Va. woman finds forgiveness after parents die in murder-suicide

Nina Parisi, now 20 years old, sits down with 7 ON YOUR SIDE Fighting Back reporter, Jennifer Donelan, and shares her story of pain, love, and courage. (ABC7)

It was a murder suicide that rocked the Chantilly community. The father was a trusted and respected Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent, and the mother was a popular middle school teacher.

The couple's two teenage children were home when the deadly gunshots erupted.

Now two and a half years later, in a rare television interview, one daughter speaks publicly for the first time since losing her parents.

Her story of pain, courage, and healing is inspirational.

She hopes her father's story helps shine a light on the importance of addressing mental health issues and removing stigmas.

If you walked past Nina Parisi and saw her smile, you'd never know how amazing it is to see that.

"I think I am good as can be," she said.

You would never know the depth of her heartbreak or the courage it took to do a television interview with 7 ON YOUR SIDE's Jennifer Donelan.

"It's hard to talk about it, but I want to talk to help other people," Parisi declared.

To know exactly how far the 20-year-old woman has come means returning to the early morning hours of November 20, 2013. At the time, Parisi was 17 years old and in her senior year at Chantilly High School.

She remembered, "I woke up around, I guess, quarter to five. It was a Wednesday so it was a school day and I had heard a really loud noise."

Parisi explained, at first, she thought the noise was her mother, Janine Parisi, getting ready for work. The mother was a popular physical education teacher at Franklin Middle school.

"Then I heard another noise, so I kinda knew what happened," she remembered through tears.

The noises were actually gunshots. Her father, Paul Parisi, an ATF agent, had just shot and killed her mother and then turned the gun on himself.

"I got up out of bed and I took my phone with me, and I went in the room," she said.

There she found the parents she adored, dead.

Parisi said she woke up her 13-year-old sister. She was just two days shy of her 14th birthday.

"I don't know if she saw them. I pushed her down the stairs. I didn't want her to see it," the older sibling recalled. "We ran to a neighbor's house and, luckily, they were the most amazing people in the world," she said.

When asked what news coverage in the following days bothered her most, she said, "I think just saying it was domestic violence."

The headlines hadn't captured the real truth about Nina, her sisters, and parents. For Nina, her home had been a happy one.

She affirmed, "One night doesn't erase 17 years of happiness that I had with them."

"My dad coached all of my sports teams and always chaperoned by field trips. He had always been such a strong father. I know that the ATF loved him and that everybody loved him," she explained.

As for her mother, "My mom was my best friend. She was an amazing teacher. I just love them both so much," she said.

Parisi wanted to set the record straight about her feelings about that morning and her father's actions.

She tells us she doesn't hate her father.

"I was angry when it happened, and, I think, I am still allowed to be angry. I don't hate him," she said.

One month before the shootings, she remembers a cloud of sadness began to envelop her father.

"I would come home from school and he would just sit with me and say I love you, and say, I am sorry that I am such a bad father. I said that is wrong, I love you. You are an amazing father," she said.

Her father had stopped going to work, Nina remembers asking her mother what was wrong?

"She said that he didn't feel good. I think she knew he was depressed but didn't want me to worry," she said.

Her father's final words as he bid her goodnight will stay with her forever, "he was just saying that he was so sorry. Now I guess he was saying goodbye," she believed.

Ever since that fateful night, Nina Parisi has put one foot in the front of the other.

"I forgive him and I think that is okay to do," she said.

She reconciles her feelings and accepts the parts she'll never fully understand, "Once I realized that I was never going to know what happened then I could put my energy into other things," she said.

Parisi finished her senior year and is now a sophomore in college.

She said, "I just wanted to prove to everyone that I am ok and I will be okay, and I am not going to fall apart... I am going to school."

And she is studying to be a teacher, just like her mother.

"I want to do that for her and myself," she said.

She steadies herself for the unexpected moments like when she wants to call but can't.

"It just hits you. It's hard. It's really lonely," she explained.

However, forgiving her father helped to power her forward.

"I think that is the only thing that has brought me to where I am today," she said.

Nina Parisi bravely explained, "It does get better and it will get better in time."

Reporter's note: Nina really wanted her words to be an inspiration to others. She hoped her father's story would help shine a spotlight on the need to deal with mental health issues as a community and as a country. The Violence Policy Center in the District estimates there are as many as 1,500 deaths a year nationwide due to murder-suicide. The center's 2015 study on the issue reported that 72 percent of the cases involve intimate partners. Sadly, what's not known is how many children lost their parents. Nina hopes the children left behind hear her story.

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