The Back Stories of Victim Impact

 

Every crime victim has at least one “back story.” They are the stories that the media doesn’t report, doesn’t know, doesn’t care about, particularly in the manner of humanizing the victim and not focusing solely on the perpetrator.  Back stories contain the victimology, the inspirational moments, the turning points in life.

For assistance in creating a personalized victim impact statement, I offer my services nationally for those who feel they aren’t in a position to objectively present their innermost feelings to the court. Refer to Victim Impact Statement Assistance

Two examples of victim impact “back stories” from different perspectives

The brutal rape of Anne Heck from Asheville, North Carolina as told in 2004:

Anne Heck

Anne Heck

There was the initial impact of his fist hitting my face, the impact of him throwing my bike into the bushes, the impact of his body forcing itself into mine. Then there were the blazing sirens that delivered me to the hospital, my body becoming the source of evidence, my swollen face in the mirror, and the pain in friends’ faces. But there was something much deeper. Now, 14 years later, I was faced with the task of communicating this impact; it was not easily put into words.”

The Day of the Rape:  I was raped in July 1990. It was a beautiful summer day and I was enjoying a road trip on my bicycle exploring back roads. I loved the freedom I felt on two wheels with the sun on my back. What a stark contrast this incident was to my intention for that day.

 Growth  “The day I was raped, I learned about friendship and kindness ….when a stranger picked me up along that dusty road and took me crumpled and terror-stricken to the closest paramedic unit. A rather new acquaintance made calls to dentists for me. I had two teeth that were knocked out-of-place and a kind doctor agreed to stay late to help me. Unfortunately, the teeth were irreparable, the roots damaged. I would eventually have to have root canals and other reparative work done to them.” 

“I learned about letting go… as I had my favorite blue biking shorts and shirt, stained with blood, bagged by police and taken away for evidence.”

“I grew into new ways of viewing my freedom…. as I had my trusty touring bike covered in black fingerprint dust returned to my apartment. It sat untouched for weeks.”

“I remember with disgust… the volunteer at the hospital who came into my room to read scripture and tell me I could be forgiven for my sins. I experienced what it felt like to be shunned at the health center when I went in for a pregnancy test and shared that I had been raped.”

The feelings Anne described included fuzziness, deep fear, hypersensitivity to noise, inability to tolerate crowds, or strangers, the fact that “the emotions were trapped in her body” when trying to glean the benefit from counseling.” She drew a picture of her attacker in an attempt to purge herself of the fear.

Surprisingly, Anne learned patience whether it be with counseling or the results of her HIV test.  She also stated, While I do not condone (perpetrator) Mr. McDonald’s act and feel he should receive his just sentence,…“I have come to accept this as a chapter of my life that has provided me with the potential for my personal healing and development.” 

Moving Beyond:  The year after her rape and much counseling, Anne left her Virginia home to find a support system and a peaceful place in which to heal, she began training as a rape crisis counselor and speaker.  Self defense classes came next and initiating assertiveness training, shedding her former teaching job.   The horrific attack began to fade into the background of her life, HOWEVER, there was an ever-present severe pain in her hips and pelvis. How to relieve the pain and inability to walk, to capture complete healing, if possible?

Enter the detective in her case with news. She and her two young children were ready to “put this chapter away”. In fact, in her words she says, “I believe I’m blessed to have the opportunity to experience this part of my healing process. This event is for me a symbolic statement of hope fulfilled and justice served and most importantly, it demonstrates the power of choosing my own strength.”

The Aftermath:  On August 23, 2004, Terry L. McDonald, (who was serving a 48-year sentence for sexual assault in West Virginia,) pleaded guilty in Prince William County, Virginia Circuit Court to rape and abduction with intent to defile. The Judge in this case was asked to give McDonald the maximum punishment—two life terms in prison—at his October 29 sentencing.

Full Circle: When she returned to Virginia for the sentencing. She also took her bike and declared her freedom on those dusty backroads!

For more information about Anne Heck refer to her website.

A Father’s and a Husband’s  Story from Australia- Victim Impact Statement May 19, 2013

Jill Meagher

Jill Meagher

September 28, 2012  Jill Meager was an ABC radio broadcaster in Melbourne, Australia and was remembered by her peers as “an important member of our local radio team, a vibrant organizing presence at 774 Melbourne, a key liaison for our local radio stations across Victoria and a valued partner in the administrative team supporting local radio around the country, as a widely known, universally respected and much-loved, with a great career ahead of her.”

The body of the Irish-born 29-year-old was abducted and her body was found a week later in a field, northwest of Melbourne. Adrian Ernest Bayley, 41 was charged with her rape and murder. Jill walked along a road at 1:40 am where this perpetrator wearing a blue hoodie called to her.

George McKeon, 55, Father of Jill Meagher speaks for him and his wife:

  • A father has a stroke, with inspiration from a daughter to live to “have future grandchildren to run around with;”
  • A mother’s words recounting childhood memories,
  • Lamenting what could have been and “life stopping” as they know it;
  • Jill’s personality – funny, intelligent with huge empathy;
  • As described by Jill’s mother ,Edith (Who was ill and could not attend to deliver her victim impact statement)  “A couple’s relationship changes after 30 years of marriage – Dealing with the loss in different ways –The emotional harm is devastating, We are inconsolable. The links of the four of us have been shattered…
  • The Aftermath -Emotions felt – Catastrophic, sad, lonely, with anxiety,  panic attacks and insomnia
  • Rebuilding a new life is very sad… as a mother, “I have been given a life sentence.”

Thomas Meagher Jill’s Husband:

  • First Encounter – “awkward” followed by an 11 year adventure
  • Jill embodied everything I could ask … her thirst for life … Sher pulled me through difficult times and “pulled me up even higher in good times.”
  • All things stolen from me…  love, my best friend, our future
  • My world view of good has been shaken to the core…
  • I hesitate to leave my apartment. I have nightmare. I have been forced to move
  • I am constantly confused, disoriented and unfocused
  • The intrusion of the police investigation – . Quite simply, my life will never be the same again.”
  • I miss waking up on Sunday and having breakfast at 2 pm.
  • I think of the waste of a brilliant mind and the beautiful soul at the hands of a grotesque and soulless human being.’ I am half a person because of this crime.”

Sentencing: Adrian Bayley was sentenced to life in prison, with a 35-year non-parole period, for the rape and murder of Jill Meagher. Judge Geoffrey Nettle said that he subjected Meagher to a “savage and degrading” assault and that his multiple previous attacks on women demanded that he be sent to prison for a lengthy period.

Conclusion:  Whether you are “An ordinary person out for nature’s adventures on your bike,”or whether you are a talented radio broadcaster, it matters not. Pain and loss is the same. How we cope and “face the world for a new day” is the most tie that binds all humanity.

Additional References: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/abc-employee-jill-meaghers-family-devastated-by-her-death/story-e6frg6nf-1226483095816

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/09/28/jill-meagher-dead-adrian-bayley-arrested-abc_n_1921987.html

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/19/adrian-bayley-jailed-jill-meagher

No Body Homicide Cases: How to Prove the Victim is Dead 

 

No Body Homicide Cases by Tad DiBiase

No Body Homicide Cases by Tad DiBiase

According to Tad DiBiase, prosecutor and author of No Body Homicide Cases: A Practical Guide to Investigating, Prosecuting, and Winning Cases When the Victim is Missing, there are only two ways to prove that a “no body victim” is truly dead. (Page 19)

One way is via physical evidence. Tad offers the example of a crime scene revealing massive amounts of blood loss such that life could never be sustained.

But I ask, what else could we add? Perhaps- A car found submerged in deep water and mud  without evidence of escape; Perhaps- Personal items or clothing remnants located at the top of a mountain; Perhaps– A body gone missing overboard on a cruise ship.

The second way to prove death in a no body case is the lack of evidence of life. What does this mean?  No use of cell phones, social media, no use of bank accounts or credit cards, no known contact with family or friends. The absence of life can spell death (I’ll add the exception when the deceased “takes on another identity” unbeknownst to others.) Tad states, the more evidence of “lack of life” you can amass over time, the better it is to convince a jury. This also includes circumstantial evidence that major life events and appointments were missed and out of character for the victim.   “Mom never would have missed the birth of a grandchild.” “Dad would not have missed his annual fishing trip with the guys.”  “Grandma always attended every graduation in the family etc. “

Which circumstance above is easier to prove? I would guess that it depends upon the many variables in each individual case, the amount of time that has passed and what is revealed in each crime scene.  Certainly, you may have more to work with concerning an active, social engaging person versus one who led a very sedentary life style. A person that has a very set routine and few visitors may be more challenging once all of the usual leads have been tapped.  Victimology becomes very important- Defined by some as the study of victimization, including the relationships between victims and offenders, the interactions between victims and the criminal justice system.

Cases That Prove Death Without a Body – 

George Smith

The Mystery of honeymooner George Smith from Greenwich, CT who disappeared on his honeymoon Cruise Ship in 2005. There remains many unanswered questions o this day. A wealthy family can “shake up the system”, spearhead legislation, demand accountability in the international cruise industry, can hire Dr. Henry C. Lee as an investigator. They can suspect that their former daughter in law might be complicit, BUT, all this cannot bring George back.

It appears he could not have survived if thrown overboard as suspected.

A local account can be read at Greenwich Magazine.

Jon Francis

Jon Francis, “invincible solo mountain climber”of Stillwater, Minnesota,was one of those 20 something guys “who thought he could tackle the world.

From the Jon Francis Foundation:

“On Saturday morning, July 15, 2006, 24-year old Jon Francis, of Stillwater, Minnesota, climbed The Grand Mogul in the rugged Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. He reached the summit but did not return. The official search, led by local law enforcement authorities, lasted for only 2 days and was unsuccessful in finding him.”

Again, as Tad postulated, because of the nature of Jon’s activity, we assume he is dead by virtue of not being able to survive a serious fall or rock slide.

For a more detailed account of his story, and a former Cue Center for the Missing Conference Presenter,  Jon’s Father David Francis appeared in this moving blog-podcast showcase from July, 2012: “It’s Not What We Gather, but What We Scatter That Defines the Kind of Life You Have Lived.” (The Legacy of Jon Francis)

To learn about this tragic loss of life and the aftermath as told on “Shattered Lives”, please CLICK HERE

 

Absence diminishes mediocre passions and increases great ones, as the wind extinguishes candles and fans fires.”  Francois de La Rochefoucauld

The Best Kept Secret: The Crime of Abandoned Babies

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“Babies don’t deserve to be thrown in the garbage like the scrapings off the plates of the Thanksgiving dinner.”  Connecticut Superior Court Judge Robert Delvin, Jr.

“Cost neutral communication options” is the term used since April 2010 from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families and legislators when it comes to the “throw away behavior” concerning babies born to girls who are not prepared to be parents.

The Law in Connecticut:

The Safe Haven Law was enacted in year 2000, in part as a result of a case occurring in Cheshire, CT in November 1995 with a conviction of second degree manslaughter.

5.1-4 Manslaughter in the Second Degree — § 53a-56 (a) (1) Instructions to a Jury:
“A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when (he/she) recklessly causes the death of another person. For you to find the defendant guilty of this charge, the state must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt.  In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant caused the death of <insert name of decedent>, and 2) the defendant’s actions that resulted in the death were reckless.”

In summary, infants 30 days old or younger can be brought to a Safe Haven (defined as any hospital emergency department). A nurse will meet the parent in a private room to obtain medical history (if the parent choses). Parental rights will be terminated in order for the baby to be adopted, and they will be given a packet from DCF. DCF will assume immediate custody of the infant. If the parent changes her/his mind, it is recommended that they immediately contact DCF and apply for legal representation.

Parents who do no harm to their infant, cannot be criminally charged with abandonment if they use the Safe Haven law.

UPDATE 2015:

safehavenHouse Bill 5793 “An Act Establishing Safe Haven Day” would designate April 2nd each year to promote increased awareness of the Safe Haven law and dedicate the day to discussion and promotion.”

This is where the cost neutral portion intersects with real life. Although it may make legislators “feel good,” in my opinion, it is like emptying the ocean with a teaspoon to devote a sole day to discussing this issue! Unwanted babies may give rise to a missing person’s status, or intimate partner violence or human trafficking situations and can ultimately lead to homicide.

“No cost to the State methods” includes group discussions re ways to better promote, use of social media and perhaps locating a volunteer videographer to create a documentary in which these girls can “tell their stories.”

Recent Connecticut Case: August 2014

Newborn Baby Found Dead In Trash Can

EAST HARTFORD — Detectives are investigating the death of a baby whose body was found in a trash can outside a Tolland Street home Tuesday night.

Police were dispatched to 1047 Tolland St. at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday for a check welfare call and after checking the area found an infant’s body in an outside trash can, police said. The child had been born recently. East Hartford paramedics pronounced the newborn dead.

Sgt. Michael DeMaine said police went to the house after a doctor at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center called them to report that an 18-year-old woman arrived at the hospital showing signs of giving birth, but without a baby.

In the Beginning:  Connecticut  

Don’t ever say that bad things don’t happen to good law-abiding people living in affluent communities.

It was in the picture perfect town of Cheshire that an unforgiveable crime was committed in 1995 by a 16-year-old Cheshire High school girl named Amanda Beckett. She became pregnant by her boyfriend in February 1995, “but never consciously acknowledged she was pregnant  or sought help.” She was approached at school about the possibility of being pregnant and if she was in denial.

Her mother, Barbara, was a pediatric nurse and still did not recognize any signs of pregnancy. The defense attorney claimed Amanda may have mistaken her labor pains for menstrual cramps.

On the afternoon  of the birth, she stayed home from school and then realized she may be pregnant when she went to the bathroom.  Police presented a probable scenario that she was helpless, afraid and traumatized for about ten minutes, retrieved the baby from the toilet,  and slapped its buttocks without response.

The Medical Examiner ruled that the baby was born alive and remained so “for just a few minutes” dying of asphyxiation with drowning and contusions.

The Aftermath

Reportedly,  Amanda “meticulously cleaned up the scene,” double bagged the baby and threw her son, Joshua Paul, away  “like trash.” Beckett returned to school the next day and even attended a football game as if nothing occurred! safe5

When questioned by the police, she denied the baby was hers and tried to divert their attention away from her and actually named four other high school girls she believed to be pregnant! Her son’s remains were located weeks later at the Resource Recovery Center in Wallingford.

Beckett was an “unsophisticated criminal” who also left a cut up credit card in the trash bag that was traced to her. She was arrested in December 1995 and charged with first degree manslaughter under the Alfred Doctrine, not admitting guilt, but conceding there was enough evidence to convict her.

Superior Court Judge Robert J. Devlin, Jr. wanted to send a clear message that, “I’m not labeling you as evil. I’m not labeling you as a sinister person. Babies don’t deserve to be thrown in the garbage like the scrapings  off the plates of the Thanksgiving dinner.”

The  baby deserved to have a life and because the offense is so serious, punishment is warranted.  The Sentence in 1997 was 18 months in prison and five years probation. BUT, the TRUE sentence served  by Amanda was only seven months!

Her tearful response in court: “I’m just sorry for what I did. If I could change it, I would.” 

Horry County, South Carolina

Mother who abandoned newborn baby in Myrtle Beach-area dumpster turns herself in

There was a “small noise coming from a dumpster in Fairway Village, near Green Island Country Club on April 9, 2015. A newborn baby was trapped inside a plastic bag. Austin Detray located the baby and assisted his mother in reviving the baby.  Reported  two females were seen in a white car exiting the complex rapidly. 

On April 11th 23 year old Shelby Harper Taylor was arrested for attempted murder And was granted a $10,000 bond and instructed “not to come in contact with children” until DCF approves. 

Critics of the Safe Haven Law

(Year 2000) “They ensure no support for the women , ignore the role of the father and may encourage women to abandon if they are unhappy with its sex(gender) or if it has disabilities”

“When these girls become pregnant, it’s too late…” James Dinnan, Senior Assistant State’s Attorney in the Amanda Beckett case.

DCF may now offer more programs for the female offender in 2015, but then there are always more cuts to social programs. Should social media be the teacher here? Don’t trash your baby!

Supporters say if the effort saves but one life, it is worth the legislation and all efforts!

The Best Kept Secret: The Crime of Abandoned Babies

Perseverance with a Purpose: The Cue Center for Missing Persons 2015 Conference

CUE-Conference-Flyer-20151

No matter how it is traditionally measured, perseverance took center stage at this year’s 11th Annual Community United Effort for the Missing Conference. It is “the glue of one’s existence” once a missing person and/or potential homicide occurs. Weeks, months, years can pass while the mind, the heart and “every molecule” searches for the reason why with the fervent hope of a rescue versus a recovery.

In the beginning, assumptions are made by families that surely with all of the professionals involved, a blanket of publicity, clues, answers to the puzzle and a final outcome leading to justice will be theirs.

However, reality is often a bitter pill. Crime victim families are never prepared for the onslaught of the hard truths and emotions that “come with the package.” Monica Caison, aka “the Searcher,” the Founder of CUE and the visionary for families of the missing, guides the wounded and broken-hearted to a better place once trust is established.  Her uncompromising standards of excellence have paved the way for unparalleled success in many arenas and won the respect of professionals in the realm of missing persons. It takes a nationwide network and a very special village of dedicated individuals to accomplish her work in order to mend families on the path of their “new normal.”

The 2015 11th Annual Conference was my fourth time witnessing an incredible coming together of good souls, talented people with a mission in their hearts to serve, honor and educate. Unlike other professional conferences, this gathering is never about a “fee for service.” Rather, it is all about community as the name states in a way that no other gathering achieves! New people from across the country “attend and blend” with the veterans who have chosen to use their grief, along with interested volunteers for a productive purpose. In my experience, it takes but one exposure to this event to “hook you forever.” It matters not what your affiliation is you will be transformed!

“The Framework”

At some point in the sequence of events, a “light bulb” will appear. It could occur when Chip Krieger, a personable master of ceremonies, perpetually keeps the action going with a full agenda, good humor and lots of respect for the participants. He also doles out the many donated gift baskets as if,” just for a moment”, we think this must be a cruise, rather than a conference for the missing!

A brief three-hour period of levity in which you can dance and sing the night away to karaoke favorites or “dress up goofy” in the photo booth! What fun! (I got my souvenir with Monica!)

The lightbulb moment could happen when you participate in a newly created law enforcement panel who fields questions previously gone unanswered. Truth be told, families do want answers more than anything. However, often there is no answer, or the answer varies based upon the jurisdiction. In any case, courage abounds whether you are on the law enforcement side of the table or the survivor‘s side.

Drones 101” The Wave of the Future, and how they pertain to search and recovery efforts (as well as over 300 + other uses in the future was presented by John Minor, military and academic expert  of the Unmanned Vehicle University based  in Phoenix , AZ.

Your light bulb may begin to shine when learning about “No Body Convictions” that have occurred with increasing frequency and gained wider acceptance thanks to expert skilled prosecutor and author Tad DiBiase.  Still another reason for hope and perseverance.

The hard truths about Human Trafficking and all of its ugliness (the who, what, where when and why) were laid out as Criminologist, and Director of the Cold Case Investigative Research Institute,  Sheryl McCollum and co-presenter Duane Thompson, Ph.D; gave an animated presentation of their investigative experiences in Atlanta.

The “Jane Wayne of the Courtroom” and cable TV, attorney  Holly Hughes,  gave a rousing presentation, Legal facts that can damage your case, discussing the “don’ts”  for crime victims which can damage their cases. Good practical advice interspersed with real courtroom examples!

Victim families are always interested in the forensic side of cases. Commander Peter Cestare educated participants concerning   the processing of the crime scene, and preservation through the presentation of evidence during courtroom testimony in Crime Scene to Courtroom.

Pet First Aid Class

Pet First Aid Class

Early in the conference, I heard rave reviews about the “hands on- on the floor” training regarding the importance of “Canine First Aide.”  Animals need care too!  CPR and First Aide training are the mainstays for the “boots on the ground” volunteers.

Nothing sets off a victim more than the media. Media Matters as told by long time CUE supporter, South Carolina Outreach Coordinator, Brian McQueen. As News Director for the NBC affiliate in Columbia, you will find no one more dedicated and concerned with accuracy and compelling coverage of missing persons families. He’s a true soldier in the fight for awareness!

“The Heart: The Victim’s Hour Presentations”

Listening to and relating our true life ordeals and experiences with violent crime and missing persons is the most difficult and heart wrenching aspect of the CUE Center Conference. Sometimes intimidated by the microphone, victims are gripped with emotion, trying to organize their thoughts, often through their tears conveying the circumstances and how very much their loved one is missed. They speak of personal qualities; special moments shared and lost opportunities for the future. This act is repeated informally over and over throughout the Conference. It is the “lifeblood” of the CUE- this give and take of educating and healing.  And, in the telling the first time, I believe families are set on the path of survivorship.   This year’s family representatives spoke of missing loved ones: Bonnie Santiago, Janet “Renee” Field, Jason Bolton and Christopher Douthat.

A special source of pride for me was the fact that five Connecticut based detectives were in attendance at this conference from New Haven’s Cold Case Unit and the Town of West Haven (where the University of New Haven and the Henry Lee Institute of Forensic Science is located.) I was nervous in the beginning, for new people often feel like a “fish out of water.”  I did what I could to facilitate and then others took over to have conversations in various and sundry places and late into the night. One such conversation I participated in with Monica and “the Connecticut Five.”  Monica was at her best, full of information, and engaging all of us well into the wee hours.  Four hours of sleep that night, but it was so worth it. Monica and her team paved the way to truly understanding the families’ plight for these detectives by the end of the Conference. I was so proud!

It is in these late night discussions that ideas about cases and future collaborations are forged. This is the true magic that occurs without much effort for everyone gives freely from the heart. Nothing else matters!

What Victims Really Want

Monica spoke from the heart at the State Outreach Coordinators’ orientation and at the start of Sunday’s wrap-up. Her sage advice resonated with those who know, who have been part of the fabric of the CUE, adding their family stories to the thousands of families served in 20 plus years. Her ability to always be sensitive to families needs first and foremost and recall the most salient facts when illustrating a point is nothing short of amazing. As an audience, what we take away is of greatest importance. Each uses a “personal yardstick” to measure success. I was struck by her presentation recounting “fact or fiction” in the missing persons world.  Better to debunk the myths than to assume we always know the facts and understand every nuance.

What Families Can Do After the Tent has Folded and the Circus has Left Town was a skillful metaphor used to demonstrate that families need to be very much part of the equation.  We cannot wallow in grief. We must go to work, for with hard work, healing comes. Taking initiative with the assistance of others, building community is empowering. On this journey,   we will not only survive, but thrive and blossom!  I have seen it a thousand times! It is in this context that we set the building blocks for a future resolution with “person power” and faith in God.

The National Candlelight Service

Families honored at the National Candlelight Vigil

Families honored at the National Candlelight Vigil

The procession began with several busses proceeding along the approximately eight mile route with a full police escort, sirens blazing, stopping traffic along the route to the site of the service! This ceremonial gesture, I believe, was a first, and testament to the respect that law enforcement holds for Monica Caison and the CUE Center.   It certainly was a prideful moment for all of us who witnessed it!  The magic of the WWII USS North Carolina Battleship on the brisk ,but tolerably cool night,  against the backdrop of the Cape Fear River in Downtown Wilmington was the scene of the  moving tribute to persons gone missing.  Loved ones were in attendance to represent them, as well as civilian and law enforcement advocates. It was time to award the many who have contributed and those who have passed.  The beautiful color photo memorial wall featuring several dozen victims was unveiled and shone against the lights and hearts of all who participated.   Two musical tributes by Heather Cohen were breathtaking. We also appreciated the talent, wit and “peppering humor” of MC, local TV personality, Sandra McClammy and the inspirational words of Reverend Angie Davis.   Special honorees this year included the families for Gerald Graham, Angie Pipkin and Alysha Tucker.  Two Musical Tributes by Heather Cohen and the inspirational Reverend Angie Davis.

The Heart From My Perspective

Families of those who go missing, or are survivors of homicide, no matter how it occurs, do not want “closure.” This term is a misnomer so frequently used by law enforcement, the media and the legal profession.  Closure is not possible. We have wounded hearts that will forever be damaged. Closure implies that there is a timeline sequence – a beginning, middle and end to grief and pain. An end is a final act. Concerning missing persons in particular, your psyche is perpetually in a “state of suspended animation” if you will – waiting for the other shoe to drop, the next tip to come in or waiting for a person to “grow a conscience.” It is never ending! It is torture! You can see it in their faces, you can hear it in their voices. The term “resolution” is more appropriate as it is more accurate and describes what is happening similar to “chapters of your life.”  The event (i.e. My father’s homicide) will never go away totally for me, although it may fade. BUT, I have successfully made it through many chapters. Each chapter leads to the next. We can never “close the book totally,” but we can achieve a resolution at the stage we are in.

To distill it to its core, when dealing with the uninformed general public, and the media who deals in sound bites, victims need a sense of purpose in their journey versus the ill-conceived “closure.”  A sense of closure means something to do that is productive which contributes to the overall effort of finding their loved one. They cannot sit idly by. Sometimes there is a fine line between “helping/doing what comes natural” and “interfering “with the investigation.  Therefore, the case manager and the police must assess the situation and assign the family a task(s) that will help and at the same time empower them. Such tasks might be small in the overall scheme, but vital just the same. Examples: Gathering photos, constructing a timeline of the last days as they recall their loved one’s activities. If there is a search, purchasing food and water for teams etc.

The Passage Award in Memory of Susan Murphy Milano

Marshia Morton receives the Passage Award

Marshia Morton receives the Passage Award

This award is given to an individual, who has suffered the loss of a loved one by being a missing person, victim of homicide or one that has survived the cruelties from intimate partner violence. This award recognizes the survivor that has healed and who has risen above to contribute oneself to those who remain in need of guidance, empowerment, support and who continually hold a devotion to the cause in memory of Susan Murphy Milano.

This year’s recipient of the Passage Award – Marshia Morton – an excellent choice, who quietly assists in several capacities for the CUE and is a Missouri State Outreach Coordinator.

Another person who is beloved to the CUE organization for being a tireless advocate, as well as the father of a missing daughter, was Robert Cooke, of Georgetown Texas.  Until his death in November, 2014, he had the distinction of participating in every CUE Center Conference since its inception.  He was a special friend and supporter to Monica who is missed every day.  Tragically, his daughter, Rachel Cooke vanished while jogging in 2002 while visiting her parents. She remains missing.

A memorial scholarship for a fee paid conference was set up in his name and was awarded to Gail Soles, the mother of missing Crystal Gail Soles.

Finally, there were so many acts of random kindness from helping, listening , giving, sharing ,awarding expensive goods won (such as a guitar) and hugs throughout!

It humbled me to share my room with family members of one of the vigil honorees. The story of the loss of her daughter, Elisha Tucker is tragic, and only one of many which has befallen the family .

I thank those who assisted me especially Rachael Caison, Delilah Jones, Jerry Sigmon, and Sheryl McCollum for your special assistance and kindnesses. Let’s make it a great year filled with hope for families of the missing!

Donate to the Cue Center for Missing Persons  

CUE Center for Missing Persons