Nearly every day I get a call or receive a letter from a fellow co-victim who feels like their grief will never get any softer. They feel as if there is no hope for them to get to a “new normal”. Monumental times in their life seem empty. Nothing is the same. The murderer took more than their loved one. There is an empty hole in their hearts as well as their lives. Of course, they are right as it is a long hard road to be able or think of anything else. Murder victims not only deal with the loss of their loved one, they must also deal with the justice system, the person who committed the murder, an unsolved crime and a permanent change in their life. We do not deserve this nor did or love one.
Homicide is like no other loss. Before I even had my first child, I worried that something would happen to one of my children. We only left them with a trusted family member. I was a “stay at home mom” so that nothing would ever happen to them. My husband built a home in the country so that it would be a safe place to raise our family. Unfortunately, now of this matters. If someone wants to murder another person, they can. We cannot put our loved ones in a glass bubble to protect them. What would they turn out to be if we constantly watched over them? Loving them is giving them their freedom.
We are not responsible for the murder of our loved one. It is the murderer who is responsible. What helps us is to try to rid ourselves, if only for a short time, of thinking about the murder of our loved one and focus on a happy time we shared with our loved ones. We need not blame our loved one as well. No matter what lifestyle they were in, they did not think that they would be murdered. We are all born with the will to want to live. If we were not, none of us would be here now. If our child or loved one was young, it can be even harder because we feel we let them down.
Guilt from a homicide trickles down to almost everyone who loves or even cares about the one who was murdered. A friend might feel that they should have been with them and they might not have been murdered. Families feel guilty about almost everything. If they knew the murderer, why didn’t they see that their loved one was in danger. They blame themselves if they were to strict or too lenient. It does not matter what the scenario was. Survivor guilt is real to survivors.
If our loved one would have died from an accident or illness, we would be heartbroken as well. But, this is not what happened. We need each other, people who understand, and an understanding of why we feel this way. Knowing our demons helps us find a release. We need never to forget our loved ones. We do not have to remember though or go over the scenario every day. It is the trauma from their homicide that causes the scenario to play over and over in our minds. This is what causes post traumatic stress disorder. It is so sad that all of us left behind can become consumed with guilt except the person or persons who committed the murder.
Murderers are psychopaths and they enjoy the feeling that they have gotten away with the murder. They feel that they are bright enough to fool everyone. The man who planned and carried out my son’s murder was able to cry on cue. He came over to our house right after murdering my son to pretend that he was looking for him. We did not find our son’s body for weeks after he was murdered and the murderer pretended to try to help us find him. He came up with so many different types of scenarios of what might have happened. Murderers also try to blame the victims as well. They even try to put the blame on the loved ones left behind. They blame everyone except themselves. What comes out of the mouth of a murderer is as evil as what they did. It seems to family and friends that their loved one is on trial. It is no wonder that we as co-victims take so long to get to have any type of life. Many times we may be our worst enemies. We get mad at ourselves if we break down at times we need to make a statement or give our pertinent information.
Many of us expect to be able to have better control of our emotions. We lose our temper when we shouldn’t. It is hard for us to laugh and have fun even though it would feel so good to smile once in a while. It is harder for us to be tolerant of the things that did not bother us before. For those of us who have other children, it is hard to be there for them. We are not who we were before. This makes us sad because we love our other children just as much. Right now, our emotions are so over whelmed that it is hard to put into words how we feel. “Empty” might be the right word.
It is not usual if we feel like we are afraid to love again because the pain we are feeling now is so unbearable. At meetings, when co-victims tell their stories as we go around the room, one can see the relief they feel when they find that others are feeling as they do. It lets them know that it is normal to have feelings as they do. Some survivors feel that they do not want to even get out of bed while others are unable to sleep. We have people tell us that the only thing they watch on television is about homicide and others do not want to watch any violence. Some of our members will feel numb while others become over sensitive and quick to react.
It is so important to understand what homicide does so that we can learn ways to help ourselves. It is better to express our feeling and talk about them rather than develop mental health problems. We have seen where co-victims turn to drinking or drugs or develop eating disorders. This is why we hope that every person left behind after a homicide will be fortunate enough to have help from people who have been
there or people who care. It is essential for a “new normal”.
We need to allow ourselves time to heal and to do this we must allow ourselves to think of the murder and talk about it until you do not want to. There will be a time when you can think of your loved one and you will feel a smile come to your face for that can never be taken away. Love lasts forever. Having them in your life has made you a better person. You will also find that helping others also helps you heal. There is no better friend than a POMC friend.
Please know that we are here for you, Mary Elledge
It is such an honor for the Greater Portland Area Chapter to have chapter members who will be on the TV feature about the murders of Todd Rudiger, son of Victoria Johnson and Donna Ferguson, daughter of Debra Adams. Other family members involved in being on the production were: Donna’s sister, Deloni and Todd’s brothers, Teddy and Seth Rudiger. Detectives Larry Findling and Mike Stahlman, who handled the case, also will appear on the show.
This is a compelling story that took years to solve. An important part of this story is that Victoria Johnson, mother of Todd, journaled from the start of this terrible tragedy and wrote the book, “Hurled Into Darkness”. The book is on Amazon and can be ordered on line. We have also featured an article that Deloni wrote about her journey through the many years after the murder of her sister.
Victoria wrote “Hurled into Darkness” so that others could be helped on the worst trip a family could travel, the aftermath of homicide. She tells of the pain and crippling effect that homicide does to the co-victims left behind. It took years to solve the case and that keeps families from reaching a “new normal” even longer. Victoria shares the true feelings that co-victims of homicide go through and holds nothing back. She stayed with her original premise in writing her book. Victoria gave co-victims hope so that others know it is possible to find peace and happiness. We need to reach out to others and it is so important not to hold back tears. Tears are part of what allows us to heal. I hope that Victoria’s book will be the “Travel Guide for the Aftermath of Homicide”.
The Greater Portland Area Chapter is proud to share the impact statement of Susan Scharen in memory of her beloved son, Victor ‘Todd’ Howell. Susan has been an important person at our meetings by her sharing and listening to other member’s stories. We are grateful to Susan as her story will help others in the writing of their impact statements. Thank you, Susan, for sharing and helping others understand:
My name is Susan Scharen. I am the mother of Victor ‘Todd’ Howell. I just want to say how difficult it was to write another one of these statements. What Mr. Bradley, along with Shawn Sanchez, and others did to my son, and how it’s affected myself and our family is difficult to put into words. My life, as well as Todd’s daughter, sister, and other family and close friends has changed forever. I will never be the person I was before the murder of my son on April 6, 2014.
Since my son’s murder, I have an entirely different life. It’s now filled with anxiety, sadness, depression, and anger. At times my grief overwhelms me to the point I have trouble functioning. The murder of my son plays over and over in my mind. Did he realize what had happened? What were his last thoughts? Did he have any? Why did you all do this terrible thing to my son? I will never know these answers.
There are still times that I cannot believe it happened, that I will wake from this awful nightmare and my son will still be here. I miss him so much and feel empty inside and long to hear his voice and get one of his loving hugs.
Besides the emotional pain of Todd’s deaths, my health has been affected. Because of the stress this has been on me, I now have several health and emotional issues, cancer being one. I also suffer from PTSD and often find it difficult to leave my apartment. Before, I was always active and enjoyed life with family and friends and doing volunteer work. I never thought the rest of my life would be spent in so much anguish
Todd has a beautiful daughter who was just 18 years old when her dad was killed. He didn’t get to see her graduate from high school, or even go to college, and won’t be walking her down the aisle when she gets married.
When murder happens, family members don’t all grieve the same. When this happens relationships are challenged. Todd’s murder changed the dynamics of many family members as well as friendships.
My son wanted a better life. Because you murdered him, he will never have the life he so wanted, and I wanted for him. Murder cannot be resolved. My son is gone forever. Unfortunately, you, Mr. Bradley and Mr. Sanchez get to live on. All I can do now is pray for justice for Todd.
Sincerely, Susan Scharen
Finally, Mary Jane and Dan McCann have gotten support in the investigation in the death of their beloved daughter, Annie McCann. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee sent Baltimore Police Department and the FBI questions about the investigation. The McCann family has found evidence that totally disagrees with the evidence that was submitted by the police department. They have spent 8 years looking for answers for their daughter’s case.
It has been eight years since the Baltimore Police are saying that Annie could have poisoned herself. Experts in the field believe it would be impossible to in jest that type of poison by yourself since the taste ould be so bad. There is also not enough of it in Bactine to poison yourself.
Last fall, the manager of the funeral home that embalmed Annie’s body told the family that they believed that Annie had been beaten and sodomized. They even have the photos that prove it. The police are saying that they do not believe that she was. Photos don’t lie. The funeral home would have no reason to make any of this up. Experts in the field have validated this as well. Grasley’s letter to the officials also asked what happened to the rape kit test done on Annie?
We are all hoping that the family will soon get answers. It has been eight years.
The Greater Portland Area Chapter is proud to share the impact statement from Matt McCabe to the court to share the loss of his beloved son, London. It is hard for any parent to find the words to express the loss and pain they feel after their child has been murdered. It is even hardier to express their loss when the child has been murdered by the other parent. Matt has had to face both of these losses as well as months of pain from being physically ill.
As a chapter, we would like to express our deepest sympathy and support. Matt is not only a wonderful father, he is also a supportive friend to all of the members he meets at meetings. He is the first to offer support or ask if they need anything. We want him to know how much we respect him and are here for him. The following is Matt’s letter he read in court:
I miss my only son, London. I will miss him forever. He was a beautiful, loving, and trusting little boy. He had wonderful potential. His trust was betrayed and he was taken from me forever. I can’t say enough about this boy. He was my pride and joy. He was the center of my attention. His loss leaves a black hole in the center of my life.
If you know an autistic individual, he or she needs love, too. Maybe more than you or I. Few take the time to hug. You might not be able to hug directly. You have to work at it. Autism is a puzzle. It’s up to you to be creative. If you know the family of an autistic child, can you help them? Their life is probably hectic, but they are fighting an important battle. It is a battle of love, and sometimes love takes work. You can help them in their fight with just a little understanding and compassion.
My life was lived for London. He was my compass. Without a compass, I feel adrift. I’m slowly drifting ashore with the tides.
I always tried to protect him. His mother had experienced mental issues, but I was told she was cured and safe to come home. I trusted the mental health professionals. I never thought he was in danger. If any of us had caught a whiff of danger, she wouldn’t have been alone with him... ever.
If you know someone with a mental health issue, take it seriously. It’s a matter of life and death.
Thank you to the whole team who worked very hard to get justice for London. The first responders tried very hard for a good outcome. The coast guard was fast and dedicated. The chaplain was present for my first tears. Everyone worked their best. I have no complaints about the local workers.
As I read over this statement, I realized that it didn’t have an end, but that’s kind of like a violent crime. There is no ending. There is a misconception out there that a sentence brings closure, but nothing bring closure. I will have to live with this for the rest of my life. Thank you for understanding toward others.
After the trial, many can and will move on to the next crisis in the news. That is not the case for me. I will be permanently scarred by what has happened. If you know someone who is the victim of a violent crime, be patient with them. They are your friend in need.
Funding for our new POMC Oregon/Washington Wall officially began this January, 2015. Members and friends of our chapter have been generous with donations and we are so thankful. Many of our new members are waiting for their loved ones names to be put on our new wall. We are listing new names that will be engraved when the wall is completed. We ask that members will call us, e-mail, or mail the information if you do not see your loved ones name on the list. The phone number is 503-656-8039, the e-mail is: email@example.com or POMC, 14427 S. Forsythe Road.
We are designing the wall now and hoping to build a wall that will accommodate more names than the existing wall. We want to list all of our loved ones
If any of our members work at a company or know of anyone who would like to make a donation please let us know or it is fine for you to ask for a donation yourself. We are a non-profit organization. Donations are tax deductible. Please use the phone contact numbers from the first paragraph of this article. Thank you so much for your support.
Carol Lynne Keightley
Craig C. Moritz Jr.
Dale Archie Brown
David G. Swapp Jr.
Dean A. Kuntz
Douglas Oliver Benton
Glen Edward Drysdale
Jayme Sue Austin
Jeffery Ray Brown
Jessica Lynn Clark
Julio Cesar Marquev
Kathleen Lois Bauman
Kenneth Dylan Lambert
Kyle William Peckman
Marcos J. Castillo
Nicolette Naomi Elias
Paul W. Miller
Randall Leo Gettman
Rebekah “Becky” Selegue Johnson
William Roland Hatch III
Renee J. Harvey
(Please contact us if your loved one’s name does not appear on this paper and you would like to have it added. A form will be added to our newsletter each month to be used for adding names for the wall when it is completed. Please check the spelling of your loved one’s name and let us know if it is wrong. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 505-656-8039, or mail us at POMC, 14427 S. Forsythe Rd., Oregon City, OR 97045.)
John and Marlene S.
Arlene L. (In Memory of Irene James)
Nita K. C.
Norma J. B. (In Memory of Irene James)
Nancy A. A. (In Memory of Irene James)
The Greater Portland Chapter is proud to announce that Beth Greear has created a facebook support group for POMC members. To reach it use: www.facebook.com/groups/POMC.Portlalnd.Vancouver/ Beth said that there are several “admins” of the page so she is sure it will be very beneficial to anyone who would like to use it.
We cannot thank her enough for the chance to have even more support for our members. Beth is an outstanding person who is always there to reach out to help others. She even brought a delicious dessert for our December holiday meeting. We will be writing more on this next month and giving the names of other members who are helping with this project.
There could not be a better time to share the story of beautiful Annie McCann. Annie is the daughter of Mary Jane and Dan McCann. You will also find a letter in this newsletter that was written to State Attorney Marilyn Mosby about getting help for the McCann family.
Mary Jane and Dan have written an article so that you can read the entire account, “The Color of Puke”, on line. It is a compelling story that we hope you will read:
What do parents do when their child’s apparent murder goes unexplored? That’s what POMC members Mary Jane and Dan McCann are struggling with. They’ve written of their cruel ordeal. Here is an excerpt:
“Annie died under the most sinister of circumstances. She was seen by two extraordinarily reliable eyewitnesses as lively, animated, and unbruised at a pastry shop in Baltimore’s Little Italy. A few short hours later, a few blocks away, she was found soaking wet, without shoes , with blunt force trauma to both sides of her forehead, with a vicious bruise on her backside and a bloody bra, poisoned with a massively lethal amount of lidocaine in her engorged stomach, stuffed behind a dumpster by thugs, who If they didn’t kill her themselves, were likely paid to dump her.
The best objective guess on how Annie died? It tracks pretty closely to FBI Deputy Assistant and Director Campbell’s testimony to Congress. She was lured under false pretenses from her sheltered suburban home by human traffickers, and murdered with a lethal dose of lidocaine, probably in an alcoholic drink, when she resisted the unfolding plan. That is informed by speculation, based on the facts we’ve learned; in honesty and accuracy, it is light-years beyond the impossible theory, that Annie killed herself.
What’s really needed is a vigorous and open-mined police investigation. That’s all we’ve ever asked for. It’s never been done.”
You can read the entire account, “The Color of Puke” online.
During this year’s commemoration of National Crime Victims’ Week, can we engage our POMC community to help the McCanns gain justice for their daughter?
Shelley Dawn Elkins, born on May 31, 1968, was a beautiful twenty year old woman who had loving parents, Nina and Don Elkins, and a devoted loving sister, Sharon Christensen. Shelley was engaged and was living in own home with her fiancé when she was murdered on May 31, 1989.
Dail Ryan Yates waited for her fiancé, his cousin, to go to work early in the morning when he decided to murder Shelley. He strangled her. He showed no remorse. In fact, six months earlier he shot and killed a man in Estacada, Oregon. He was charged with the man’s murder and kept in jail until his trial. Unfortunately, he was found not guilty. He had claimed self-defense. It was less than a month later, that he murdered Shelley. For a family, it is unbearable to think that if justice had been handed out their daughter might not have been murdered.
After the murder of Shelley, Yates was found guilty and given life with the minimum of 25 years. On February 18, 2014, he was given a parole exit hearing. He had served his twenty-five years.
Shelley’s sister, Sharon, spent hours contacting people to write letters against Dail’s release and working with Victims Specialist Attorney Rosemary Brewer to get information and evidence that Dail Yates was a risk to society if he were let out. Ms. Brewer is an excellent attorney who is well prepared to assist victims trying to keep a murderer behind bars when they are likely to commit a crime again. Again, Mr. Yates was not sorry he murdered Shelley.
The Parole Board listened to both sides and ruled that Dail Ryan Yates should serve four more years. Many letters against his release were mailed in and eleven people were there to support Shelley’s memory. Ms. Brewer proved he was a risk. Shelley’s sister Sharon spoke as well.
As a chapter, we are proud of the Elkins family and all of those who helped keep a murderer in prison longer to protect society. We also offer the Elkins’ family our deepest sympathy and support. Your daughter Shelley would be proud. Your actions are protecting society. Shelley is and will always be remembered. We would also like to thank Rosemary Brewer for an excellent job as well as the Board of Parole and Debbie Wojciechowski, Victim Specialist . Debbie is excellent in helping co-victims of homicide go through the painful experience of revisiting the murder of their loved one.
The murder of a loved one is the most horrific thing a person can experience. The only thing that can make it worse is a substandard initial investigation or not seeing justice in your case. Timely collection of evidence followed by an arrest and conviction would provide a degree of comfort, but what happens to co-victims when a thorough investigation is not done, and there is no arrest? Many of the victims' friends and acquaintances will gradually let go of their grief over time, but the closest of friends and family will remain in a state of sorrow, haunted by the injustice of investigators that may not have conformed to rules or standard operating procedures during their initial investigation. Not only is there no relief, but the agony of the event changes their lives forever, and becomes part of their very being. Co-victims' everyday battle becomes their effort to get a thorough investigation.
Helplessness is a gut-wrenching emotion which plagues co-victims who are not allowed to assist with the investigation and are longing for justice. We don't want to let our loved one down; we are compelled to fight for justice no matter how long it takes. As the process drags on, frustration grows. Many times, due to confidentiality, important conversations between co-victims and law enforcement are avoided, and this lack of communication can cause co-victims to feel neglected and disrespected, which often manifests itself in frustration, anger, and a loss of confidence in the investigators. Regular contact and truthfulness are two of the most important things survivors need from law enforcement. We need investigators to focus on routine communication of as much information as possible with sensitivity and without being misleading. Survivors’ perception that information is not being shared with them can result in them feeling they have been secondarily victimized. As the years pass, co-victims start wondering if their unsolved homicide could be reviewed by a fresh set of eyes, and they often look into getting their case to a cold case unit, only to find out that some jurisdictions don't even have a cold case unit. If there is a cold case unit in their jurisdiction, cases are evaluated and chosen according to a set of criteria. Co-victims whose cases seem to be continuously passed over for review become dismayed and even angry toward law enforcement. Anger can mobilize psychological resources for corrective action, but uncontrolled anger can negatively affect personal or social well-being.
Co-victims who put forth the effort to examine and understand the cold case process and various factors which must be dealt with during cold case investigations are able to put the process into perspective. They must understand that cold cases are among the most difficult and frustrating cases for both co-victims and law enforcement, and not every case is chosen to be investigated. It helps to review the following criteria checklist used by the National Sheriff’s Association, Justice Solutions and POMC:
Complete an application for cold case review. This application includes detailed information regarding agency reports, victimology, suspects/persons of interest, timeline, coroner, lab reports, investigation documents, weapon descriptions and media releases.
Co-victims should also be aware that closing rates can be more successful if investigators work only one or two cases at a time. At this point, if we find out that our case doesn’t qualify for review by a cold case unit, our only hope is that a thorough re-investigation will be done by homicide investigators.
If you have comments or questions about this article, please email: email@example.com or call Pat Kuiper at 702-809-8654 to get your loved ones' name listed in our newsletter. Feel free to contact Pat if you would like to share your story.
Lucy Eilertson (1998)
Diana Moffitt (1987)
Donald James Brown (2007)
Kimberly Larson Reames (1983)
William (Bill) Mark Stratton (2005)
The Greater Portland Chapter is so proud of our member, Amanda Harris, for launching her official site for siblings. Amanda is offering the Website: www.unitingsiblings.com so that sibling co-victims of homicide have a place to go where they will be understood and supported. This site will include video, chat, and telephone conference via a secure and private interface. Amanda is paying for the expenses and will be delighted to be another support for sibling co-victims. Amanda can also be reached at: Amanda@unitingsiblings.com or 623-866-3189.
Amanda Harris is now ready to start her web site for siblings. The Portland Chapter is excited about the support and understanding this new group will be for the many often overlooked survivors.
Please find, enclosed, $10.00 for my annual subscription (three issues) for the Survivors Newsletter.
(Please consider adding an extra subscription fee to help defray the cost for someone who cannot afford it.)
CITY, STATE, ZIP____________________________________________________________________
MAIL TO: POMC, INC. ENCLOSED IS MY: CHECK _________________
100 E. EIGHTH STREET, B-41 MONEY ORDER__________
CINCINATTI, OH 54202
Download form here
PRINTED NAME OF LOVED ONE_________________________________________ (This will be engraved on the wall)
LOVED ONE’S BIRTHDATE____________________________ DEATH DATE____________________________
MEMBER/FRIEND’S NAME AND ADDRESS ____________________________________________________________
MEMBER/FRIEND’S PHONE NUMBER_____________________________ Do you want a Newsletter? Yes No
SIGNATURE FOR PERMISSION TO
ENGRAVE NAME AND SPELLING APPROVAL_________________________________________________________
Please submit one form for each loved one. Please make efforts with other family members/friends to ensure multiple requests are not received for the same name. When completed, please mail, fax, or e-mail to the following places: POMC, Mary Elledge, 14427 S. Forsythe Road, Oregon City, OR 97045 or fax 503-656-4420, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions, please call 503-656-8039.
Download form here
Please Complete and Return to Memorial Garden,
POMC 14427 S. Forsythe Rd Oregon City, OR 97045
100% of Contributions are Tax Deductible
Name:____________________________________________ phone: __________________________
Gift in Memory of: __________________________________________________________
Anonymous gift (will not be recognized at the Memorial Garden or in published materials)
Method of Payment:
Credit Card #_________________________________________Exp Date:___________
Name on Card _________________________________________________________________
Pledged Payment (to be completed by December 31, 2014)
Please add notes on payment timing _________________________________________
Thank you for helping to create the Oregon-Washington Public Memorial Garden. Your generosity will never be forgotten.
Download form here
Tacoma Violent Crime Victim Services Welcomes Homicide Survivors
Peer Support Group Meeting
If someone you love has been the victim of a homicide, we invite you to attend our monthly support group meeting. You will find acceptance, compassion and support.
Place: United Way Building
3rd FLOOR CONFERENCE ROOM
Date: 3rd Wednesday of Each Month!
Time: 7:30PM – 10:00PM
The United Way Building is located in Tacoma, at 1501 Pacific Avenue. This is the same building that the VCVS office is located in. It is next to Union Station on the north side. As you pass Union Station you will see the United Way Building. Parking is on the south side of the building. Please park your vehicle in an open space and enter the building’s front entrance and take the elevator to the third floor. The conference room is Suite 312. Please call Lew Cox for more information (253) 383-5254.
POMC'S Court Watch Program is designed to help families maneuver through the court system. Two of the most important aspects of Court Watch are the prevention of any re-victimization to family members, and the minimizing of the emotional pain of going through hearings and trials.
If you would like support from POMC during hearings and trials or want to offer assistance, call Pat Elmore at 503-312-5681 or Allen Tremain at 503-522- 0577.
Each month a number of newsletter are returned due to delivery problems. In addition to the initial postage, return postage is charged by the Postal Service. To minimize this expense, please write to the return address of this newsletter or contact Gayle if your address changes or you no longer wish to receive this publication.