ROME, Ga. - A new state program designed to help crime victims cope with the pain, brought a local family face-to-face Thursday with the man who nearly killed them.
Susan Pelfrey and daughter Tina Curtis decided to meet convicted DUI offender Chad Abernathy at a Georgia State Parole office in Rome.
“We needed him to see us. To know that we’re OK. To know that he’s forgiven,” Pelfrey said.
The accident happened in July 2006 on Interstate 75 in Gordon County. Four members of the Pelfrey family were badly injured in the crash. The wreck was caused by a drunken driver.
"The victim has to initiate it. He or she has to decide they want to have dialogue. The offender has to agree to be a part of it,” said parole board program manager Keir Chapple.
The offender also has to take full responsibility for the crime. It’s a new initiative supervised by the State Board of Pardons and Paroles. It's all to help victims put painful memories to rest.
“They don’t always go away perfect, that everything is fine. But they feel like they’ve done all they can do,” Chapple said.
For Abernathy's part, after seven years behind bars, he apologized.
“If I can change it, I would. But I can’t. I just told her from the deepest part of my soul that I’m truly sorry,” Abernathy said.
All of the victims accepted his apology.
“As time went on, it was one of those things you didn’t want to talk about. It happened. It’s over. We’re moving forward,” Curtis said.
"Our lives will no longer be defined as before the accident and after the accident. This has been excellent closure for us. Now, we just move forward,” Pelfrey said.