• Couple Meet, Forgive Slayer of Daughter, 20

Couple Meet, Forgive Slayer of Daughter, 20

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Jan. 16 — “We love this special person from the bottom of our hearts,” said Golden Bristol of the man who murdered her daughter.

The tiny housewife from Dearborn, Mich., confessed to a little nervousness as she spoke to a group of inmates in the prison chapel at the California Men’s Colony here. She and her husband, Bob, had driven 2,000 miles to see their “special person,” prisoner Michael Keeyes, who was convicted of murdering their daughter, Diane.

The body of Diane, then 20, was found in 1970 in San Diego’s North Park area. She had been selling encyclopedias door-to-door when she was kidnaped and strangled.

The Bristols said God led them on their mission, a journey of forgiveness that prompted their “friends and loved ones to shake their heads because they could not understand.”

“We harbored no hatred, no revenge,” Mrs. Bristol told the congregation of 60 prisoners Saturday night. “We knew God could make something good out of this pain.”

Mrs. Bristol said that in 1970, when she and her husband received “the devastating news that our daughter Diane had been raped and brutally murdered, it cut like a knife into the depths of our souls. We had the normal human reaction of grief and anguish.

“Didn’t I have the right to be filled with a red-hot hate? But where would it have gotten me? It wouldn’t have brought my daughter back.”

After Keeyes’ imprisonment, the Bristols, a religious couple, began a correspondence with him through the Rev. Joe Mason, director of the Prison Mission Assn. in Riverside.

The special service was arranged by Keeyes’ prison buddy, Charles (Tex) Watson, a former member of Charles Manson’s bloody cult. Watson, who is serving a life sentence in the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, is a student chaplain and had originally planned to conduct the service himself, but backed out because of the publicity the meeting received.

Keeyes, who at first admitted to the Bristols that he didn’t quite understand their act, told his fellow convicts that “people like the Bristols give meaning to the word ‘forgiveness.’ It’s always comforting to know someone cares.”

Then, choked by emotion, Keeyes turned to the Bristols and said, “God bless you, folks,” then threw his arms around them both.

“You don’t have to commit a horrible crime to be lost,” Bristol told the inmates. “You just have to ignore Jesus Christ.”

“What would make us the happiest,” Mrs. Bristol said, “is when he (Keeyes) accepts Jesus Christ.”

Saturday night’s unusual meeting was arranged by the prison missionary group, with the help of prison Chaplain Stanley McGuire and Watson, who spoke to the Bristols by telephone last week.

McGuire said he realized many would consider the rendezvous bizarre, but said, “It’s not strange in a spiritual sense, it’s not odd at all.

“This was one of the greatest services we’ve ever had,” he added.

“You saw the power of God really working in human life tonight,” McGuire said that Keeyes had an attitude of contrition about the crime, adding that “If he hadn’t, he could not have gone through all of this.”

The San Diego judge who sentenced Keeyes to life imprisonment in 1973 said Keeyes was “cunning, calculating and callous — the most vicious killer I have encountered in my career.”

“We view this person as one of value and worth,” said Mrs. Bristol. “We are interested in him as a total person. Not for what he did, but for what he can become.”

This entry was posted in Archived News. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *