TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — For 25 years, Ian Manuel has been sitting behind bars. Locked up at age 13, he was sent to an adult prison where he spent much of his time in solitary confinement. All after he shot a mother in the face in downtown Tampa in 1990.
Manuel says a conversation about the shooting changed his life forever.
“I told that cop what had happened in downtown Tampa that night on July 27 1990, which I had shot Debbie. He promised me that it would stay in the car, and although I’m remorseful for shooting Debbie, one of my biggest regrets is the suffering I caused upon myself by informing that cop. I basically gave him my life,” said Manual during an interview inside the Florida prison where he is serving his sentence.
The woman who Manuel shot in the face, agrees with him.
“Of course. He wrote his ticket. That was it, as soon as he told the cops,” said shooting victim Debbie Baigrie.
“The judge wanted to make an example of him and it backfired,” she added.
Manuel agreed to a plea deal, with the hope that he would only serve a few years behind bars. However, the judge sentenced him to life.
But, it turned out that Manuel found an unlikely ally in Baigrie.
“He had an attorney that didn’t really work the case very well, and he didn’t have very much family support. After I got over the initial shock and anger of he could’ve killed me, but he didn’t. This has been going on for 25 years, it’s enough,” said Baigrie.
Manuel can say he grew up in prison. Many of his formative years were spent behind bars and with very little rehabilitation. In 2010, the Supreme Court threw out life sentences given to minors who didn’t commit murder. Manuel was then re-sentenced to 65 years. But, he and his victim both think he’s served his time.
“I think enough is enough. I keep saying this. I’ve been saying this for so long, Enough is enough. They just put him away and just locked the door,” said Baigrie.
“I view Debbie like a guardian angel or a second mom sort of. To know that I almost killed her, it hurts. But, Debbie’s support means so much to me, because if she would’ve –God forbid, have died– someone else would be telling her story. Someone else would be saying, ‘Let him stay in prison,’” said Manuel.
“They just don’t want to allow me the opportunity to get out and better my life.”
Manuel has recently been granted a motion to correct his sentence, but the state attorney’s office appealed that decision. “To still be in limbo it hurts,” said Manuel.
While the shooting left Manuel in prison for 25 years, Baigrie will also tell you that the shooting changed her life.
“I was given this second chance and originally when I started out I was promoting body building. Before then I was a housewife. I had no goals, no purpose. But, this gave me a purpose and everything evolved from that,” said Baigrie.
Manuel occasionally sends Baigrie letters. The only time the two have talked is one year after Manuel was locked up and picked up the phone to call Baigrie.
“I’m thankful that I took the initiative at age 14 to pick up that phone and call Debbie and ask for forgiveness,” said Manuel.
Meantime, Baigrie said she gets mixed responses about her sympathy towards Ian.
“People jump in and you’re disillusioned, you got Stockholm’s syndrome. But then, there’s the ones that are supportive and say, ‘You know you did a wonderful thing by forgiving him. This isn’t my story, this is Ian’s story. This is how he has survived and still fighting,” said Baigrie, who said she is willing to appear in court on Manuel’s behalf to ask for his release.