was a healing process for both of us”
interview with Rodney Bowser, who forgave his sister’s murderer
By Ines Aubert, Prisonersolidarity.org
June 4, 2007
1985 and 1986 Glenn L. Benner II - called Bimbo - killed two young
women: Cindy Sedgwick, 26 and Trina Bowser, 21.
He was executed at the Lucasville prison in Ohio on Feb. 7 2006.
Rodney is the youngest of Trina’s four older brothers. He
talked to Glenn on the day of his execution. Shortly before the
execution was carried out, Rodney told his sister’s murderer
that he forgave him.
Hilary Hughes from Ireland was Glenn’s closest friend. She
witnessed his execution.
The questions were asked by Ines Aubert of lifespark (www.lifespark.org).
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Rodney, you’re the relative of a murder victim. Can you tell
us very briefly what happened to one of your family members and
A: As far as
my sister, who was one of Glenn Benner’s victims, it goes
like this. It was New Years Eve 1986 and my sister didn’t
return home from a friend’s house. We received a phone call
from a trucker who was driving down the expressway and noticed a
car on the side of the road on fire. He put out the fire and called
my parents from a check stub he found with her phone number on it.
My parents called me and I drove right to their house where we proceeded
to drive to Trina’s car. We saw footprints in the snow so
we assumed she was walking through yards to get home the back way.
We decided to check the trunk to see what she took with her. We
kept an emergency supply in there at all times for her. We opened
the trunk and there she was. She was partially naked with her fur
coat thrown over her. Her feet where tied together and she had items
tied around her neck. She was cold and lifeless. We were in shock
and couldn’t even move. We didn’t cry, scream or anything.
We just stood there. The police finally showed up and removed us
from the crime scene. No one knew for 20 years that I was there.
It wasn’t until the police chief revealed that information
in his letter to the parole board at his clemency hearing that I
was present that night. My baby sister was taken from me in a way
that has scarred me for life.
It touched me very much to read what happened to your family and
I’m sure it will touch everybody who reads it, too. How do
you feel about all of that today? Does it still affect you in your
A: Yes, but
in a completely different manner. My life is no longer filled with
hate and revenge. I spoke with Bimbo the night before on the phone
and in person the day of the execution. I gave up my seat to be
a witness. My three brothers witnessed the execution. I no longer
wished to be a part of it. My brothers haven’t spoken to me
for over a year now. The relationship I had with my mother is different.
The one person who I least expected to understand was the person
who completely understood, my father. He told me the day I walked
through the door after returning home from the execution that he
knew I was different. My whole family didn’t want me to talk
to Bimbo because they were afraid it would screw me up more. My
dad knew something happened to me but it wasn’t bad. We didn’t
discuss it for some time.
The conversations and meeting with Bimbo have definitely changed
my life. Some see it as for the worst (because they don’t
understand), but my daughters and I see it as something wonderful.
They told me they were never as proud of me as they are now.
How did you feel when your life was still filled with hate and revenge?
hard to explain, but I’ll give it a try. I guess the biggest
thing was the fact that my sister and I were so close. The anger
I had was because the one sibling in the family that I got along
with was not there anymore. My brothers and I have never been close
so I felt like I was on my own. Going through the trial was very
difficult because of hearing all the gory details that came out.
Watching all the politics being played and learning how our legal
system works, was overwhelming. I was given the role of family spokesman
so I had to make sure I knew everything so I could relay it back
to the family. Explain what was going on and go over it again and
again. Well, that all was burned into my memory so there really
wasn’t a chance to forget it. No sooner would you get a break
from it than something would come up in the court system and you
would have to start all over and relive it all over. This went on
for 20 years. I wanted to talk to Bimbo since day one and he never
would. Even at the end, his lawyer was against him speaking to me
and the victims’ advocates, who had their own agenda and did
nothing to see that our meeting would happen.
Then finally, on January 30, 2006, we were to meet. I was scared
to death, yet in a way relieved. The night before the meeting it
was cancelled. The anger and hate continues but now it’s directed
towards the people that are trying to stop this meeting. My time
is running out. The victims’ advocates wanted us to speak
to each other by writing questions and him writing answers. He did
not want to do this nor did I. What were they all scared of?
It was to be a private conversation between Bimbo and me. It was
none of their business. I was the one that had everything to lose.
I was told over and over again that he might go off and start screaming
things I didn’t want to hear. It was a risk I was willing
to take, so why were they determined to not let us meet? We had
to fight all his appeals and all the other legal issues and then
on top of it sit back and get screwed over by our own legal system.
Do you see now where all the anger and hate came from? THE BIGGEST
THING WAS THE FACT THAT BECAUSE OF ALL THIS I COULDN’T REMEMBER
MY SISTER ANYMORE. She was just now a news item that brought back
I’m deeply touched by what you’ve told me. I feel how
hard it must have been for you. There’s one hope in my heart:
did you finally manage to find the good memories of your sister?
A: Yes, I remember
her like she was before. It is a feeling that I’m glad I have
back. It is wonderful to be able to talk about her again. Her name
wasn’t mentioned much or talked about because the subject
brought so much pain. That was all part of the anger.
My daughters have finally learned about their aunt. They now know
who was in all the pictures. About a week after the execution, my
daughters went to my mom’s and asked her about Trina. What
a joy that was for her. She pulled out the albums she had made of
Trina and sat down and told them all about their aunt.
Finally, after 20 years, my mom was able to begin the healing process.
Trina is talked about all the time now. I knew I was given a gift
when I could talk about Trina without breaking down. This was part
of the gift Bimbo gave me. I know that may seem strange, but after
meeting him Trina was back in my heart in a good way and I knew
she would be there to stay. I’ve seen photos of my sister
that I didn’t even know were around. It’s a feeling
that I never want to lose again.
Your comment about how you hope people around me support my forgiving
Bimbo; well, that doesn’t exist here. Like I told you my daughters
told me how proud they were of me and would have been disappointed
had it turned out differently, but as for my family they are not
and haven’t spoken to me since that day. My dad was proud
of me but kept his opinion from my brothers.
I’m not sure honestly how my mom feels. She is upset because
the family is torn apart but deep down I don’t know how she
feels about what I did. I LOVE MY SISTER TRINA AND MISS HER DEARLY,
but I am thankful that I can now remember her for who she was. Hilary
Hughes will be coming to the states next month (May 07) and we will
finally get to meet each other. My girls are looking forward to
meeting her also. This is another good thing that came from Bimbo,
he put her in contact with me and we have helped each other through
the healing process.
I’m lacking words a little. Rodney, would you like to insert
a picture of Trina? Right now and here in this interview?
What made you turn to forgiving Glenn after all those years?
A: Sorry it
has taken so long to get this answered, but I needed to review all
my notes from the night before and the morning of the execution.
I hope I can put it into words that you can understand. This is
not how I expected things to turn out. I knew for several weeks
that something was guiding me to push for this meeting even though
everyone was telling me it was not a good idea. I began to believe
they were right and maybe I should just settle for watching the
Still things were happening that I couldn’t explain. I got
lost driving and ended up driving past where my sister was murdered.
I heard the song we played at my sister’s funeral on the radio
four times in one week, a song I haven’t heard in 20 years.
I was at work and my sister-in-law called to say a meeting was set
up for me and Bimbo to talk. I left work and on the way home the
song came on the radio yet again. Too many coincidences to overlook.
I knew my sister was leading me to do this, to meet Bimbo. I had
to go with my gut feeling and do this. This was what I wanted for
Finally, he called me and we began to talk. I knew after speaking
to Bimbo on the phone the first time that there was something different
in me, but didn’t know how to deal with it. I was calm and
not scared by what we had already discussed. I spoke with a man
who I hated more than anything else and yet felt no desire to yell
and scream and call him names. I didn’t understand what was
happening to me. I’m sure he expected it and I was waiting
for him to do the same, yet neither of us did. Why? That’s
the big question I had to ask myself.
During our second talk that night it was becoming more obvious as
to why. We both needed this for our own reasons. I was looking for
answers to questions that had haunted me and he was looking for
a way to do something good for someone since he had done so much
wrong in his life. We met in the morning before the execution and
he finished answering my questions. It was the scariest thing I
ever had to do, but when I walked up to his cell and was face to
face with him it was like I was there for a completely different
reason. We spoke quietly to each other. There was no anger or hatred.
He put his hand on my arm and there was no reaction from me. I didn’t
jerk it away or even flinch. There was such calmness about him that
I knew he wasn’t scared to die.
He told me
he wanted to die and had for a long time. He didn’t want to
stay in prison anymore; he wanted to go on to bigger and better
things. My time was up and he told me he hoped that this would make
me better again and that he was sorry for what he had done. I thanked
him for talking with me and shook his hand when I left.
I returned to the family waiting area, but was only there for a
short time. I asked to be removed and they put me in a holding area
all by myself. I couldn’t stand to be around everyone waiting
for a person to die. I knew they had the right to feel the way they
did, but I also knew I no longer felt that way. It all came to me
while I was in that room because, you see, I went from hating Bimbo
to hating where I was and why I was there. I knew it was time to
do what I knew in my heart was right and what Trina would have expected
me to do. I asked to make a phone call and they granted my request.
I called over to Bimbo’s cell, but couldn’t speak with
him because they were getting him ready for the execution. I spoke
with the chaplain and told him who I was and asked if he would give
Bimbo a message from me. He said he would. I told him to thank Bimbo
again for me and to tell him, “I FORGIVE YOU.” He said
he would personally give Bimbo the message. I didn’t know
for weeks afterwards whether he got it or not, but found out that
he did get it and how much it meant to him. I know this will be
hard for some people to understand, but no matter what was said
or what happened, nothing will ever change what he did. I know that
and he knew that. My sister won’t come back to life. What
happened was he gave me her memory back and took away all that hate.
I gave him what he wanted, but couldn’t ask for. We both ended
up better because we got what we searched for. No matter what anyone
says or thinks, I will know for the rest of my life that even though
the odds were completely against us, two things brought us together
that day: GOD AND MY SISTER, TRINA.
What do you think it meant to Glenn that you talked to him shortly
before his execution? How did he react?
A: Bimbo and
I started our conversation on the phone the night before the execution.
He called at about 8:30 pm. We talked for a while with a lot of
strain between us, but we eventually got past that. He went very
slow and was just as scared as I was. I asked why and he said he
was expecting me to go off on him and was not prepared to have a
calm conversation like we were having. I told him I was expecting
to have the same.
We talked about Trina and he would answer my questions as I put
them to him. We would get off the subject and talk about other things
in between. It kept him and me calm and let us both stay focused.
He was very caring about the way he answered my questions and I
thanked him many times for that. He never once was crude or vulgar
about the way he answered my questions.
We took a pause halfway through and reminisced a little about our
childhood. When we started talking again was when he made the statement
that he knew he had screwed up by not talking to me years or even
months earlier. He told me that it was in his best interest not
to speak with anyone in the family and that even now he was going
against his attorney’s advice. He said it was something he
knew he needed to do. He said he had a change of heart when he saw
me on the news at his clemency hearing and felt he needed to try
and do whatever he could to help me get past this.
He felt that after talking with me things might have turned out
differently for him. He told me he would do everything he possibly
could to talk with me in the morning at the prison. He told me to
think of what other questions I had and he would answer them tomorrow.
I told him I would be there and we hung up.
He called back a few hours later to tell me that our meeting might
not come through. There were too many people that didn’t want
it to happen. He asked if we could continue with the questions now
in case our meeting fell through. We did talk more about it that
night and he was amazed at how much detail I could recall and basically
knew a lot of the answers before he gave them. When he seemed to
get lost I would walk him through the events. He asked me why the
things I needed to know were so important when to him they weren’t.
I gave him the answer because it filled in the unknown questions
and also told me if he was telling me the truth. He told me that
tonight wasn’t about him, it was about me and whatever he
could do to help me get past this was something he needed to do.
I believed him and knew he was telling me the truth about that night.
He asked if there was anything else he could do and I said, “Would
you tell me what you are going to say to the family tomorrow before
the execution.” He asked why and I told him it was because
I wouldn’t be in there to see it because I didn’t need
to watch him die anymore. He got all choked up and read me his statement
to the family.
He wanted to ask me something, but didn’t feel he had the
right to. He told me to get on my way and our meeting would take
place tomorrow. We said goodbye and I left for Lucasville. Bimbo
needed to talk to me just as much as I did to him. It was a healing
process for both of us. I thanked him for talking with me and he’ll
never know how much it has helped me.
What do you think it meant to Glenn that you talked to him shortly
before his execution? How did he react? (This same question is now
answered by Hilary Hughes, Glenn’s closest friend)
A: Bimbo shared
with me over the years how devastated he was that he had caused
so much pain to people by his actions. He never made excuses to
me and took full responsibility for his actions, though he could
not understand how he could have done the things he did. He never
expected forgiveness from any man. He would say “Hil, there
are some things that cannot be forgiven. How can I make any excuses
for what I did, and the lives I destroyed?” He accepted forgiveness
from God, but found it so hard to forgive himself. We discussed
him apologizing to the families he had destroyed many times, but
he was always advised against doing that, and he felt maybe people
might think he had an ulterior motive and was looking for forgiveness,
which, as I said, he never even imagined he would receive. He was
also afraid that contacting the people whose lives he had destroyed
might cause them even more pain. Over many years he planned and
we discussed what he would say on the day of his execution. He wanted
to avoid the use of the word “I” for he would say,”
this is not about me”. He wanted to say he was sorry at the
last possible minute, for he did not want anyone to think that he
was looking for anything for himself in return for his apology.
Every day, over many many years, he prayed for the people whose
lives he had destroyed, and for many years we fasted together on
a regular basis for their peace and healing. He felt that was the
only thing he could do. We wrote his obituary together, and he wanted
his last words in that also to be words of apology.
When he first heard that Rodney wanted to speak with him, he was
a bit apprehensive for he was told that Rodney would probably shout
hateful things at him though he said to me “there is nothing
that Rodney could say to me that I have not said to myself.”
He wanted to speak with Rodney just the two of them, face to face,
but this was not going to be allowed, and he also heard that their
conversation would be recorded - he did not want this - he felt
if this all got to the press they would just stir things up and
make things even more painful not only for the Bowser family, but
for his family and loved ones also. The face-to-face meeting planned
in Ohio State Penitentiary did not take place because of the conditions
attached to it.
The night before he was killed he had an opportunity to speak with
Rodney by telephone. He spoke with me first, and I know how nervous
he was about this, but he was really glad of the opportunity to
talk with Rodney one on one. He felt this was a gift from God. They
spoke for quite a long time on the phone, and Bimbo answered questions
that had been torturing Rodney since Trina had been killed. Following
their conversation, Bimbo and I spoke on the phone for about an
hour and a half. The conversation with Rodney had a very emotional
effect on him - the fact that Rodney had not spoken to him as a
man full of hate really blew him away.
On the morning of Bimbo’s execution, during my cell front
visit with him, a Guard came and spoke to us both and said that
it had been agreed that Rodney, who was in the prison, could speak
with Bimbo face to face, if he agreed (this was the first time,
and as far as I know, the only time this kind of meeting has happened
in Ohio). We were told that we would have to cut our visit short
by 15 minutes in order for this to happen. We agreed immediately,
and Bimbo said that he would meet with Rodney as long as the conversation
could be between just the two of them.
Following their meeting, Rodney called back and left a message with
the Chaplain at the prison that he forgave Bimbo.
I did not speak to Bimbo again, though I watched him being killed.
In the execution chamber he said his words of apology to the three
of Trina’s brothers who were there as witnesses (Rodney was
not a witness). Later the Chaplain came and spoke to us in the family
room, and said that Bimbo had asked him to tell us that he had been
forgiven. To be honest, I did not understand the significance of
this until much later, when I read in a newspaper article that Rodney
had forgiven Bimbo and left a message that he was told this. Some
weeks later I contacted the Chaplain to confirm for both Rodney
and myself that Bimbo had received this message, and I asked what
his reaction had been. I was told that he had indeed received the
message from Rodney and that “he had been tearful”.
Bimbo and I were very close - soul friends, we would say - so I
know that the greatest gift he ever received in his life, and one
he had never imagined he would receive, was those words of forgiveness
So much healing has come out of this amazing gift of Rodney’s
- all over the world people have been challenged by what he has
done. When Bimbo and Rodney spoke on the Monday night, Bimbo asked
Rodney to keep in contact with me, and he also asked me on the phone
later to keep in contact with Rodney. We both said we would. I now
consider Rodney a good friend, and he has helped me so much through
these very difficult months since Bimbo was killed. I speak to him
from the heart, I trust him, and I know he understands. He knows
about grief, and he also knew Bimbo and recognized him as the person
that God created him to be, rather than focusing only on the horror
of what Bimbo had done to his sister. I will be visiting Ohio for
the first time since Bimbo was killed in May 2007. Rodney and I
will be meeting face to face for the first time. I am looking forward
to getting to know Trina better through him. This is something that
neither Bimbo nor I could ever have envisaged happening. As far
as I am concerned, it is truly a miracle. Rodney’s unbelievable
gift of forgiveness is bringing Hope and Healing out of the most
horrific of tragedies.
Thank you, Hilary.
Rodney, I bow down before you. This interview started with a horrible
crime and ended with a great gift of forgiveness and love, as it
was in reality. Thank you so much for sharing all of that with us!
I wish you the best of luck in all that you do!