True Christmas spirit, from a slain man's grieving parents

Amid their agony, James Marcus Howe's parents express compassion for the people who killed their son.

It's a tragedy that has drained the joy from a family's holiday and mocks peace-on-Earth pretensions:

James Marcus Howe was shot to death on his front porch in a tussle with thugs trying to force their way into his home the day before Thanksgiving. His wife was wounded and hospitalized, his young son traumatized.

His friends, co-workers and Glassell Park neighbors are stunned and horrified by the slaying of the 42-year-old director, an up-and-comer in the world of reality television.

And his grieving parents are salting their mourning with prayers for his killers.

Police believe it was a random attack, committed by strangers posing as door-to-door solicitors. The LAPD has posted surveillance video of a getaway car online, and the City Council has offered a $75,000 reward for information leading to the killers.

A news conference held last week to publicize the case had its requisite players:

The victim's friends shared stories of his loving nature, the local councilman expressed neighborhood outrage, police officials warned residents not to open their doors to strangers.

But it also offered something extraordinary that I won't soon forget:

Howe's parents — here from Chicago to bury their youngest child — extolled his virtues. They challenged witnesses to come forward and wept at the thought of him bleeding to death "right on the front porch of the house he was living in."

Then came the proverbial question some reporter always asks: How do you feel right now?

"Angry," his father said, gripping the lectern and swallowing hard. "I am angry that the people that did this did not get enough love in their lives."

::

Allan and Jeanne Howe are peace-loving Mennonites. There's no room in their faith for vengeance, judgment or hate.

"When Jesus says love your enemies, do good to those who hurt you … we take that pretty seriously," said Allan, a minister and retired university professor. "The Christian faith underlies everything we do."

The Howes, who adopted James Marcus when he was 5 months old, are committed to following Jesus' example of compassion and forgiveness — even if that requires painful reconciliation with incomprehensible loss.

They raised their son in a "Christian community," and they don't just mean neighborhood. Their three children spent their early years in the Reba Place Fellowship, a group of shared homes and apartments in Evanston, Ill., where Mennonite families live, worship, pool their money and look out for one another.

Maybe that's why the boy they called Marcus grew up so big-hearted and trusting. It would have been just like him, they said, to open the door to a stranger, even in a neighborhood that's considered a little rough around the edges.

"I'm sorry the people who killed my son couldn't know what they were doing," Jeanne said. "If they had known him and he had known them, he would have won their hearts; he was such an outgoing person."

The Howes learned of his death from their daughter-in-law, who called from the hospital.

"She said 'Mommy Jeanne, are you sitting down?' And I said yes. She said someone came to the door and rang the bell .... that she had been shot. That Marcus had died."

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