JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The mother of Shelby Farah is sending a message of forgiveness after she was granted permission to have a face-to-face conversation Wednesday with James Rhodes, the man who killed her daughter.
Earlier this month, Rhodes, 25, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and other charges in the 20-year-old Metro PCS clerk's death. A judge accepted the plea, and Rhodes was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
After spending time in the same room with Rhodes, Shelby's mother, Darlene Farah, recounted their conversation to News4Jax. She also talked about why she has chosen to forgive him and why others need to learn to forgive -- not seek revenge -- when a loved one is killed.
But she didn't always feel that way. Long before she learned to forgive Rhodes for killing her daughter, Farah said, she felt differently.
“I wanted to take him out myself. I sat there in one of the court hearing trying to figure out how I was going to take him out," Farah said.
After using so much time and energy on hateful thoughts, Farah said, she eventually learned to forgive Rhodes.
“Being angry takes a lot of energy out of you, and forgiving doesn’t," she said.
Now, the mother has made it her mission to make sure others who have lost loved ones due to violence don't go out and seek revenge. She's also spreading her message to the younger generation.
"Look at all these young kids going around carrying guns when their friend gets killed. You report on this every day. What do they want to do, go kill the person? Hate is not the answer," Farah said.
On July 20, 2013, Rhodes went to the Brentwood cellphone store where Shelby was working and robbed her at gunpoint. Prosecutors said she cooperated with Rhodes, but that after she handed him the last bit of money, he fired four rounds, killing her.
Detectives arrested Rhodes at a bus stop off Atlantic Boulevard days later, after receiving tips from his relatives that he was the shooter. Investigators said Rhodes confessed after hours of questioning.
In addition to the first-degree murder charge, Rhodes pleaded guilty on March 2 to armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Rhodes' murder trial had been delayed four times while Judge Tatiana Salvador awaited guidance from the state Supreme Court on challenges to the death penalty, which former State Attorney Angela Corey refused to drop despite requests from Rhodes' public defender for a plea deal and repeated pleas from Darlene Farah.
Farah's pleas were finally heard by newly elected State Attorney Melissa Nelson, who approved the plea agreement that dropped the death penalty.
Less than two weeks after pleading guilty to murder, Rhodes agreed talk face-to-face with the mother of the young woman he killed.
“He came out and said all he ever wanted was a loving family, somebody to love him. He was really sincere. It's not the 'poor me' sympathy,” Farah said. “I told him, in the prison, he’s going to see lot of people come and go and to honor Shelby’s legacy he can reach out to them and try to put them on the right path.”
Farah said she will keep in touch with Rhodes to make sure he keeps a promise to honor Shelby by talking to younger inmates about his mistake and how to avoid making that mistake.