The Silence Can be Deafening- No Apologies for Being an Advocate 

Don Gore

Don Gore, my father

After 36 years of surviving the most life-changing event in one’s life, you gain perspective, but you also lose friends along the way.

My father’s murder occurred in Hartford Connecticut on April 17, 1981, and it made the law books for a particular legal maneuver. It was a case whose trial was prolonged for 6 1/2 years, caught in the morass of determinate and indeterminate sentencing laws. It was a case that coincided with the infancy of victim rights. My father’s case began as a missing person and ended as a homicide.

It was a case characterized by unthinkable events such as our family learning the news via a newspaper article and taking it upon ourselves to call the police, as no notification had come our way. There were promises were made such as, “This career criminal will never get out.” In fact, a very skilled attorney/victim advocate was puzzled as to why the perpetrator ever became eligible for parole in 2013.

My father’s murder case changed the State of Connecticut policy regarding the anonymity of victims during a parole hearing although the parole board failed to even acknowledge such a milestone.

That’s when I decided not to be silent. Don Gore needed a voice and I became that person in every way imaginable.

It is not a role I consciously chose, it evolved as my intellectual curiosity and need for justice grew.

Times have changed, with an entirely new generation appearing since 1981.  The landscape in victim services has expanded to include a plethora of agencies, governmental to non-profit. In addition, in 2017, violence, public perception, tolerance of what once was unacceptable, and the ever-changing social mores, has also escalated with the immediacy of social media.

In situations such as violent crime, I believe complacency breeds indifference. If you are not part of the solution, you could be part of the problem. It’s not that you have to go the whole hog, just make a meaningful contribution in your own way.

But then, there are the constants that don’t seem to change the work against positive change and hope for the future. These elements are equal to the silence that pervades if you chose not to be a voice for change, or, at the very least, acknowledge what others are doing and give moral support. The silences can be deafening causing me to work with increased fervor.  Some examples:

  • The murderer having no cognizance of who he killed or who was related to him in addition to showing no remorse;
  • The vulnerabilities that still surface, even after 36 years;
  • The tendency of the public to stay in denial mode, shaking their collective heads unless homicide or other crimes have touched them personally;
  • The lack of connection or involvement in many homicides and missing person families;
  • The refusal to see beyond the obvious that homicide and missing persons isn’t uplifting and that there is nothing positive that can come forth by educating and creating awareness. How wrong these people are, they will never get it! When you look beyond the surface, as advocates, we have been the force for so much positive change. As a byproduct, you gain surrogate families who can be very nurturing. Out of tragedy, inspiring events occur.
  • The lack of resources and assistance for so many families, even in this enlightened era forcing us to be ever more creative to get the job done.

The Future

Although I do not look forward to the five-year mark looming in the background for another appearance at a parole hearing in 2018, I embrace the right and duty to continually try to be the voice of my father, Donald W. Gore, whose life was snuffed out so abruptly and unfairly.

I hope he will be observing with pride from his place in heaven.  Dad, you are missed by many!

DRG- 4-16-2017


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Shattered Lives Radio: Victim Impact Statement Reverses Parole

 

 

 

Shattered Lives Radio

On a recent episode of Shattered Lives Radio, I was privileged to discuss yet another discrepancy in the Connecticut Pardon and Parole system. As you may remember, my own family’s experience with a parole hearing left us out in left field, scrambling at the last minute to insure that my father’s murderer stayed behind bars.

For the surviving family members of slain Plainville, CT police officer, Robert Holcomb, the incompetence and lack of communication from the Pardon and Parole Board, created the perfect storm and Holcomb’s murderer was granted parole in January, 2015.

Slain Plainville, CT police officer Robert Holcomb

Robert Holcomb

Family members of officer Holcomb were not notified of the upcoming parole hearing and therefore were not in attendance when it was granted. However, they immediately asked for another hearing, it was granted, and the parole was rescinded after hearing the statements of surviving family members.

One of the most influential aspects of the recission hearing was the victim impact statement read by Holcomb’s son, Mac, who was only 3 years old at the time of his father’s murder.  Mac Holcomb Victim Impact Statement (download pdf)

The Shattered Lives Radio episode speaks with Mac Holcomb, his cousin Maria Weinberger, and Plainville Chief of Police, Matt Catania who has become a valued family friend as well. We were able to bring to light many of the mistakes of the Pardon and Parole Board which has had negative influence on the Holcomb family, my family, and countless others we don’t even know about.

Shattered Lives Radio Points of Discussion

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  • You don’t know what you don’t know.  The fact that as a new crime victim they typically are not versed in criminal or judicial procedures.  They also are not familiar with how to navigate the bureaucracies of state agencies, their protocols or websites.
  • Who is a victim? Is it only immediate family vs. extended family?
  • The role of victim impact statements according to Mac Holcomb, nearly forty years later.
  • The police community and seeking justice according to Chief Matt Catania.
  • Creating a victim’s voice, what’s missing?  New beginnings for the future, i.e. legislative recommendations such as earlier notification for victims, examining the appointment and eligibility process of hearing officers, continuing education, etc.
  • Maria Weinberger offers a list of legislative recommendations to address Parole Board Reforms (download pdf)
  • Lessons to be learned for the future.  From a previous Shattered Lives Radio episode, Atty. Michelle Cruz offers several ideas from her experience as the CT State Victim Advocate.

In my opinion, one of the most important lessons learned from the Holcomb family experience, and my own, is the critical need for crime victims to be heard through preparing a victim impact statement. Often, it’s the only time their concerns are able to be voiced.

One way I feel I can help victims who are desperately trying to navigate the judicial system is by offering a Victim Impact Statement Assistance Service. If you are a crime victim, I invite you to learn more about my service by referring to my website for details.

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