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Cold Case: Son ready to forgive mother's killer

11:51 PM, May 2, 2013   |    comments
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It's been more than 17 years since an elderly woman was found dead in her Knoxville home, and while police work new leads, her son is ready to forgive the killer.

France Worthington was sexually violated and murdered on New Year's Day in 1996 on Price Avenue.

"My brother and sister and I got together and started piecing together information throughout the day," said Dr. Everett Worthington, France's son. "I remember just getting absolutely furious. I was, felt like my face was going to explode, my adrenaline level was just through the roof."

Worthington's brother, Mike, found their mother on the blood-stained carpet.

"Although he only saw her body for just an instant, he said to me he had just thought about it continually," said Worthington. "A very gruesome and upsetting sight. One that I'll just never forget."

Police said the killer tried the front door, but broke through the back door.

"Everything was in disarray, tore things up. It was a very messy, chaotic crime scene. Especially for the son to walk in and see," said detective Jeff Day, with the Knoxville Police Department Cold Case Division.

Five years later, in 2005, Mike Worthington committed suicide.

"He got so depressed, he would go into his room on Saturday, draw the blinds, and just not be able to come out for a full 12 hour Saturday," Worthington recalled.

Now, Day said he is working new leads on the cold case. He said there are two suspects, one who lives out of state.

"We've sent some evidence to the lab that was never tested for DNA. So we've got some things in a private lab, actually, for DNA testing as we speak," said Day.

As for the motive, Day said it appears to be a burglary turned barbaric. A crime that may seem unforgivable to many.

"I was so angry I pointed to a baseball bat on the wall and I said I wish whoever did that was here, I would beat his brains out. And I really, at that moment, meant that," said Worthington.

Worthington had just turned in his first book on forgiveness when his 76-year-old mother was murdered. He said it was months before he could talk about what happened with anyone other than his wife.

Since then, he has written many books, several on forgiveness. As a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, he said he hopes to use his personal tragic experiences to help others.

"I wanted to do all that I could possibly do promote forgiveness in every willing heart, home, and homeland," said Worthington.

He said he struggled forgiving himself after his brother committed suicide, inspiring his newest novel.

"I have been dealing with my own self-condemnation over not being able to help my brother. Here I am, a clinical psychologist, and he is talking with me, person to person, and saying how he is experiencing this, what I thought was post traumatic disorder," said Worthington. "Really did not help him the way that I should have. And really that took me a long time, like three or four years, to really come to a place where I could forgive myself."

Now, his latest novel entitled "Moving Forward" has turned into his life mission, but it is one he cannot conquer without the public's help.

Worthington said he is ready to forgive whoever killed his mother, but police need more details to track down the murderer.

"Someone that was your mother, your grandmother, your neighbor, your friend, your church member, anything, you would want someone that knew to help you," said Day. "With her age, and as helpless as she is, it seems that victims like that need, they need a voice."

Day asked anyone with information on France Worthington's murder to call 865-215-2693 . Any information could lead to the arrest of a suspect, and help serve justice so Worthington can move forward and forgive whoever killed his mother.

"Without forgiveness, there's no future," said Worthington.

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