By Marissa Armas

AURORA, Colo. (CBS4)– On this Tuesday, Dec. 21, Sharletta Evans is celebrating a victory, as she sits at Utah Park in Aurora with her son Calvin Hurd, her adopted son Raymond Johnson, and a photo of her late 3-year-old son Casson Evans.

(credit: CBS)

“I’m here today with my three sons,” said Evans. “I feel accomplished. I feel like all the work was not in vain. I also feel very emotional that Casson is not here.”

On Dec. 21, 1995, Casson was killed in a drive-by shooting at the hands of then 15-year-old Johnson. As a teen, Johnson was sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole, but later his sentence was reduced, giving him the chance to be released.

“That night it changed me, by pulling the trigger, doing everything I did, it changed me,” Johnson said. “When you take another human being’s life, you lose a part of yourself, you’re never the same, and that night, I think of that what part did I lose, and how can I heal while in that process.”

On Nov. 29, 2021, Johnson, now 42, was released from prison, but he said the night he killed Casson sticks with him.

(credit: Sharletta Evans)

“I believe Casson sacrificed his life to save my life, because I was so consumed with the world that I didn’t know where I was going,” Johnson said.

Over the years Evans, Johnson and Hurd have worked together through their pain: to forgive, to love and to learn. The three are so close, Evans now calls Johnson her son.

“I’ve learned no one is a throwaway,” Evans said. “I’ve learned that even the hugest mistakes in our lives, we can redeem ourselves.”

Johnson said he’s grateful Evans and Hurd took him in as a brother and son.

“God brings people into your life that will help you with the things that you need, and the things that mother Sharletta gives me, my mother couldn’t give me,” said Johnson.

For Evans and Hurd, losing Casson was heart-wrenching, but in this journey with Johnson, it’s brought mercy, remorse and love.

(credit: CBS)

“Learn that forgiveness is the key, and forgiveness leads to compassion and that’s what opens the door for great things to happen,” said Hurd.

With Johnson now being released, this is a full-circle moment for the family. Because when one unifies in love, “It’s unlimited what you can accomplish,” Evans said.

Evans, Hurd, and Johnson are looking forward to spending more time together and getting to know one another better. Johnson hopes to start a youth violence program dedicated to Casson and follow in Evans’ footsteps.

Marissa Armas