Anger has given way to forgiveness by the owners of Bronner's Christmas Wonderland after a group of young men and a teenager caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage to displays outside the iconic Frankenmuth store.
Company President Wayne Bronner and his sister, Carla Bronner-Spletzer, told the mother of two culprits that they've forgiven them and feel compassion for what she's gone through, the Detroit Free Press reported.
Diane Quintanilla's sons, Samuel and Caleb, are among four suspects who pleaded guilty and admitted vandalizing the displays on Christmas Day. All four have been sentenced to three months in jail.
"I'm sorry," Diane Quintanilla told Bronner recently.
"I can't imagine what you are going through," he replied. "I feel for you. ... Hopefully, this will put them on the right path. Sometimes, you need a slap in the face and away you go."
Bronner-Spletzer hugged Quintanilla and told her that her sons had been forgiven.
About $19,000 in damage was done to about 75 figurines at the store, which is about 75 miles north-northwest of Detroit.
A Saginaw County circuit judge on Thursday sentenced Caleb Quintanilla, 17; Samuel Quintanilla, 20; Ryan Buchler, 20; and Branden Dean, 21. They were ordered to spend three months in the Saginaw County Jail, followed by three years' probation. Their sentences start the day before Memorial Day.
The four are from Genesee County's Genesee Township. They pleaded guilty to malicious destruction of property and conspiracy, and paid their shares of the damage.
A fifth defendant, Nickolas Bright, 21, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The Quintanilla brothers spent three days in jail after their arrest. When they returned home, their mother immediately gave them orders.
"Go take a shower," she said she told them. "But before you do anything else, you write a letter of apology to Mr. Bronner."
And they did.
Samuel Quintanilla wrote that his time in jail made him realize the damage he'd caused.
"I know in my heart that I am very remorseful and embarrassed and outright scared. I can tell you wholeheartedly that I know this is not who I am and I want to live a better life," he wrote.
His brother also apologized and said he felt deep remorse.
"Whatever ignorance and stupidity drove me to even consider pulling a prank has embarrassed myself and my entire family," Caleb Quintanilla wrote. "The remorse I felt after this outrageous act has only increased tenfold after my discovery of the impact on your family and mine.
"Meaningless excuses could be thrown at you. But I want to tell you, with the humblest of intentions, that I am owning up to all of my actions. It was a worthless and despicable act on you and your town."
The brothers apologized and gave Bronner the letters after he introduced himself to the suspects at a court hearing in January. Bronner said he told them they were forgiven.
"We are Christians," he said. That means those who do something wrong should make amends and someone who is harmed has "an obligation not to hold a grudge and to give forgiveness where forgiveness is due," he said.