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Candlelight ceremony recognizes crime victims

A somber candlelight ceremony recognizing crime victims and their families, was held at Magnolia Columns last Tuesday in honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 13-19.

Keynote speakers on the night were Staci Kramer, Victim Assistance Coordinator of the 15th Circuit District Attorney’s office; Hal Kittrell, District Attorney of the 15th Circuit Court District; Doris Weaver, Victim Advocate of the Gulf Coast Women’s Center for Nonviolence and the “Forever Changed” Homicide Support Group and Alberta Daehnke, homicide survivor.

The 2008 theme for National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was “Justice for victims, justice for all”. Kramer offered the timeline of rights afforded to victims of crime, starting with the task force established by President Ronald Reagan in 1982. She gave examples of how justice had largely failed these same victims in the past, going on to say that there are still obstacles.

Weaver spoke about her work with victims and talked about “Forever Changed”. She explained that she would like to expand the group into Pearl River County. She is looking for a safe well-lit area to hold monthly meetings on Tuesdays. Meetings are for sharing grief and coping with the pain, agony and loss of loved ones. Several members of Weaver’s current Coast group were in attendance.

Daehnke, a mother who suffered tremendous loss when her daughter was brutally beaten and murdered in the early eighties, allowed Kramer to relay the story while she fielded questions from the guests, which included other mothers who lost children to homicide.

To demonstrate that crime does not discriminate, candles were lit by persons representing all walks of life, while crime statistics were read by Kramer.

Various organizations were on hand to co-host the ceremony and to provide literature and offer support. The groups included Christian Care Ministries, L.I.F.E. Resource Center, Mississippi Dept. of Employment Security, Picayune Police Department, Picayune Public Schools, Manna Ministries, Day Star Women’s Shelter, Gulf Coast Mental Health, Pearl River County Sheriff’s Office and PRIDE. In closing Kramer thanked these groups and the local businesses who made the event possible.