Kim Book has a heart made of steel and silk. A heart strong enough to take the cruelest of blows and yet soft enough to be resilient through the pain.
Throughout the past seven years, Book has facilitated meetings between 18 victims and the criminal offenders who hurt them. In cases involving murder, the victims are surviving loved ones.
That’s what Book became after her daughter, Nicole Mosley, was murdered 15 years ago in Dover.
“She was 17 years old. A 16-year-old young man named Levon Walker, who she knew, came to her father’s house. They began arguing, and he picked up a butcher’s knife from the kitchen counter and stabbed her death,” said Book, 52.
Book’s idea about developing programs to bring victims and offenders together didn’t happen instantly after her daughter’s murder.
She said the Attorney General’s Office sought the death penalty for Walker. “I don’t believe in the death penalty and I told them that. They still tried the case that way,” said Book, who grew up on the Eastern Shore, daughter of a Methodist minister.
Today she divides her time between her homes in Lewes and Camden.
Book said Walker received a 38-year sentence for second-degree murder, and about four months ago, for administrative reasons, he was transferred to a prison in New Jersey.
She said she’s never met with Walker, and after 15 years, “He still hasn’t taken responsibility for what he’s done.”
“The day of his sentencing I realized I had forgiven him, and I wanted to move forward with my life. I wanted to do something to help other victims who were not being heard. I had been through the criminal justice system, and it had not provided me with what I needed,” she said.
Book said she felt as though she had no role in the process but had deserved one. As a result, she developed an interest in restorative justice.
“Restorative justice gives victims an opportunity to have some say in what happens to the offender. It also holds the offender accountable in a way that helps them see what they’ve done,” she said.
Book said she spent months pleading with correction officials and the Attorney General’s Office to give her an inside look at the prison system. But the answer was always no.
She said about nine months after Walker was sentenced, then-Attorney General Jane Brady and then-Commissioner of Correction Stan Taylor invited her on a tour of the Sussex Correctional Institution.
“They met me down there. They literally walked me on a cellblock below Levon’s. They took me to the visiting room and the chow hall. There were inmates everywhere. I’d never been in a prison before. The last place we went was the chapel,” she said.
Book said as she walked outside across the prison compound with Taylor, she told him she had no idea how or why, “but I just know someday I’ll be back in this institution doing something.”
Book became a volunteer mediator at People’s Place in Milford; she also became a member of the Delaware Victims’ Rights Task Force and the sex offender management board.
She said between the time her daughter was murdered and the time she started Victims’ Voices Heard and the Apology Letter Bank, she had learned a lot by working with offenders and being inside the correctional system as a volunteer.
She said after seeing a television program about a severe-violence dialogue program in Texas, the idea occurred to her to develop a similar program in Delaware.
The program, Victims’ Voices Heard initially received a 3-year grant through the Victims of Crime Act.
Book meets with individual victims for an hour or more every two weeks, finding out what the victim wants to hear from the offender.
She also talks to offenders about the crime and what they remember, preparing the parties to meet over a span of six months to a year.
“When I feel like they’re ready, I bring the victim to the institution to meet with the offender,” Book said.
She said victims who are program participants can come from anywhere if the offender is in a Delaware prison.
“I do prep work over the phone, and then we fly them here to meet with the offender,” she said. After an initial meeting, there’s follow-up, with some victims staying in contact with offenders and others who don’t.
She said most offenders are first victims who themselves later become offenders.
“I listen to them, but I don’t allow them to be on the pity pot. This is not about them.
“They may have had things happen in their lives, but that didn’t give them a right to do what they did to someone else,” said Book.
She said she knows after talking with offenders for so many years that stuff usually comes out.
“It’s just in conversation from talking and talking that things come out. You can tell when someone’s telling you something because they’re trying to gain your sympathy.
She also runs the Apology Letter Bank, which allows offenders to write a letter of apology.
“But they know I run a victims’ program that can only be initiated by the victim,” she said.
She said victims find out about the letter bank through word of mouth or by reading about it in the media. They contact Book and ask whether the offender has placed a letter in the bank.
“If there’s a letter there, they can choose to receive it. If there’s no letter there, they can keep their name on file, and I’ll contact them should there be one,” she said.
Book calls herself a one-woman show because she runs both programs by herself, and has done so for seven years.
She has operated the programs through People’s Place social services in Milford before funding for it, which came through the administrative office of the courts, was cut in half last July.
Book said she works 35 to 40 hours a week but now is paid for only about 15 to 16 hours a week.
“That’s why I’ve decided to go out on my own, and I think I can,” she said.
She said she’s been talking to a few organizations that might be interested in helping to fund the programs and is giving out pamphlets describing Victims’ Voices Heard and the Apology Letter Bank.
For about four years she’s been speaking at a University of Delaware (UD) class on victimology. Inspired by Book’s lectures and experiences, UD professor Susan Miller has written a book soon to be published by New York University Press.
Miller’s book tells the story of Book and her daughter’s murder and looks at the lives of about seven victims and offenders.
Asked if the work she does gets easier Book said: “I wouldn’t say it gets easier but I enjoy doing it now more than I did before. I just love people and enjoy sitting and listening and trying to help them – even offenders.”