Ellie Nesler, who ignited a national debate about vigilante justice when she killed her son's alleged molester, hugged her two children and asked for forgiveness outside the court where a judge freed her after serving four years in prison.
Nesler, hailed by some as a heroine for crime victims, was released after she pleaded guilty Wednesday to voluntary manslaughter. She was originally convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison but was granted a retrial because of juror misconduct."Although I felt justified at the time, I can honestly say I'm sorry for taking a man's life," she said, her voice cracking. "I urge anyone who feels compelled to take justice in their own hands to learn from my mis-take."
Nesler, 45, fired five gunshots into the back of Daniel Mark Driver's head on April 2, 1993. Driver was in court in this Sierra Nevada Gold Rush town 120 miles east of San Francisco on charges of molesting four boys, including her son Willie.
Nesler denied she was a vigilante.
"If it was vigilante justice, I would have taken (him) out with a shotgun and dropped him down a mine shaft, and nobody would have known," she once said.
Willie Nesler, 16, said he last saw his mother on Mother's Day. Troubled in the years following the shooting, he was released early from a juvenile detention center so he could welcome his mother home.
"I've grown up a lot the last couple of years," he said. "I miss my mom a lot. Now I want to make the best of it."
His 12-year-old sister, Becky, said: "I just can't wait till we go home so she can hold me."