EATON — Preble County held its annual Crime Victims’ Rights Ceremony on Tuesday, April 10. National Crime Victims’ Rights Week 2018 was held April 8-14, with the theme of Expand the Circle: Reach all Victims.
This year’s theme is meant to emphasize the importance of inclusion in victim services, according to the Office for Victims of Crime. The theme addresses how the crime victims field can better ensure that every crime victim has access to services and support and how professionals, organizations, and communities can work in tandem to reach all victims.
Preble County’s ceremony aligns with the National Week of recognition every year. The program holds a 5K to honor victims of crime in September. This year’s will be the 10th annual 5K so they are planning some special events during the race. More details are to come closer to the event.
Last week’s ceremony included guest speakers, music by Something Good, reading of a proclamation, time for sharing, the presentation and candlelight ceremony, and a concluding prayer. At the conclusion of the ceremony, there were refreshments provided by Libby Adams and It Takes the Cake. In the reception area, on the first floor of the Preble County Courthouse, the Clothesline Project was displayed.
This project was provided by the local YWCA Domestic Violence shelter. According to officials, it is a vehicle for women affected by violence to express their emotions by decorating a shirt. They then hang the shirt on a clothesline to be viewed by others as testimony to the problem of violence against women. It becomes a healing tool for the survivors and an educational tool for those who view the project.
To begin the ceremony, Eaton Police Chief Steve Hurd led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. Preble County Sheriff Mike Simpson then took the microphone.
“I can remember when an office dedicated to the victims’ of crime didn’t exist in Preble County,” Simpson said. “No one had the responsibility to stand with our victims and be with them during the long process that they face. There was no specific office to call to get the information you needed. The victims had to take this task on themselves.
“This changed in Preble County in the 1990s. The prosecutor’s office established our first victim witness office, which continues today under Prosecutor Votel and his staff. The types of crimes committed today are very similar to when the office first open, but in some ways they are different. Frequency of which they are committed, sadly seems to have increased. In many ways, society has changed. We must insure that as your needs change, we change and we adapt.”
Simpson continued, “With so many complex issues that cause and contribute to crime across our county and nation, we cannot and must not forget our victims. Too many times, the victim gets lost in the process, and the victim becomes the lost person the system worries about.
“In closing I speak to the family and friends of not only the three we remember this evening, but those who have been remembered in the past and will be remembered in the future, your loved ones will always be in our thoughts and prayers. It is my hope that through our work bringing those to justice for the crimes they have committed, we have served you well and done our jobs. For those cases that have yet to be solved, be assured that through the public’s help and support, we are committed to following every lead to every location to bring them to justice.”
Preble County Commission President Chris Day read a proclamation, in remembrance of all victims of crime and declaring April 8-14 Crime Victims’ Rights Week in Preble County.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Eric Marit took the microphone next, explaining that this year’s theme focuses on the system’s greatest “shortcomings.”
“Tonight we are surrounded by families and victims of some of the worst crimes this county has ever seen. Out of this suffering and pain, has arisen a power and strength. There is power in your voice, there is power in your attendance at this event, and there is power in your story,” he said. “There are powers in your numbers to remind us why we are all here. A crime has been committed and a victim is suffering.
“We are lucky in Preble County,” Marit said. “We are lucky to have a small and closely-knit community. A community that law enforcement is still respected as the brave men and women who help us in our time of need. We know them by name. A community where the prosecutor’s office has an open door policy and meets with victims, in order to create a satisfying conclusion to a case. A community with a strong and active victim witness program. A community with an active victim network.”
He added, last year the Prosecutor’s Office prosecuted 380 felony cases and 240 misdemeanor cases. The Preble County Victim Witness Program assisted 137 individuals with civil protection letters. This year, there will officially be more than 60 individuals on the remembrance tree. After the ceremony, there were 62 individuals remembered through their picture or name on the tree. In fact, the Victim Witness Office had to purchase a larger tree to fit all those individuals who were unjustly taken from their loved ones.
“I implore you all to share your stories. Keep an eye on our community, keep an eye on your own community. Hold people accountable for their actions and the decisions they make. I can assure you that the Preble County Prosecutor’s Office and our colleagues in law enforcement will continue to hold those individuals accountable. I want to thank you all for your attendance at this event. It is a symbol of strength and a symbol of resolve, and often, of unforgettable tragedy. For that, I thank you,” Marit said.
Next was the time for sharing, where victims and families had the opportunity to share their stories.
One mother said, “My daughter was taken from her work. She was murdered, her body was dumped. Police talked to me so much, we looked and looked and walked around with flyers. We could not find her anywhere. They discovered my daughter. She had been half eaten and was unrecognizable. She had to be cremated. My beautiful 20-year-old daughter. This next to me is her daughter, which I just recently adopted. I miss my baby girl so much. She was the sweetest thing ever.”
Next, three new names were added to the remembrance tree. Those families were invited forward to place the ornament on the tree. Following, names of all the victims recognized on the tree were called and their families had the opportunity to stand and recognize their loved one.
Preble County Victim Advocates Brenda Miller and Jennie Baker lead the candlelight ceremony. Pastor Justin Wiegand with Community of Faith Church led those in attendance in the concluding prayer.
The Victim Witness Program invites all out to the 10th Annual Victim Witness 5K Walk/Run on Sept. 23.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH