Courtrooms are rarely the venues for intrigue and emotional outbursts that TV and film make them out to be. Rarely is there a surprise witness brought in at the last minute or a piece of forgotten evidence dramatically introduced before closing statements. Recently, though, one Cincinnati mother managed to stun an entire courtroom to a cinematic degree.

The woman was in the same room as a troubled teen who murdered her son. No one would have blamed her if she became emotional—but she did much more than that when she confronted her son’s killer. Her behavior was utterly unbelievable…

Rukiye Abdul-Mutakallim, 66, was born in North Carolina. A devoutly religious woman and a mother, Rukiye lived all around the country before ending up in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. In 2015, however, her life was turned upside-down.

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

It all started with her son. A 39-year-old Navy veteran who served in Iraq after the September 11 attacks, Suliman Abdul-Mutakallim was, according to all who knew him, a fantastic human being. Even so, he made a fateful choice to live in a part of town that his mother warned him about.

The Enquirer

Against his mother’s warnings, Suliman and his wife moved to South Cumminsville because he felt like he could make a positive impact on the community. On June 29, 2015, he’d been at home watching movies with his wife when he went for a walk to pick up dinner.

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With a bag from White Castle in his hand, Suliman had been on his way home when three youths approached him with a gun and shot him in the head. As Suliman bled to death, one of the teens stole his wallet and dinner, leaving him there to die.

Liz Dunfor / The Enquirer

Though he was alive when first responders reached him, Suliman had been fatally wounded. In the hospital, “I watched my son die,” Rukiye told The Enquirer, tears in her eyes. Who could have done this to her son?

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

It didn’t take long for police to catch the culprits. They charged 14-year-old Javon Coulter—who’d taken $60 from Suliman’s wallet and handed it to his friends—as well as two others with the murder. But the case wasn’t so cut-and-dry.

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Javon suffered from depression and psychosis so severe that he’d previously called the police on himself several times to tell them he planned on killing himself and to ask for help. He reportedly wore headphones to block out voices in his head.

Liz Dunfor / The Enquirer

Javon certainly wouldn’t receive the help he needed in the prison system. “You gonna have this guy sitting in jail for 20 years,” Javon’s mother, Malyyka Bonner, said of her son. “He was 14 when he did it. So he’s going to get out and still be a 40-year-old 14 year old.” What could be done?

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While Malyyka knew her son needed to face his crime, she and her other children still wept as the judge read off the charges levied again Javon. “I just don’t think [Javon] can fully grasp the reality of what really happened.”

Liz Dunfor / The Enquirer

On November 2, 2017, two years after the initial murder, Javon and Malyyka appeared before Judge Megan Shanahan during a court hearing. Rukiye sat in the courtroom that day, too—and she had something to say to her son’s killer.

Equipped with a picture of Suliman, Rukiye stood before Javon at a podium. With a box of tissues beside her, she took a deep breath and began a 12-minute speech that, according to The Enquirer, “courtroom veterans said they’d never seen” before.

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

“Javon, I don’t know if I’m supposed to address you directly,” she began, “but I can’t help it. I have to. I really don’t want what’s happening to you to be happening. But I cannot change what has happened to you, nor my son.”

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

“I promise you, [Suliman] would never have harmed you,” Rukiye continued. “And he would have given you everything if you’d just asked.” It was then she said something that stunned the judge, the crowd, and even Javon.

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

“Consider allowing our family to come visit you,” Rukiye said. “To come work with you, to help improve your education, to make sure you have a skill, so that when you come out, you can feed yourself and never have to walk this path again.” She continued…

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to say. But I don’t hate you,” Rukiye said. “I can’t hate you. It’s not our way… you were a baby, and you are a still a child, and you need help… I cannot hold this bitterness.” Still, Rukiye’s speech had more major surprises in store.

Liz Dunfour

“I plan to be involved with your mother—if she allows,” Rukiye added, “to try to help her because we have gotta stop this disease that’s eating up our society, and it does not come from hate. It comes from love. You cannot cure it without it.” Later, she hugged Malyyka.

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

To reaffirm her commitment to Javon, Rukiye looked into the eyes of all of his siblings and shook their hands. Moments before, they were crying, but Rukiye’s speech had made them smile. That was when Rukiye did another surprising thing…

Just moments after Javon admitted his role in the murder of her son, Rukiye hugged him. “His death was already ordained,” she told him. “Maybe the purpose is to save your life.” Was she right?

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

Apparently, troubled Javon had a history of sneaking out of his mother’s house. When he did, Malyyka typically went after him. The night he gunned down Suliman, however, was different. “I told my sister, ‘Whatever lesson they gonna learn, they’re gonna have learn it tonight, because I’m not gonna get ’em,'” said Malyyka.

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

Perhaps that lesson was that evil should not beget evil: only kindness can right such a heinous wrong. “If [troubled kids] have no light,” Rukiye said, “then this same disease is going to repeat itself.” No doubt, she was the brightest light in Javon’s sky that day.

Liz Dunfour / The Enquirer

If more people could show compassion and forgiveness like this mother, the world would be a better place. Sadly, Suliman can’t be brought back, but at least his memory will live on in a reformed Javon.

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