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1979 murder of UMaine professor brings together two unlikely individuals

Amy Banks is now traveling the country with the man wrongfully convicted of murdering her father.
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 5:45 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Two people brought together after decades of trauma, murder, and injustice.

The life of Brewer native Amy Banks was forever changed after her father’s murder in 1979.

She’s now traveling the country, doing speaking engagements, with the man wrongfully convicted of the crime.

TV5 sat down with them Thursday to hear their story of victimization and healing.

”It was a very dark time for me and my family. My mother really just fell apart, said co-author of ‘Fighting Time,’ Amy Banks.

In April 1979, Amy Banks’ life was forever changed.

Her father, Dr. Ronald Banks, was a University of Maine history professor.

Banks was in New Orleans for a conference when he was was murdered during a robbery attempt.

Isaac Knapper was just 16 years old when he was arrested, tried as an adult, and wrongly convicted of murder.

Amy says she and her family were notified “two black men” tried to rob her father and his colleague.

For years, the family did not question Isaac’s arrest or verdict, until 2005.

They learned Isaac had been exonerated in the early 1990s.

They were shocked, but even more stunned to hear what Isaac had experienced during his time in prison.

“The more we knew, the worse it got,” said Banks. “Hearing about the brutality and the tactics they used to try and get a confession out of a 16-year-old boy including beating him within an inch of his life and then throwing him into solitary confinement in that state.”

“Once they do their research and they see I don’t belong in here, they’ll let me out. But, I was wrong. They found me guilty without parole or probation. They sent me to Louisiana State Penitentiary.” said Knapper. “I’m constantly being harassed and interrogated for something I don’t know anything about. I don’t know how to answer the questions they’re asking me because I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t even know why I’m in here.”

Through his years in prison, Isaac did his best to never lose faith he would be released.

His mother never lost faith either. This is what she told him after he gained his freedom.

“He only puts things on people who He knows are strong enough to handle it and give a testimony,” said Knapper. “I said, but why pick me? She said, because you happen to be one of His strong soldiers.”

In 2015, Amy and Isaac met for the first time. They visited the spot where Amy’s father died and the prison where Isaac spent 13 years of his life.

“To to this day, I swear to God, it was the most healing moment of my life, Banks said. “That whole meeting feels like it’s been the foundation of our relationship and that has just grown from there.”

Their story of tragedy and forgiveness now lives in the pages of their book ‘Fighting Time.’

It’s set to be released in November.

They hope to raise awareness about the pain of systemic racism. They hope it inspires others to have the difficult but necessary conversations about race in America.

“It’s a wrongful conviction story, and that’s horrible, you know? It’s a murder story, and that’s just horrible, but ultimately the silver lining has been us and our relationship,” said Banks.

“God works in mysterious ways,” said Knapper. “We know that. He has His way of going things, and I think that was part of the path for us to come together.”

You can preorder ‘Fighting Time’ here.

Read more about Amy here.

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