. Nelson. As hard as it was at first, we want you to know that we have been praying for you for the past year, because we know your life has been impacted by the biggest mistake of your life," Jayme stated.
The Christian Headlines reported that Mr. Nelson responded to the tremendous gift he received by apologizing for his actions. He expressed appreciation for being forgiven by everyone he has hurt for the crime he committed.
"I very much appreciate the forgiveness aspect of what they brought up. I decided today I was not going to ask for it," Nelson said.
Strenge has been a pastor of First Baptist Church in Clearbook for 25 years when the incident happened on Nov. 10, 2020. Strenge is already regarded a pillar of his community such that many found it difficult to accept the loss of his presence, as shown in his obituary. Strenge died almost a month after the incident, on Dec. 6, 2020.
The Legal Advocate reported on Nov. 10, 2020 that Strenge was driving with Merry, then 65, on Highway 92 in Bagley when they were "sadly victimized" by Nelson. The Strenges were on their Jeep Cherokee and were driving north when they were rear-ended by Nelson's Ford F150 around 10:32 p.m. Nelson was drunk.
The Strenges were said to be in "unspecified life-threatening injuries" despite both "wearing seatbelts" at the time of the crash. Strenge was then brought to the Fargo Hospital while Merry was brought to the Sanford Bagley Medical Center.
The Christian Post said investigation showed Nelson was overspeeding--driving at 70mph in a 30mph zone--since he was drunk. Records show that Nelson's blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit thrice--level 0.267--at the time of the incident after consuming mixed drinks when he was hunting.
Nelson's overspeeding caught the attention of a local fire chief who decided to follow him after receiving calls from 911 that he was "running cars off Highway 92." Lorsback said during the hearing said that Nelson was already difficult to stop because of his speed that was due to his foot being stuck to the truck's accelerator pedal.
"By the time he reached Bagley, he was unstoppable. And in the final moments before he struck the vehicle, his foot was jammed onto the accelerator. The black box in the vehicle showed from the time he entered the intersection to the time his truck was disabled he never took his foot off the gas," Lorsback revealed.