|Zimmerman's Parents in Hiding|
|By LAUREN EFFRON (@leffron831)||Jul 16, 2013, 9:47 PM|
George Zimmerman immediately went back into hiding after being acquitted of murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, his parents told Barbara Walters in an exclusive interview with ABC News, adding that they haven't seen him since he left the courthouse.
The Zimmermans said that because of "an enormous amount of death threats," they, too, have remained in hiding and still don't feel safe enough to return to their home in Orlando, Fla.
Watch Barbara Walters' exclusive interview on "Nightline" tonight at 12:35 a.m. ET
Two days after a Florida jury found their 29-year-old son not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges in the death of Martin, 17, Zimmerman's parents, Robert Zimmerman Sr. and Gladys Zimmerman, sat down for their first television interview. They opened up about how their son's murder trial has affected their family and how he and they are struggling to cope with the aftermath.
"Under the circumstances, we have not been able to talk to him," Gladys Zimmerman told Walters. "To tell you the truth, we don't trust anything, not even the phones."
"We have had an enormous amount of death threats. George's legal counsel has had death threats, the police chief of Sanford, many people have had death threats," Robert Zimmerman said."'Everyone with Georgie's DNA should be killed' -- just every kind of horrible thing you can imagine."
George Zimmerman was accused of second-degree murder for shooting Martin on Feb. 26, 2012 inside a gated community in Sanford, Fla. While he admitted to shooting the unarmed teenager, Zimmerman maintained that Martin attacked him and he acted in self defense.
A jury made up of six women found Zimmerman not guilty of both second-degree murder and manslaughter charges Saturday after deliberating for more than 16 hours over two days.
But the family's celebration of George Zimmerman's new freedom has been short-lived. His parents said that their son has no job and no health insurance. Gladys Zimmerman said her son has been living off small monthly stipends from his legal defense fund.
"Even for us, we have not been living a normal life for the past months, it is hard," she said. "We have lost everything, everything -- the whole family, not only George. The whole family. We have lost everything."
When asked if her son could ever live a normal life again, Gladys Zimmerman said, "Only time will tell."
In the wake of Martin's death, the case quickly developed racial overtones when Sanford law enforcement declined to arrest Zimmerman, who is a white Hispanic -- his father is white and his mother is originally from Peru. Trayvon Martin is black.
George Zimmerman was arrested nearly two months after the incident when the state appointed Angela Corey as a special prosecutor and she brought second-degree murder charges against him.
Outrage and protests have reignited across the country since the not-guilty verdict was announced, something George Zimmerman's mother said was "hurtful."
"This is America, and we went through all of this with the judicial system," Gladys Zimmerman said. "They wanted an arrest for my son. They got an arrest. Now lets, you know, find a verdict ... now they have a verdict. ... He went through the whole process they were pushing for, and now they are not happy with the verdict, and I pray. I pray for them, for God to touch their heart."
In talking about Zimmerman's character, his parents painted a portrait of a young, outgoing, philanthropic man who looked out for his neighbors, who would buy fast food gift certificates for homeless people, who took care of family members, and as someone who mentored two young black siblings on some weekends.
George Zimmerman is "absolutely not" a racist, they said.
"He's never been taught to be a racist," Robert Zimmerman said. "Color is the last thing to come to his mind."
"When George first saw Trayvon Martin he had no idea what color he was," he added. "He knew he was inside a gated community. He didn't recognize him as living there. It was raining. He was just casually walking very slowly. But George did not initial know what race a person was."
Robert Zimmerman said the case brought against his son had "nothing to do with the facts" and that law enforcement didn't want to pursue a case against George Zimmerman until a special prosecutor was appointed and it became "a political decision."
"I never thought that we would see so much hatred, and the hatred is not brought on by any racial incident," Robert Zimmerman said. "It was brought on by attorneys being totally untruthful, other people being involved, having a certain narrative, having a certain agenda, and making this situation race-based and a political issue."
When asked what they would say to Trayvon Martin's family now, Gladys Zimmerman said, "We are deeply sorry for this tragedy.
"We pray for Trayvon Martin to be in a better place," she said. "He is always in our prayers."