Victim Impact Statements- A Tragedy Beginning in Cheshire, Connecticut


“If we live 100 years, I don’t think we’ll ever have closure…If closure brings forgetting, I don’t want that closure.” Reverend Richard E. Hawke


There is no mistaking the finality of a victim impact statement. In theory, it is supposed to be the culmination of a family member’s most personal heartfelt thoughts by explaining the inexplicable – the physical, emotional and psychological void experienced.  However, when you consider the extreme vulnerability of a new crime victim, desperately hanging on by threads, it is hard to conceive that any salient, cohesive thoughts are possible.

A person’s ability to craft a statement does not really equate with the seriousness of the crime, for every crime is a serious personal violation. How a crime is perceived and dealt with is truly individual.  We might assume that certain professions (law enforcement, physicians, clergy, social workers) would expose and adequately  prepare these professionals for their own  tragedies. But,  it ain’t necessarily so….   When violent crime happens to you or yours, theories and platitudes often seem hollow.

Consider the example of the Reverend Richard E. Hawke, the father and grandfather of  Jennifer Hawke Petit, Hayley and Michaela Petit. All four members of the Petit family were the victims of one of the most horrendous crimes imaginable, occurring in Cheshire, CT in July 2007. Two perpetrators stalked, kidnapped, invaded the Petit home , escalating to  rape, murder and arson of all female members.  Dr. William Petit, Jr. narrowly escaped death.

Reverend Hawke’s taped victim impact statement (7 min, 58 secs) following the trial of perpetrator Joshua Komisarjevsky, was heartfelt and delivered with dignity. This defeated man spoke in measured tones, truly appealing to the perpetrator, trying to relate a teaching  message to this monster killer.  Did his words somehow penetrate JK’s evil existence?

Grace Under Fire

I thought it remarkable that Reverend Hawke apologized for not being at the sentencing in person and wanted this murderer to get acquainted with them.  As you will hear in the following video, Reverend Hawke spoke of his 55 year career as a Pastor, participation in all kinds of funerals, describing cherished family memories and lost future opportunities Clearly the most difficult experience of one’s life is to bury younger family members far earlier than would be expected.  He related  how and why they endured 131 days with two trials, Reverend Hawke spoke kindly of the perpetrator’s family, the unreimbursable costs preventing more in person participation and the disrespect of the defense team and media, calling them the “Petit Posse.”  Reverend Hawke stated that if his deceased family members could endure  the pain they were subjected to, they too could endure the pain of the two trials on their behalf. This impressive man of God, ended his statement with scripture for his family and regarding the perpetrator.  

Richard Hawke Victim Impact Statement 2012 from Deborrah Glenn-Long on Vimeo.

Sadly, Reverend Hawke passed away suddenly at the age of 84 at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on June 25, 2016. Regardless of any medical issues, I’m sure he also died with a broken heart.  Reverend Hawke was from Pennsylvania and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps., serving as a chaplain’s assistant in the early 1950’s.  He returned to Grove City College and worked as a student minister at area churches. He married his wife Maybelle, a registered nurse in 1953).   Subsequently he attended Drew Theological Seminary , earning a M. Div and was ordained in 1959. He was named the United Methodist Churches’ Pittsburg District Superintendent in 1978 with several other pastoral assignments in  Pennsylvania until his retirement in 1994.  In addition to his daughter, Jennifer and Cynthia Hawke Renn, he had four grandchildren prior to the 2007 homicides.

A Reverend is used to writing weekly sermons and using inspiring language…and yet Reverend Hawke freely admitted that he struggled for words with this very important task.

Such is the reality of composing a victim impact statement.

One of the options available is to videotape and use the VI Statement as a lasting record of a family member’s wishes over time, such as the video portrayed by Reverend Hawke.

This key role is the one opportunity families have to present a united voice and true picture of their loved one during the judicial process. It is not something to be scribbled on the back of a napkin in haste. Rather, it is better to seek the services of a skilled writer and someone who has encountered a similar experience.

How can the task be made easier?  The burden can be lifted by acquiring assistance from a homicide survivor and advocate with over three decades of experience.  Should you seek assistance, with sufficient advanced notice and a minimal monetary investment, contact me at this link- 

Donna R. Gore

To schedule Donna R. Gore for your next conference, seminar or event, please contact ImaginePublicity.Phone: 843-808-0859 or Email:

You can find me here, please follow or friend! Facebook,  Shattered Lives,  Twitter, LinkedIn


“The Murder Business” (What’s Wrong with this Picture?)

What would people do or say when asked what we do for a living…or for our passion… when we replied that, “We are in the business of murder”?? I can see it now… Little old ladies would run the other way. College professors would immediately have a puzzled look and little kids would scream! Yikes! We’re only telling the truth in the most concise way. ‘No big deal…. Or is it? Is it our job to make them feel comfortable and do our jobs too? No! However, it takes so long to explain precisely what we do…no matter what our titles, job tasks, salaries…or lack of salaries (‘can’t forget that one!) Those who have no real salaries have earned their reservations in heaven right next to good people like Jennifer Hawke Petit, Michaela and Hayley Petit, Caylee Anthony, Roberta Murphy, Gail Palmgen, Kathleen Savio, Natalee Holloway… I could go on and on….

However, my point is that murder is a real business for some. (No, I’m not referring to the near and dear to our hearts, Alfred Hitchcock…) There are a whole list of “players.” Let’s examine a little closer and decide what it tells us…. Can we judge the importance of a profession by the amount of money they are paid? If this was a common sense world, yes. But, we know it’s frequently not a common sense anything!

National Average Annual Salaries (Depending upon Geographic Location and Specific Industry)
Public Defenders: (As of December 9, 2011)
$41,000 to $49,000; ‘Lowest State of Pennsylvania; State of California – Range of $56,000 to $102,000 annually. This profession is projected 13% lower than all positions to 2018;

Prosecuting Attorneys: National Average is $129,440; Low end with just one year’s experience is $54,130 annually. Those with 20 years experience – $165,470 annually.
***Prosecutors working in the Petroleum/Coal industry salary = $$208,410 annually;

*** Prosecutors working in the Tobacco industry salary = $193,020 annually;

*** Prosecutors working in the Electronic Shopping or Mall Order industries: salary = $182,130 annually;

Crime Victim Advocates – (Court Based or Non- Profit)

***$45, 0000 annually which is 38% lower than the average of all job postings!

Private Investigators (As of May 2009) Average Hourly wage is $22.66; Average annual wage = $47,130; Investigators with one year of experience = $25,602 annually; Investigators with 20+ years of experience –

*** Range = $37,443 to $70,080 annually;
***Private Investigators working in the Management, Scientific and Consulting Industries the most well compensated: Average = $90,030 annually;
***Private Investigators in the Natural Gas Distribution Industry earn $83,080 annually; ***Private Investigators in the Computer System Design Industry earn $79,380 annually; ***Private Investigators in the Telecommunications Industry earn $74,800 annually; The highest paid private investigator employed by a state is Virginia at $$68,420 annually;
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics…

Police Detectives earn a range of $34,402 to $94,171 annually;

Homicide Detectives earn a median salary of $62,110 nationally; In a 2010 Survey of 435 detectives a salary range of $44,613 to $81,796 was reported;Detectives in the Federal System earn an average of $75,390 annually; Detectives in State Government earn an average of $54,940 annually; Detectives in Local Government earn an average of $61,230 annually;

Top Five Highest Paid Cities – Detective Salaries as of an August 2010 Survey) (Includes Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and St. Louis )

***Salary Range on Average was $68,200 to 107,304 annually;

Domestic Violence /Intimate Partner Homicide- Director of Non-Profit:

***Executive Director position earns an average of $48,155 annually;

***Program Manager Non– Profit position earns an average of $42,907annually;

***Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) earns an average of $39,996 annually;

***Masters of Social Work (MSW) earns an average of $33,384 annually;

Medical Examiners: (As of February 2011)

***California Average is $51,000; Nationally is $45,000; Average Advertised salary is $102,044- Working as a law enforcement primary ME versus a technician under supervision. A medical examiner earns a medical degree followed by a 3rd or 4th year post graduate program. After graduating medical school, a residency of 3 to 8 years in pathology is required followed by a licensing board examination.

Coroners: Data Varies: Range = $12,164 to $107.916; ‘Other sources report $19,574 to $84,849; According to the National Average Salary Board (July 2011) Coroners earn $97,044 annually.

A coroner is an elected or appointed official who has no background in medical or forensic science. A coroner is a politician who wins enough votes to become the incumbent. He can be a sheriff, a dentist, a baker, or local pizza shop owner. He will have little or no knowledge of forensic investigation.

During the past quarter century, the rules of the office of the coroner have evolved such that many jurisdictions today require the coroner to be a licensed medical doctor. He may be an internist, a gynecologist, or dermatologist but does not necessarily have to be a pathologist or a forensic pathologist. He may not have the qualifications to perform the duties of a coroner. For this reason, the medical examiner system has evolved.

A medical examiner (ME) is a doctor of medicine who is licensed to practice medicine. Most ME’s are trained in pathology, particularly forensic pathology. This means they have specialized training in pathology and training and experience in forensics. A forensic pathologist is a clinical pathologist who has special training in the field of forensics. He is usually the person in charge of a crime lab. He is an overseer of all aspects of death and criminal injury. The primary duty of the forensic pathologist is to perform forensic autopsies, which are needed to determine the cause and manner of death.

Many rural areas, where county, state, or federal funding is minimal, still have the coroner system today. The coroner in these jurisdictions is an elected public servant in charge of investigating a death. The reason for this trend is that these developing areas just do not have a big enough population to justify the presence of a highly trained forensic pathologist as a medical examiner. Under these circumstances, a coroner must outsource a forensic autopsy when needed.

With advancing technology, the coroner system will eventually be obsolete leaving the medical examiner system all by itself. Highly educated individuals with special knowledge of laboratory testing and forensic autopsies will be required to fill the position of the office of the medical examiner.
Article Source:

***True Crime Authors: No Specific Data; However, the generic title of “Author” yields the following salary range annually – $13,922 to $80,149 annually. [LJ- That’s a “Grand Canyon” difference, sister!]

Marketing -Public Relations Director The median expected salary for a typical Marketing Director in the United States is $134,366. Directs and oversees an organization’s marketing policies, objectives, and initiatives. Conducts market research and develops marketing plans for specific products, services, or business lines. Reviews changes to the marketplace and industry and adjusts marketing plan accordingly. Requires a bachelor’s degree with at least 10 years of experience in the field. Familiar with a variety of the field’s concepts, practices, and procedures. Relies on extensive experience and judgment to plan and accomplish goals. Performs a variety of tasks. Leads and directs the work of others. A wide degree of creativity and latitude is expected. Typically reports to top management. [LJ—Well, not the one’s I know!!]

Do you see the pattern here? What’s wrong with this picture? All of the important human service; hands on, “let’s save a life work” is more or less a pittance compared to gas, coal, tobacco and technology.

Question: Is there life on Mars? (I know scientist recently proved there is water… If so, how do I sign up?)
Donna/ “Ladyjustice” Reporting