February 11, 2005

Murder victim's mom confronts killer

Miami Herald


''I am Shelly's mother,'' Beverly Lewis said to Mykhaylo Kofel, the former monk-trainee who murdered her daughter.

''I want you to know where she is now. She is in heaven,'' she said Thursday, just minutes before Kofel pleaded guilty to murdering Michelle Lewis, 39, at Holy Cross Academy in West Kendall in 2001.

Lewis began to cry and her hands shook as she read from a letter she had written to Kofel. The pale, baby-faced 22-year-old defendant stared at the floor of a hushed Miami-Dade courtroom as Lewis continued.

''When you stabbed and beat her to death, God's angels took her soul to heaven,'' she said.

Lewis regained her composure. She wanted Kofel to know that his attack on her daughter, a nun-in-training, had been so vicious that morticians told her an open casket was impossible. ...

Prosecutors said they offered Kofel the plea deal because they believe his ''intolerable act'' of murdering Lewis was mitigated by sexual abuse inflicted upon him by priests at the academy.

Kofel, who was 18 at the time of Lewis' slaying, told investigators the day after the March 25, 2001 murder that the Rev. Abbott Gregory Wendt and the Rev. Damian Gibault -- leaders of Holy Cross -- repeatedly sexually abused him during the four years he lived at the academy, where he came to train as a monk in the Byzantine Catholic Church.

The priests, through their attorneys, deny they abused Kofel. No charges have been filed against them.

Posted by kshaw at February 11, 2005 07:47 AM