RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - If someone violently beat and murdered your mother, could you honestly find it in your heart to truly forgive the killer?
That's exactly what happened to a VCU professor. He lost his mother and eventually his brother to a brutal crime. He had to learn to live the message he preaches every day.
For years, Everett Worthington lectured and even wrote book after book about letting go of grudges and bitterness.
"There's great power in forgiveness," said Worthington.
His theory was put the ultimate personal test New Year's Day, 1996.
"There was blood all over the walls. There was blood on the floor."
His 76-year-old mother, Frances Worthington, was sexually violated and murdered in Knoxville, Tennessee.
"It was a pretty horrific scene. A very gruesome and upsetting sight. One that I just will never forget."
Police believe this started as burglary, but quickly turned barbaric.
"Everything was in disarray, tore things up," said Detective Jeff day. "It was a very messy, chaotic crime scene. Especially for the son to walk in and see."
Worthington's brother, Mike, found their mother on a blood-stained carpet just outside her bedroom.
"Although he only saw her body for just an instant, he said that he just thought about it continually," said Worthington.
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 hours Saturday."
Everett - a licensed psychologist- had to learn to not only forgive a killer- but to forgive himself for not being able to help his brother.
"I was so angry, I pointed to a baseball bat against the wall and I said, 'I wish whoever did that were here. I would beat his brains out.'"
All that loss from a crime that, to many, may seem unforgivable. But Worthington found a way through the anger - to practice what he preaches.
"Chains fell off, a weight was lifted off my shoulders. I felt free. From research, I can tell you it helps with physical health, mental health, relationships, and spiritual life."
He says his mother got him through - she taught him any good virtue needs to be tested.
"That's where you find out whether you're just doing the comfortable thing or whether this is something real that's built into you."
Police in Tennessee just recently retested DNA from the crime and have new leads, possibly two potential suspects.
Worthington says he wants justice, but he's already forgiven the killer.