NOTTOWAY COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – Convicted rapist Norman Jimmerson has been behind bars for 30 years after raping a woman in Williamsburg, Virginia. Recently, he spoke with the victim of that assault, and she offered him her forgiveness.
Debbie Smith requested the meeting with Jimmerson, 30 years after he attacked her. She said she was ready to forgive him for his actions and needed to speak with him to “know that that forgiveness was absolutely real.”
Smith became known nationwide after she was a victim of the brutal rape in her own backyard, endured an embarrassing courtroom battle that put DNA evidence to the test, and wrote the law for victims of sexual assault.
They talked for five hours. Jimmerson said there were a lot of tears and crying. He had been wanting to tell Smith how he felt for a while.
“I regret everything, you know, that I put her through,” Jimmerson said.
“Just listening to her and understanding what she went through and everything, it was impactful,” Jimmerson said.
Smith previously spoke about her experiences during that meeting and how the attack impacted her life.
During that conversation, Smith said Jimmerson apologized over and over again. She said it was often and “very genuine.”
“He said ‘sorry doesn’t do it but it’s all I got,” Smith said.
“He stopped and he said, Debbie please none of this was your fault. I should have never come into your home your castle, your private home, you did absolutely nothing wrong that day. Those are words I thought, I would never hear. To hear it from the person who was responsible, that is what made the difference. That is what set me free. And knowing that, I no longer need to be afraid of this man,” she said.
For years, Jimmerson could not even admit his actions to himself or to others.
“I just couldn’t believe that I did such a thing and the pain that I caused,” Jimmerson said.
For a long time, Smith lived in fear that Jimmerson would come back. The crime remained unsolved for six years until Virginia’s newly established DNA data bank got a hit in 1995 off of a DNA sample recovered at the scene. It connected Jimmerson to the case.
Years passed before early DNA technology was used to link him to the crime. Virginia’s DNA database was the first of its kind in the country and changed forever the way detectives solve crimes. “It is kind of like the gold standard for these investigators,” said Smith.
Smith has been a huge advocate for DNA testing. She successfully fought to provide federal funding to crime labs across the U.S. with the Debbie Smith Act. “I believe that we have still only scratched the service of what this science can do,” said Smith.
Jimmerson said he attacked Smith while using drugs to cope with the loss of his three-year-old son.
“The drugs became like a medicine,” Jimmerson said.
It wasn’t until his time in prison that Jimmerson ceased being in denial about his actions. After years of lying, he confessed his crimes to his family.
“I had a process to go through to even want to get to a point where I could admit it, you know, that I had harmed someone,” Jimmerson said.
He credits Virginia Department of Corrections programs like “Thinking for a change” and the “Victim Impact Program” for coming to terms with the truth and opening his eyes to the impact of his actions on others. Jimmerson credits his time in prison with his rehabilitation saying he basically grew up behind bars.
“It caused me to want to be the best that I can actually be,” Jimmerson said.
Jimmerson will be considered for parole soon. That decision will be in the hands of the Parole Board.
Smith was uncertain about how she felt about the possibility of Jimmerson being released but she did say that she believes with all her heart that he has changed.
“When I left there, the only words I could say to my husband was, I am finally free,” said an emotional Smith.