Survivors of Homicide, Inc.
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Wethersfield, CT 06109
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How Society Reacts to Survivors of Homicide
Margaret states that, "To me the best thing that could ever happen is that somebody would say, "Do you have a picture?" When it's your child you feel like you want to talk about them. But when I talk about John, I will cry. Then there's this thing about murder. If I tell people that John was murdered, then I have to take care of them. It's hard to decide whether or not to mention it. In fact, one person did say, "Why did you mention it?" I say, well, I did have three children. I hate to leave him out of my life. I had him for seventeen years and I was very proud of him. I still want people to know that he was very good looking and that he had a good personality."
Though murder is the focus of so many Television shows, movies, and newspaper articles, we never imagine that it could possibly happen to someone we love. Although statistics tell us certain types of people are more frequently the victims of murder, we are all vulnerable to drunk drivers when we are on the highway and we may all be prey to wanton murder.
Murder is commonplace in the fake reality of the mass media. However, the drama of murder that we witness on our TV screens focuses on investigations, arrests and courtroom scenes. These programs rarely give us any view of the terrible emotional impact on the survivors of murder and often even the victim is given little attention.
It was only when the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred on April 19, 1995 that the stark reality of such a loss was brought home to us through television and newspapers. Our first reaction was to blame foreign terrorists, attesting to our desire to hold on to the assumption that our world is safe and that we are somehow exempt from such senseless killing. Since September 11, 2001, society as a whole now realizes, at least for a period of time, that none of us are truly safe any longer.
Because murder is such a distasteful subject, survivors often suffer additional pain from the reactions of their friends and even from the religious community. Their friends may be distant or may even avoid them. Some members of the clergy unintentionally minimize their anguish by either saying that, "your loved one was called by God" or by advising them to forgive the murderer. Survivors need support in their struggle with these emotions, rather than what often seems like a cavalier dismissal.
People don't like discussing the painful subject of murder and may try to distance themselves from the event by blaming the victim or the survivors. People feel that if they can somehow place the blame on the victim or on the victim's family, they will be invulnerable to murder themselves.
Survivors also learn firsthand that the justice process is lengthy, that many murders are never solved, and that the killer can be acquitted or receive a very light sentence. Even if the killer is convicted and receives a life sentence, survivors don't always feel the emotional relief that they expected.
The trial can be postponed or delayed for months or years, leaving survivors suspended in their grief and outrage. As survivors sit through the trial they must also face the relatives of the defendant, a terribly upsetting experience that may be compounded by the hostility sometimes displayed by that family. However, survivors are not permitted to show emotion or the judge will dismiss them because their feelings may "influence the jury."
Survivors must face other painful choices during the trial - like whether to leave or stay when evidence is presented, such as grisly photographs of the crime, bloodstained clothing or other personal property of their loved ones. (Continued on following page)
If the victim was a young woman who was raped during the murder, the trial will likely focus on her reputation, not on the question of whether she was assaulted. A professor of evidence and ethics at New York University School of Law has stated that not only is it not unethical to question or malign the victim's character, but it's the defense lawyer's duty to do so if it will render a not guilty verdict.
During the trial, public opinion and the media might be concerned more with the suspected killer than with the victim.
Even if the murderer receives what survivors feel is a just sentence, they may be surprised at their response. Many expect that a just sentence will lessen their pain - but their loved one is still dead. When the trial is over, many survivors' emotions surface with full force, for they are no longer focused on that external event. They are left with the terrible emptiness created by the murder and the knowledge that they have to live with it.
There is always the prospect of endless appeals and the overturning of the conviction or even an acquittal in a second or third trial. Such dealings with the court system draw out survivors suffering even longer.
Ralph Myers states, "Those of us in society that are surviving victims are unique. Even though violent crime greatly disturbs most decent and law-abiding people, my perception as a crime survivor is that we have become almost callused to the terrible tragedies that constantly take place. Even myself, the father of a son whom I loved very much and miss beyond what I have even yet begun to fully realize, often times think back to the constant reporting by the media, of hearing or reading about a family's struggle in trying to cope with the murder of a loved one."
"Crime victims and their survivors are soon forgotten by the public and the media. If they are murder victims, their voices have been forever silenced. If they are victims of domestic violence or rape, they soon become the accused rather than the victim. After all, they must have done something that would justify why they were beaten and abused by their spouse, or raped by someone they knew. Or provoked an action being taken upon them by a total stranger because they looked or dressed in a certain way."
Ralph goes on to say that, "It is uncomfortable being around someone that is a victim or surviving victim of crime because most people have never, and hopefully will never become a victim. We are not taught how to deal with events that happen, or persons that experience being victimized."
"How many times have we all watched a local or national newscast wherein the person reporting a particularly tragic story or gruesome murder end the report with an obvious look of sympathy, and a statement of outrage - only then to go on to the next story by stating, "Now, for some lighter news?" Their whole demeanor is completely transformed to one of cheerfulness - like the story they had just reported was to be cast aside."
"From a victim's perspective, that appears or seems to be our duty or plight for the rest of our lives. The life of our murdered loved one has been reduced to a ten to thirty second sound byte. Hurriedly reported on and just as quickly cast aside. The attention then usually focuses on the person or person that committed the heinous act against our loved one. In future newscasts, the victim's names are not even mentioned. Instead, all commentary centers around such topics as to whether the person that is accused of the violent crime will be able to get a fair trial because he or she may be a member of a particular race, color, or creed. However, their victims that have been murdered have forever lost those same considerations. Their voices have been forever silenced. They cannot participate in the arena of public debate or discussion. Any constitutional rights they ever had were stripped away from them the very instant they became a victim. All that is left for them is for their voices to be heard through those that loved and survived them. The criminal justice system is only concerned about the rights of the accused, even after they are proven guilty and convicted."
"As a surviving parent or family member of a loved one that has been murdered, you become their voice since they are no longer able to speak for themselves. Ever since Tom was murdered, I consider our involvement as parents as an extended act of parenting. Looking out for the interest of our child the same as we would if they were still living and depended upon us for protection."
Article can be found at http://www.ohiocops.com/grief/society.html.
Victim Impact Statement
By: Chris Noel-Bentley
I am writing this statement for my late beautiful baby Nathaniel Christopher who now undoubtedly resides in Heaven, the glorious kingdom of our Creator. He was born on December 15th, 2006 and died abruptly on August 5th, 2007 at the hands of his mother Ashby. Currently I am a member of Survivors of Homicide in New Haven, CT. And while this horrific event may be tragic it has motivated me to make a difference. I am looking to start a Survivors of Homicide group in the Norwalk/Stamford area and am also now employed by DCF.
According to police my son’s lifeless body was discovered in a bath tub and his and his mother’s wet clothing were found hidden in the house. My son’s mother and a friend of Ashby’s, who were also at the house at the time of Nathaniel’s death, were all admittedly under the influence of either drugs and/or alcohol before and during my son’s death.
My son was in the care of his mother when he died. Because of her inability to properly watch my son Nathaniel - he perished! My poor innocent baby boy never had a chance. He was only 7 ½ months old!
Nathaniel, or Nate as I called him, will never get a chance to take his first steps. Nor will he ever get to experience his first day of school or play in his first soccer game with his Daddy cheering him on. He’ll never experience his first Halloween and pick out his favorite costume. Never will he experience the joy of asking what he wants for Christmas and then seeing his eyes light up, when after he eagerly tears open his present he sees he got exactly what he asked for. Nate will not be able to graduate high school, go to college, get married…. At no time will Nathaniel be able to tell his father about his first girlfriend or argue with me because I told him to turn his music down. My son died so early on that he will never even get to see his first teeth!
Nathaniel deserved an opportunity to live life – so precious a gift taken so suddenly away from him! And why! For what reason is my son no longer allowed to enjoy the beautiful God-given gift of life? Because of his mother’s selfishness and inability to safely care for my child!
When God gave me the gift of a child I cherished it like a desert does to rain or a starving dog to a bone. Nathaniel was a spiritual gift of God – not ever to be taken lightly and one always to be grateful for!
I will never get to bond with my son – or go to his first soccer game. Never will I be able to read my son a bedtime story or tuck him in. I’ll never even get the chance to pray with my son – to ask God for guidance each day and thank him for the glorious gift of life. This I can only do alone. And most sadly I will never in person get to tell my son again that I love him more than anything on God’s great earth.
Now at night when I pray to God I also talk with my son. I tell him every night I love him and let him know Daddy is doing whatever he can down here on earth for his honor and justice. Until I meet with him again when God sees fit to take me, I have to stay strong and steadfast for my little buddy. All I want is for the truth to come out. The truth, I am told will set one free.
In closing I ask a few simple things: why were Ashby’s clothes wet? Why were my son’s? How can everyone involved just simply say they don’t remember and get away with that as an explanation?! Furthermore why were the wet clothes hidden in the house? Obviously someone was trying to cover up something. My son deserves the truth to be told! My beautiful boy was a living, breathing and the most loving little person I have ever met. Nathaniel was my son! I loved him! And I will not stop fighting until the truth surfaces and my son gets his due justice!
Missing Since: December 28, 2005 from New Haven, Connecticut
Weight: 140 lbs.
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Distinguishing Characteristics: Light complexion, thin beard and mustache.
Clothing: Black hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and bandana.
Details of Disappearance
Ortiz was last seen on December 28, 2005 in New Haven, Connecticut. He may have been seen in a 90’s-model four-door silver Ford Taurus. There are numerous unsubstantiated rumors, including that Ortiz was shot and placed in the water. Also, on the day he disappeared, a city firefighter saw a young man dragged into a car by three other men outside the Fair Haven firehouse, just feet from the his family's home.
If you have any information about his disappearance, please call the New Haven Police at 203-946-6316.
Recent Events for Survivors of Homicide, Inc.
New London Rotary – Chester Fairlie presented July 2009
July 15, 2009 - Fred & Lavenita Smith participated in an Anti – Violence Demonstration in the City of New Haven.
Milford Oyster Festival – Danielle Rea: Informational booth Aug 09
Sat/Sun., October 17 & 18, 2009: NBC Health and Wellness Fair – Volunteer response was outstanding and has been scheduled to support
NBC 30 interview with SOH Chris Noel Bentley and Jessica Norton Victim Advocate
November 1 and scheduled Nov 15 - 1st reading of "Hear Us" for the New Haven Support group a new play written by Toby Armour which focuses on the plight of SOH victims. A second reading is tentatively scheduled for Nov 15th at the Branford Library, Branford Connecticut. Time TBD.
November 12, 2009 - DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) Milford: Danielle Rea, President, Su Hintz Victim Advocate attended, Danielle Rea Presented
National Crime Victims’ Rights Week will be April 18-April 24, 2010. We have not set a day for our Reception at the Capitol, but details will follow.
Missing Norwich Woman: Erika Cirioni. Can you Help?
Missing Since: December 31, 2006
Missing Age: 26
Height: 5 feet, 7 inches
Weight: 158 pounds
Missing From: Norwich
Distinguishing Characteristics: She has a tattoo of a Chinese symbol on her back and the name “Lewis” on her right ankle.
Medical conditions: Her mother believes Cirioni suffers from bipolar disorder. She has known substance abuse issues.
Clothing: Cirioni was last seen wearing blue jeans, sneakers, a green shirt and a black jacket that had a fur hood.
Erika disappearance is sadly approaching its third year. Her mother Carol has been desperately searching for answers and has not been able to get any closer to her daughter since the day she last saw her. It is unfortunate that her resources have not been able to help guide her through this horrific time. The Norwich Police Department needs the public’s help in order to solve this case.
Please help in the search for Erika. She is a mother of two wonderful boys and it is highly unlikely she would have left her residence willingly.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Norwich Police Department at 860.886.5561 or the anonymous tip line at 860.886.5561 ext. 500.
A very special thanks goes out to Anna Petrisky, who compiled the articles for this newsletter.
Save The Date
Melanie Ilene Rieger Memorial Conference Against Violence
THEME: Melanie Rieger: A Daughter, Sister, Friend & College Student: A Domestic Violence Statistic
June 8th & June 9th 2010
Central Connecticut State University
1615 Stanley Street
New Britain, CT 06050
Among scheduled speakers are Wally Lamb and Barbara Parsons: "Cause & Effect: The Link Between Domestic Violence & The Incarceration of Female Victims" (Mr. Lamb is the bestselling author of such books as The Hour I First Believed, I Know This Much Is True and She's Gone Undone) and Chip St.Clair: "The Butterfly Garden": A Journey From Victim to Victim's Advocate.
Two panels will be presented this year. The first will be entitled "Criminal Justice Response to Domestic Violence" and the second "At Home With Domestic Violence: Child Survivors".
Projected Audience: social workers, educators & students, crime victims, advocates and those in correction, law enforcement and criminal justice.
For more information please contact Sam Rieger at SRIEGER243@att.net.
Registration forms will be mailed late March, early April and will be available at http://melanieriegerconference.com/common/ as well.