For more than seven years, Doris Young McNeal endured many sleepless nights wondering who killed her son.
Sterling Horton, 17, a senior at Wayzata High School, died while walking home from a friend's house in north Minneapolis.
In the years that followed, police made no progress in solving the case, and McNeal was consumed with fear and anger, knowing that her son's killer was on the loose.
That changed a few weeks ago, when she finally learned who killed her son, knowledge that would bring her peace.
But after authorities told her Tarius Gresham, 24, had confessed to the crime -- and that she would soon be able to see him -- she still couldn't sleep.
"But it was a different kind of 'couldn't sleep,'" McNeal said. "I wasn't in no pain or nothing."
'My legs wouldn't move'
For McNeal, July 25, 2006 started as a good day. She spent some time with her son that afternoon, and that evening, Horton went out with friends.
After McNeal went to bed, the phone started ringing. Not long after that, a Minneapolis police officer showed up at her door.
"My legs wouldn't move," McNeal recalled. "I couldn't walk. But I knew something had happened to Sterling."
According to the police, McNeal's son lost his life when he ran into Gresham across the street from North High School.
In his confession, Gresham told police he didn't like Horton and started a fight.
Gresham said they each threw several punches before he took out a gun and shot Horton once, hitting him near the base of his neck.
Horton was pronounced dead at the scene. Police failed to locate any witnesses or suspects.
McNeal said police said the two teenagers were affiliated with rival gangs, but she said her son had nothing to do with gangs.
After losing the youngest of her two sons, McNeal suffered physical, spiritual and emotional distress. She had a stroke. She said she became angry with God.
McNeal also became depressed and was afraid to leave her house.
"Going to work and coming home, that's as far as I would go," she said. "Because I thought, in my mind, that it was every teenager out there who hurt my son and killed him. I just wanted to hurt them."
More trouble for Gresham
The one teenager who killed her son was out there and grew into adulthood -- in and out of prison.
One year after he killed Horton, prosecutors charged Gresham with aggravated robbery. A judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison.
In September of 2012, police arrested him on rape charges, and one month later, authorities charged him with illegally possessing a gun. With a prior criminal conviction, Gresham was legally prohibited from having a firearm.
In December 2012, when a judge sentenced him to five years in prison for the gun charge, he was still facing the rape case.
Public defender Doug Myren, appointed to represent Gresham against the rape charge, said his client's previous lawyer told him Gresham wanted to confess to a murder.
"I first broached the subject of Mr. Gresham's confession and some kind of plea negotiation in this case, back on July 1," Myren said.
Between July of last year and the beginning of this month, Myren and prosecutors worked out a deal for Gresham. An official with the Hennepin County Attorney's Office said prosecutors had to first investigate and verify Gresham's claims about the murder.
Last week, a judge sentenced Gresham to 15 years in prison. He will serve both the murder and rape sentences at the same time.
Myren said he doesn't know exactly why Gresham decided to confess to Horton's murder. However, as there is no statute of limitations on a murder charge, Myren said Gresham may have been thinking practically about his future.
"Anybody in Mr. Gresham's position would be looking over their shoulder essentially for the rest of their lives because there's no end to when he could be charged," Myren said.
Meeting her son's killer
McNeal, however, will no longer have to worry.
After more than seven years, she met her son's killer.
"When I saw his face, I just looked," McNeal said. "He was just a young boy at the time. And he looked like he was still locked in that time -- like he had never aged. Seven and half years. I saw a little boy."
At Gresham's sentencing, when McNeal gave an impact statement to the court, she didn't want to tell Gresham about how much pain he'd caused her and her family.
Instead, she talked about her son, how he liked writing music and wanted to be a rapper.
McNeal said her son had a lot of friends and made a point to get to know as many people as he could.
After seeing Gresham in court, McNeal went to him. Before the guard returned him to prison, she took a difficult step. With a few simple words, she cast aside the fear and anger she had carried for years knowing that her son's killer was on the loose, and felt like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
"I forgave him," she said. "I truly did with all my heart. I forgave him."