For a time, Anthony Jr. was a leader in a militia faction. He doesn't talk publicly anymore, Penny says. "Ever since 9/11, he's gone way underground."
After her mother's death, Penny, too, felt as if she were being dragged into despair with the rest of her family. Once, when Penny was in a college political science class, she interrupted an instructor who was talking about justice in the South, telling him, "There is no justice in the South."
The teacher knew who Penny's mother was. "Every dog has its day," he told her.
Penny wondered if that were true, especially after her family lost the suit against the FBI and was forced to pay the court costs.
Katie Rager, Penny's longtime friend, says Penny was simmering with anger when they became friends. "She was angry at the government. She was angry at the KKK. We would just talk for hours and hours about how unfair it was, about how the people who murdered her mother took her away from her kids."
Penny admits that her mother's death made her pessimistic about her own future. "I prayed every night, 'God, don't take me away from my kids. Don't let me die until my kids are older.'"
She found some refuge in her faith. With Rager, she used to go to a little church near Fresno and read Bible verses about forgiveness. She began reading about Native American spirituality, which emphasized being grateful for every little thing in life.
Rager says that Penny gradually changed -- so much so that whenever Rager had a problem, she turned to Penny. "She came out of this cocoon of loathing, hate, and anger and just blossomed into this beautiful, empathetic person."
The bitterness may subside, but not Penny's sense of loss. Over the years, Penny says, she found herself dreaming about her mother. She misses her spark and energy. "Sometimes when I'm feeling blue, I wish I could call my mother up."
She has never been tempted to blame God for her mother's murder. "You can't blame the higher power for what man's free will does. We all have our paths to go down. She chose that path and God loved her. He must have."
Another way Penny overcame bitterness was thinking of her mother's attitude toward hate. Liuzzo had seen much of it growing up in the segregated South. "My mom said the best thing, and I took it to heart: 'Hate hurts the hater, not the hated. It eats you up. It's too consuming. It makes you so unhappy.'"
Motherhood gave Penny another reason not to be bitter. When Penny gave birth to her first son, she resolved not to let her anger infect her boys as it had the other men in her family. "How can you be a good mom and be hateful?" she says. "Adults who grow up prejudiced -- how did they learn that? Their parents were role models. You have to be a living example.''
Penny got her chance to be a living example with an unexpected encounter in court. During her family's suit against the government, Penny was giving a deposition when she encountered Eugene Thomas, one of the men arrested for the murder of her mother.
Penny was sitting outside the courtroom in a waiting room with her son John when Thomas walked into the room. At first, he just stood there and said nothing as he looked at her, Penny says. Then he asked her, "Can you forgive me?"
Penny paused. Then she said, "Yeah, I do."
Thomas' shoulders relaxed, and relief seemed to wash over his face. "Thank you," he said. Then he turned and walked out of the room. After she tells me that story, I ask Penny why she would so readily forgive the man who participated in the killing of her mother. Penny says she actually felt sorry for Thomas. He looked like he was in agony. "I didn't hesitate. I could see the look on his face. I'm not out to crush people. Everybody lives with their own torture.''
She didn't hesitate because she's now found something else to live for -- her sons. Penny says she doesn't want to hurt any more. So she's chosen to be grateful, not bitter. It's what her mother would have wanted.
"I really have a good life. I'm not the richest person in the world. But I have people who love and adore me. All four of my boys, I've never had a major problem with my kids. If God would say I'm going to grant you a gift for my life, I would never have come up with the gift he gave me."