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Sister of victim forgave Joseph Paul Franklin a long time ago

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - It wasn't easy for Denna Lightner to forgive Joseph Paul Franklin. For many years she was bitter and hated the man who killed her brother.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) – Denna Lightner says she is at peace with the execution of Joseph Paul Franklin.
Franklin was executed early Wednesday morning after hours of delays.
He was convicted of several murders including two in Salt Lake City in 1980.

"I'm at peace with everything,” says Denna Lightner. “Yesterday it was harder than today.”

Lightner was 17-years old when her brother David Martin and close friend Ted Fields were gunned down near Liberty Park.
Franklin after his arrest claimed it was racially motivated.

“I never fathomed that it was an intentional assassination,” she says. “I never thought that way.”

Franklin was arrested in Kentucky about a month after the Salt Lake murders. He became a sniper using a rifle to kill his targets. He also wounded and paralyzed Hustler founder Larry Flynt.
His execution came shortly after 4 a.m. MST.

“I feel better now that he was ready to go and that he was sorry and that he knew the lord,” says Lightner. “Those three things have helped me to know its okay.”

Franklin finally apologized to her family and Ligthner says that’s what they had been waiting for. She sent Franklin a personal email at the Missouri prison.

“I just wanted him to know that I had forgiven him and I had forgiven him years ago,” she says. “I prayed for him years ago that he would come to terms with what he did and just be sorrowful for it and he finally was.”

Lightner doesn’t know if Franklin ever read her email.

After her brother’s murder, Lightner says it wasn't easy for her. After learning it was a hate filled crime, she was bitter.

“Oh I was angry then,” she says. “I was not the person I am now. I was very angry, incredibly angry.”

She remembered Martin and Fields asking her to go jogging with them. She refused. She later learned they were shot and Lightner rushed to the hospital.

“I got into the room and I saw him and he was ... they had cleaned him up,” she recalls. “I fell to my knees and when I did the sheet, I could see he had holes.”

Franklin and Lightner have one thing in common. Religion helped Franklin come to terms and Lightner says her religion healed her wounds.

“I'm glad today is it,” she says. “I'm glad and I really hope for closure for all of the other families involved because we've had closure for a while.”
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