Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Message to Religious Community

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—

Dear Members of the Religious Community,

My name is Velia Koppenhoefer and I am the mother of Efrén Paredes, Jr.

In 1989 at age 15, Efrén was wrongly incarcerated in adult prison for a murder and armed robbery he did not commit. The crime he was accused of committing occurred in St. Joseph, Michigan. Efrén has been incarcerated now over 19 years. He had no criminal history and was a high school honor student at the time of his arrest. My husband and other two sons know and stand by Efrén's innocence because he was home with our family when the crime was committed.

Our family has suffered tremendously the past 19 years as a consequence of this terrible injustice and human rights violation. It has been and continues to be devastating. Efrén has spent more time locked away from society than he spent in society as a 15-year-old boy. He languishes day after day in prison while our family shares his pain each moment he is away from us.

As a daughter, mother, grandmother, aunt, and sister, I can't begin to tell you the deep pain I feel each day separated from Efrén, my firstborn son. I still shed tears nearly every day thinking about Efrén as I struggle to make it through each day. Words can't begin to express the painful emotions that arise at the thought of my young son Efrén when he was forcefully taken from our home that Wednesday, March 15, 1989. It is an image forever etched in my mind and a pain deep in my heart.

A committee created to help Efrén obtain justice was formed two years ago. The committee, The Injustice Must End (TIME), is comprised of people from across the country. Efrén also enjoys international support from professors, clergy, authors, and a world renowned wrongful convictions expert.

We are currently gathering petition signatures for Efrén asking Governor Granholm to commute Efrén's sentence. To make this campaign a success we need strong support. It is my prayer that you will be willing to join our campaign to free Efrén. I believe that the power of prayer, our concerted efforts, and firm belief that truth will always prevail over injustice, will guide us in the direction which leads to eventual victory. And with your assistance, you can help us achieve our objective.

Your action and support is very much needed. Please stand on the side of truth and justice and help us as we work to end this ongoing wrongful conviction and human rights abuse. I am appealing to you to help correct this injustice against my son. I am also asking you to help stop a crime against humanity.

This injustice is an all out assault on the freedoms enjoyed by every citizen in this country. And if allowed to continue it will only serve to foster a similar environment where others can be robbed of their freedom with impunity. This must be stopped and not allowed to continue. We offend righteousness when we permit injustice to flourish.

We often hear the question posed, "What would Jesus do?" I ask every person of Faith to ask themselves what Jesus would have done if he were on this Earth right now. If we believe in the scripture there is no question he would not allow this injustice to continue without striving to defeat it and injustice everywhere.

Thank you for reading these words. Our family looks forward to working with you and others interested in upholding the principles of truth and justice.

On Behalf of the Family of Efrén Paredes, Jr.,


Velia Koppenhoefer

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