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‘The Letter Season 2’: Letters lead to meeting killer, life-changing moment

May 21, 2024, 3:35 PM | Updated: May 22, 2024, 11:34 am

View from outside the Utah State Prison....

View from outside the Utah State Prison. (KSL Podcasts)

(KSL Podcasts)

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a series highlighting Season 2 of the KSL podcast “The Letter.” This season explores topics like grief and forgiveness, but under very different circumstances. The podcast explores what happened after two young fathers were murdered outside an iconic Utah restaurant in 1982. The families struggle to rebuild and have to wrestle with questions that take decades to answer. Does everyone deserve forgiveness? Does it matter if there is no remorse? And if trauma can be passed through generations, can forgiveness also be passed down?

SANDY — The question made her stomach churn.

DeAnn Rasmussen Kilgore listened as her sister-in-law explained that not only had she written a letter forgiving the man who killed DeAnn’s husband, but he’d written back.

I distinctly remember when she called me and told me that she had received a reply to her letter,” DeAnn said. “And she wanted to know if I wanted to read it. I didn’t want to read it.”

DeAnn was still struggling to make sense of the compassion she’d felt during the man’s parole hearing two weeks earlier. In fact, she hadn’t even been sure she wanted to forgive Michael Patrick Moore for killing her husband, Jordan Rasmussen, 11 years earlier. So she was certain, she did not want to communicate with Moore.

Her head was spinning, and so she called her other sister-in-law – Jordan’s sister Diane Duckworth – and looked for guidance, maybe solidarity.

“I remember calling Diane and asking her about it,” Kilgore said. “She says, ‘I don’t want to read it.’”

DeAnn Kilgore, wife of Jordan Rasmussen, is photographed at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023

DeAnn Kilgore, wife of Jordan Rasmussen, is photographed at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023. ( Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

The solidarity was a relief.

Both women told Diane and Jordan’s big sister Leslie Rasmussen Moore (no relation to Michael Moore) that they didn’t want to hear from the man who’d killed Jordan – and another man, Buddy Booth, outside Log Haven Restaurant in March of 1982.

But that wasn’t the end of it.

Leslie decided to give all of her family members a copy of Moore’s response to her letter forgiving him. Then, it was up to them whether to read it – or throw it away.

DeAnn said she intended to discard it.

But then, she just couldn’t.

And within a day, she changed her mind.

“I didn’t wait very long,” she said, admitting her curiosity got the best of her. “I remember sitting in my car when I read that (it).”

Jordan Rasmussen sailing.

Jordan Rasmussen sailing. (KSL Podcasts)

She stops to wipe tears away as she remembers reading the killer’s words.

“It was the most overwhelming feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” she said. “I just had this image of Christ. And he said, “These are the sins I paid for. This is what I have atoned for. I atoned for you, for your pain, and I’ve also atoned for Mike Moore’s sins.’ It was the most spiritual moment ever in my life. I just knew without a question, I had to forgive him.”

But she said it didn’t feel like a burden. It felt like a gift.

“It wasn’t like I have to, it was like, I will,” she said, “I want to.”

The empathy she felt was overwhelming. She had no idea what she should do – if anything.

“I didn’t know what was to come,” DeAnn said. “But I knew that whatever was to come, then I was going to be able to do it. …Something had shifted in my life.”

She called Diane again.

I said, ‘Diane, you need to read the letter’,” she said. “And she called me back a day or two later. And I picked up the phone and all I heard was sobbing. And I said, you’ve read the letter. And she said I did. And I said we know what we have to do.”

It was four type-written pages.

Dear Leslie, 

Thank you for your letter. What you wrote touched my heart. I can’t describe the wonderful impact of your forgiveness.

After listening to you and DeAnn speak at my board hearing. I had gone back to my cell. And I spent most of the night crying for the pain that I had caused all of you for the pain it caused DeAnn, your family, Jordan… I was devastated. I felt helpless. I felt helpless to do anything to lessen your pain. I prayed. But the tears kept coming. I was an absolute wreck. When I received your letter, I cried again. But this time, the tears were tears of happiness. 

Michael’s letter acknowledged the pain he’d caused the Rasmussens, especially Leslie, when he maligned Jordan’s character.

 I felt your hurt and heartache regarding my horrible statement long ago that ‘Jordan deserved it.’ For all these years, I have been unable to forgive myself for what I did to your family. I told you at my hearing that each day I lived with the pain I caused, not a day has gone by, in these last 10 years that I haven’t been distraught about all of that hurt.

And then, at long last, Michael took all of the responsibility on himself.

The problem wasn’t Jordan. The problem was me. I hope anybody who questions Jordan’s integrity understands that.

Michael said he was an “arrogant, angry, insensitive, and confrontative young man with a lot of pent-up emotion.” And then he said something he’d never said before – that his father was an alcoholic and that he was physically abusive. He said he was unable to deal with emotions appropriately, and he found himself trying to be tough and ignore his feelings rather than confronting or managing them in a healthy way.

Michael talked about striving to find ways to improve himself in prison…and told her he was trying to help other inmates do the same.

I am now truly a humble man… it also may give you some comfort that I have never again hurt anybody, but instead have spent my time teaching and assisting. I am an outspoken proponent of the repentance process to other inmates. Your letter, beyond being a remarkable statement of faith, love and forgiveness is something I will forever treasure and hold close to my heart. It has also provided a clear example that the process of repentance works and has real potential to heal.

Diane Duckworth said she feels like her family experienced a miracle – even before that letter. It began when they were all moved to forgiveness almost at the same time.

We were so unified in this,” she said. “I think that’s miraculous in itself.”

Her sister Leslie agrees, “I think we each individually felt it for ourselves. We didn’t go, ‘Ok, we’re all on board here.’ It was each of us individually, and we went, ‘Wow.’”

Leslie said their husbands were all a bit more skeptical. But for Jordan’s parents, his three sisters and his widow, their change of heart was almost immediately after that 1993 parole hearing where Moore apologized and seemed to abandon his defense of conspiracy theories.

And those first two letters were just the beginning.

Those first two letters sparked a series of exchanges between Moore and the Rasmussen family. And as their correspondence led to something no one expected – a face-to-face meeting.

“(Prison officials) said, ‘This is going to take some doing because this has never happened before’,” DeAnn remembers. “So it took weeks for the arrangements to be made.”

As the women discussed their plans to meet with Michael Moore, there was one member of the family who decided not to go to a meeting with Jordan’s killer.

It was his father – Elden Rasmussen.

View from outside the Utah State Prison.

View from outside the Utah State Prison. (KSL Podcasts)

“My dad was never the same after Jordan’s death,” said Diane Duckworth. “He said, I know I have forgiven him, the Lord knows I have forgiven him, and he knows I have forgiven him, but I don’t need to see the man that took my only son.”

But Jordan’s mother, his three sisters, and his widow, DeAnn, would meet with Moore on Jan 26, 1994. It would start out awkward and eventually cathartic. But it turned into a meeting, an experience that changed all of them forever.

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‘The Letter Season 2’: Letters lead to meeting killer, life-changing moment