Mom forgiving son’s killer: ‘I just want to hug you’

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A 23-year-old man will spend the rest of his life in prison for two murders within a year. 

Vincente Rodriguez-Ortiz had to watch Tuesday as the families of the people he killed told the judge what they thought should happen to him. 

Rodriguez-Ortiz pleaded no contest to a charge of second-degree murder in the shooting death of 50-year-old mother Laurie Lundeberg in March 2017. 

Grand Rapids police originally said the killer and his victim had a dating relationship, but that was never formally established. 

Lundeberg’s murder might have remained unsolved if Rodriguez-Ortiz had not fatally shot 17-year-old Andrew Hawkins on Jan. 23, 2018, allegedly in a jealous rage. 

It was during questioning in the Hawkins homicide that the suspect made statements that led to his arrest for Lundeberg’s slaying

In February, a jury found Rodriguez-Ortiz guilty of first-degree murder in Hawkins’ death, putting him in prison for life without the possibility of parole. That sentence starts two years after he serves time for felony use of a firearm. 

A month later on the day his trial was supposed to start for the shooting death of Lundeberg, Rodriguez-Ortiz pleaded no contest to second-degree murder and using a firearm to commit a felony.

Tuesday, the killer heard from both families, starting with the sister, daughter and son of Lundeberg. 

“My mother was murdered, shot in the face. It tore me apart. I don’t know what there is to say,” said the victim’s daughter, Phoenix Lundeberg.

“For every birthday party, holiday potluck and special event she will be absent from, so should he be absent from events he would have gone to. For as long as my sister remains dead, Vicente should remain in prison,” said Kara Conn.

Rodriguez-Ortiz also heard from the mother of the teenager he shot and killed. The grace she delivered with her words stunned those gathered in the Kent County Circuit courtroom. 

“In order to get through this process, I had to forgive you and I forgive you from the bottom of my heart,” said Javika Hawkins. “I pray for you because as a mother, you’re a child to me. And in my heart, I have no anger or bitterness toward you. As a mom, I just want to hug you because I know there is something that is not connected that made you feel so angry.” 

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