[UPDATED with Event Coverage:] Crime Victims and Survivors Honored at DA's Rally
UPDATE, APRIL 15, 8:45 A.M.: The colors teal, yellow and black were worn by both the young and old in honor of the 2011 National Crime Victims' Rights Week theme, "reshaping the future, and honoring the past" at Thursday morning's third annual Orange County Victims' Rights March and Rally.
Hundreds of advocates for victims' rights, families of victims, crime survivors, law enforcement officials, and community members flooded the Orange County District Attorney's office in Santa Ana for the reception at 9:30 a.m.
The DA's Chief of Staff Susan Schroeder introduced guest speaker Andre Birotte Jr., the U.S. Attorney for the Central District, who commemorated the winners of this year's essay and art scholarship.
Carnations with tags bearing the names of crime victims are laid near a wreath.
Photos by Monica Luhar/OC Weekly
Among the 400 people who attended the event, Steve Herr held up a sign with an image of his son, Samuel Herr, who served in the army with his comrades and was a student at Orange Coast College. Samuel Herr was murdered and dismembered in May 2010, and 27-year-old community theater actor Daniel Wozniak has been charged with killing Herr and a friend.
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"Samuel had a good sense of humor just like his dad," said the late student's mother. "He was a good kid. He always tried to get his shirt off to help other people, and I think that was part of the problem. Sometimes people took advantage of him because of that. He would always try and protect his fellow comrades in the army. Everybody always felt safe because they knew he had their backs."
After the reception, advocates for victims' rights marched toward the Old Orange County Courthouse carrying with them white carnations with cards attached stating the names of loved ones lost to crimes. These were later placed near a wreath.
The ceremony began with a presentation of the colors by the Santa Ana Police Department Honor Guard. Robert Gustafson, Orange's police chief and the president of the Orange County Chiefs and Sheriff's Association, led the Pledge of Allegiance. The national anthem was beautifully sung by Charlyn Bender, deputy district attorney, later transitioning into a moment of silence led by Erin Runnion, who founded the Joyful Child Foundation in honor of her young daughter Samantha Runnion, who was murdered.
Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, whose law banning sex offenders at regional parks and other recreational areas where children gather was recently adopted, gave a presentation. District Attorney Tony Rackauckas, who co-authored that ordinance with Nelson, reminded everyone of the significance of the march and rally, thanking several agencies, law enforcement officials and organizations that help victims of crime.
"Remembering those we've lost, honoring those who've survived and celebrating the tenacity and the strength of the people who carry on the fight for justice" were the point of the event, Rackauckas told the crowd. Two crime victims then spoke.
The Victims' Rights March and Rally boasts a heavy police presence.
Elaina Kroll was molested by her 42-year-old church choir director when she was just 16. As a survivor and advocate for victims' rights, she felt inspired to found the Innocence Mission in 2009.
"For a very long time, I wished it never happened to me," Kroll said. "I pushed it under the rug. I ran away and pretended like it never occurred. But like most things that get pushed under the rug, one day you'll trip over it. I lived so many years scared, ashamed, confused--like I had been the one that had done something terribly wrong. But then one day I shared."
Lance Frazee represented the often-forgotten victims of crimes: family members who are left behind to deal with the loss of loved ones. He shared remembrances of his daughter, Mackenzie Frazee, whose life was cut short at age 16 by a 17-year-old drunk driver.
As a way to honor and remember his beloved daughter after she passed away, Frazee explained, he took her ashes to her hometown, the place where she died and other places around the United States. He also established the Mackenzie Frazee Foundation and created the Mackenzie's Missing Miles web site so others can track his journey. His goal is to spread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving while helping to keep Mackenzie's memory alive.
To end the event, Rackauckas told the crowd, "We'll speak with one voice and we'll all be taking the same journey. Thank you all for coming out today, for wearing your T-shirts and holding signs and carrying [names of] your loved ones and the pictures you have and carrying their spirits in your hearts. I wish you peace and strength, until we see each other again next year."ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 14, 7:01 A.M.:
This morning, people in suits and street clothes will walk across downtown Santa Ana to the Old County Courthouse to remind the public about the victims of crime both here and gone forever.
Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas leads the third annual Victims' Rights March and Rally, which is scheduled to begin with a 9:30 a.m. reception at his office.
Several survivors of crime and family members of victims are scheduled to speak.
"The goal is to celebrate survivorship and remember those we have lost," Susan Schroeder, the district attorney's chief of staff, tells the Weekly.
An estimated 500 people--ranging from members of the community, victims' families and supporters of victims' rights--are expected to participate. Also, winners of the 2011 Victims' Rights Essay and Art Scholarship contest will be recognized during the rally.
During the march and rally, people will be encouraged to write the names of the victims as a way to pay respect. Participants will also have the opportunity to place flowers near a wreath. There will also be a dove release ceremony during the event.
This falls during the week of the 2011 National Crime Victims' Rights Week (April 10-16). For more details, visit orangecountyda.com.
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