The Story of the Twice Forgiven Murderer
In the early morning hours of Thursday, October 30, 1947, two of the most brutal murders in the annals of crime took place in a humble dwelling in Tacoma, Washington.
A mother and daughter had retired for the night after returning home from a midweek prayer meeting.
A burglar watched from the shadows of their woodshed till all was quiet and then pried his way into their home armed with a knife and a single-bitted axe. The mother awakened, saw the intruder and screamed. Mother, and later the daughter, were stabbed and hacked to death.
Two policemen were attracted by the women’s screams and gave chase to the murderer. They caught and subdued him after a fierce struggle in which both suffered knife wounds.
Five days later the son-in-law of the murdered mother was awakened out of a sound sleep in the early morning. But let him tell it:
“On Monday morning about 4 a.m., I was awakened from a sound sleep by a feeling I could not first explain, but I know now it was God wanting to speak to me.”
It was about Jake Bird, the man who had murdered his wife’s mother and his wife’s sister.
“As I lay there I thought of this man who committed such a terrible crime, yet somehow I could find no place for hatred in my heart for him. I lay pondering over it in my mind, and finally I felt a burden that I should go and talk with him.
“I mentioned it to my wife when she got up, and she said, ‘Well, if you feel you should, all right’.”
Just a week after the murder and the day following the funeral, the son-in-law confronted Jake Bird in the county jail.
The sheriff introduced him, “Jake, this is the son-in-law to the woman and her daughter you did away with the other night. He wants to talk to you.”
“I saw Bird start and set himself, because he didn’t know what I had in mind. I rose from my chair, and as I looked at him, I said, ‘Mr. Bird, I want you to know I have absolutely no hatred for you or your race. (He was a negro). I have been privileged of God to be chaplain of the men of your race at McChord field and have learned to love them very much. I’ve been in their homes and in their quarters, and we have had some very good times together, so I have no hatred for you whatsoever.
“ ‘However, I do have a definite hatred for the crime you have committed, even as God has a hatred for it.
“ ‘Yet I have not come to discuss your crime or what will happen, for I feel sure that the state of Washington will take care of that, but I am definitely concerned about whether you are ready to meet the Lord when the time comes for you to die.’
“From here on the Holy Spirit worked a miracle, and joy flowed through me as I saw the tension disappear from his looks. I sensed in his talk and manner that he was giving way to the Holy Spirit as we went from verse to verse in God’s Word which proved that no matter how grave his sin was, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses from all sin.”
After a three-hour talk this Apostle of Forgiveness went away feeling certain that Jake Bird had repented of his sins. A few days later his conviction was confirmed by a letter from the penitent murderer. He wrote, “Yes, I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour and am ready to meet Him when the time comes.”
The time came two years later. Jake Bird left death row in Walla Walla state penitentiary in answer to the summons of the guard, who said, “All right, Jake, this is it.” He made his way unassisted to the gallows.
A year later the chaplain son-in-law talked with the guard who sat with Jake Bird in his cell the last eight hours of his life. The guard said he had sat with a number of men in death row, and if anyone had ever experienced a change of heart, Jake Bird had. Jake had said to him:
“You know a lot of fellows would be awful nervous if they were me knowing that they were going to die in a few hours, but I’m not. You see I’m going home to be with my Lord, so I’m not worried.”
“After a while,” the guard related, “he said he felt like singing, so he got up and walked back and forth in the cell, singing some Gospel songs.”
This is the story of the axe-murderer twice-forgiven, forgiven by the relative of the murdered mother and daughter, and forgiven by God.
God forgave him for Christ’s sake. The Lord Jesus Christ prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified Him and for all men in that dying prayer which gave utterance to the great redemptive purpose and passion of His heart. He prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
He not only prayed for our forgiveness, but He paid for our pardon by suffering the dread penalty of sin for us.
Consequently, “through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sin, and by Him all that believe are justified from all things.” Acts 13:38-39.
On the basis of Christ’s death for our sins God invites us to reason with Him about forgiveness:
“Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18.
Jake Bird’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice removed forever the awful stain of sin from his hands and eternal soul. Cleansed, he entered the presence of his God and Saviour.