Ashley Solesbee wants her attackers to come forward so there can be justice but also so she can talk to them and plead that they turn their lives around.
“I know they need the love of Jesus right now,” she said Wednesday at her church, Belvedere First Baptist.
Solesbee, 25, and her date, Wesley Spires, 27, both of South Carolina, were attacked with metal bats or pipes on Riverwalk Augusta about 11 p.m. Friday.
Police continue to search for the assailants, and a $10,000 reward from an anonymous donor was announced Wednesday afternoon by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office.
Solesbee, who teaches autistic children and is a dance instructor at Rhythm and Class Dance in Belvedere, was released from the hospital Monday. Spires, who works in landscaping and is a volunteer at West Side Fire Department, remains in critical condition.
The couple, who met through mutual friends, were hoping to extend their first date a little longer when they chose to take a walk on the riverwalk.
The weather was pleasant that night, and Solesbee said a walk “just seemed like a good thing.”
They had already eaten at her favorite restaurant, Stevie B’s, and had been iceskating.
“I hadn’t been (skating) in years and he hadn’t been in years,” she said of the date. “We both clung to the walls.”
At the riverwalk, Solesbee said, she felt safe. Other people, including a wedding party, were there at the same time they were.
She chose not to discuss the actual attack, but said that afterward Spires remained a gentlemen, putting her care ahead of his own, even while covered in blood.
Police said Spires drove them to University Hospital for treatment.
Both had facial fractures and head wounds, and he had a broken hand.
“It’s just amazing God gave Wesley the strength to protect us,” she said of the man she called her “hero.” “It’s a miracle he got us there (the hospital).”
Solesbee hasn’t seen Spires since the attack but prays for him every day. Spires’ sister remains in contact to let her know as soon as she can visit.
“(Spires) is doing a little better,” Michelle Birt, a cousin, said Wednesday. “He is still in critical condition but slowly getting better.”
Birt said he’s still unconscious and in an induced coma.
Solesbee said that despite the physical and emotional pain and the “jitters” she still feels from the crime, she has already forgiven the attackers and asks the rest of the community to do the same.
“I never for one second felt anger or any ill will toward them,” she said.
Instead, she wants them to know that they have the opportunity to change their lives. She said God is using her to show the power of forgiveness.
Her mother has also forgiven them.
“If I don’t forgive them, then God won’t forgive my sins,” Lisa Solesbee said.
Birt said she is still confused as to why the crime occurred.
“We do not know if there are other intentions or if this was a hate crime, but we do know this was not just about money,” she said. “Even though they asked for money, it is not what they went after.”