Story of a Steubenville Murder

Story of a Steubenville Murder February 2, 2016

Christ the King Chapel, Franciscan University of Steubenville

Tonight I attended a gathering of Catholic businessmen and women in Savannah. After a delicious dinner, the speaker was introduced. She was a simply dressed woman, with black hair, and a sweet smile. When she began to speak, she spoke softly, yet with great conviction.  At first, she was tied to her prepared text, but she quickly relaxed and relied less on it. I had not picked up her name when she was introduced, but I knew that she would speak about forgiveness. Her son had been killed some years ago, and she was going to share with us about her personal journey of forgiveness. She spoke about her two sons, Christopher and Brian, who were very close to each other as they grew up in suburban Columbus, Ohio. Her eyes sparkled with the joy and pride of a loving mother. These two boys, born nineteen months apart, were inseparable and devoted Catholics.

View of the city of Steubenville

Suddenly it hit me unexpectedly when she said, “after high school, Christopher went to a university about two hours away from home… a university that sits on top of a hill.” I could feel the neurons in my brain connecting dots. This woman was the mother of Brian Muha, a student of my alma mater who was brutally murdered two years before I transferred to Franciscan University of Steubenville.

Downtown Steubenville

During my time at Steubenville, everyone knew that Brian Muha and Aaron Land had been senselessly murdered in May of 1999. The upperclassmen remembered the murder. Two drugged young men entered Brian and Aaron’s off-campus apartment early one morning, dragged them out, drove them to Pennsylvania, and shot them both on a hill off Highway 22. Rachel Muha’s telling of this devastating story was humbling and enlightening. I was humbled by her great courage. Though visibly painful for her, she told the story knowing that by telling it, the lives of others will be transformed. Tears streamed down her cheeks, tears that spoke of unspeakable loss. This woman had the courage to cry in public as she shared with us her deepest wound. I was also enlightened by her presentation. Her practice of forgiveness is truly admirable. Hearing her speak of her decision to forgive the men who murdered her son revealed her magnanimous soul. Rachel Muha is a woman who could understandably harbor deep hatred for the murderers, yet she has chosen, with God’s grace, to forgive. She has not absolved the men of their crime, but she has forgiven them by wishing them good things, in particular, wishing them the greatest good, which is eternal life with Jesus Christ.

Highway 22 bridge over the Ohio River

Rachel stated that “we are by grace what God is by nature.” It is only through God’s grace that we are able to forgive those who have harmed us, and by doing so, we are liberated from anger, hatred, and frustration. To forgive is our choice. It is through forgiveness that evil loses and God is victorious.

I approached her afterwards and gave her a hug. I thanked her for sharing her story.

Ten years ago Rachel founded the Run the Race Club, a program that reaches out to young people in the Columbus, Ohio area, especially inner-city kids, so that they may grow in virtue and develop attitudes that will help them grow towards happiness. She hopes that this way, children who would otherwise grow up to be like her son’s murderers, will have an opportunity to be productive members of society. This is truly admirable. Not only has she forgiven those who took her son away from her, but she is actively healing the root from where the two murderers came. She is providing for inner-city youth what her son’s murderers lacked when they were growing up, love and attention. She may not be able to revive Brian (though she knows with certainty that she will see him again), but she can help by doing what she can to avoid a future senseless murder. What an admirable soul.  We can all learn so much from her, a woman of true forgiveness.

These are my own photos, all rights reserved.

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