Despair, frustration, helplessness, confusion, hopelessness and even guilt for something they could have done or what they should have done are just some of the emotions that descend upon co-victims of homicide when they find their loved ones’ case is no longer active; it is now a “cold case”. They also become “stuck” in their grief. In fact, now they are forced to delay their grief. In their minds, the only thing they can focus on is the fact that there is no justice for their loved one. They now feel it is up to them to see that their loved one receives justice. When there is no justice, it is as if their loved one’s life is devalued.
When co-victims cannot focus on their healing journey, they often will relive the first brutal notification when they were told that their loved one was murdered. The scenario will play over and over in their minds. Their loved one in not murdered one time but, he or she is murdered again and again. Not knowing can be worse because generally co-victims will be imagining the worst case scenario. Finding, arresting, and sentencing the murderer becomes the most important thing in their life. Co-victims feel that justice will soften their pain. Not having justice for your loved one leaves co-victims in a state of turmoil. It is unbearable. Many co-victims will fear that other family members or themselves will be in danger if the murderer is not apprehended. They are also concerned that the murderer will commit more murders.
For twenty-eight years, I have heard the anguish from parents who were desperate to get justice for the murder of their child. Pat Kuiper’s son, Donald Brown, was murdered over seven years ago. She sent me the following paragraph so I could share it with others:
“My son’s unsolved homicide has negatively affected every aspect of my life; it has felt like a death sentence emotionally, financially, personally and professionally. There has been no rest or peace in my life for the last seven and a half years. It is gut-wrenching to feel you are the only one who cares about the horrific way your loved-one died at the hands of cruel and unconscionable cowards. Moving on is not an option for me without the justice my son so rightly deserves.”
Gayle Moffitt’s daughter, Diana, was murdered twenty-seven years ago. Unsolved crimes do not go away. She has spent endless hours working long-distance with detectives to see that the person or people responsible for her daughter’s murder are apprehended. The detectives in her case refused to listen to her. I would like to thank Gayle for sharing her feelings about her daughter’s case being unsolved. She writes:
“Every day that goes by is another day that my daughter’s case goes unsolved. The hardest part is knowing that the case was not fully investigated. The professionals in her case would not listen to me, nor would they even listen to the detectives in Portland, Oregon where Diana previously lived before being taken to San Diego, California. At times, it all seems so futile. I have investigated every avenue I could think of without any success. It all seems so hopeless! But, like other families whose cases are cold, I cannot let it go and we all need answers. I hope and pray that I can receive these answers before I die and that other families whose cases are unsolved will also get the answers they so deserve. There is such a difference in how police departments work. Unfortunately, co-victims do not get to choose where the crime happens.”
These are just two of the hundreds of cold cases I have heard over the past 28 years. Other co-victims I have met all tell the same story. They cannot get past the fact that there was no justice for their loved one. It also makes a difference if they received support and communication from their law enforcement. In my son’s case, we were so fortunate to have detectives and a district attorney, Dennis Miller, who spent hours communicating with us. Right after a homicide, families are in shock. What they saw on television in detective shows and court procedures is not what happens in “real life”. What a co-victim thinks is good evidence may not be what can be used in a courtroom. Also, sometimes there is not enough evidence no matter how long and intense the investigation is. A competent district attorney will not take a case to trial if there is not enough evidence to get a guilty verdict since a suspect cannot be tried more than once for the same crime. Again, communication with survivors is the key to helping them understand. Victim assistance workers can play an important part in helping co-victims through the investigation. Regular contacts and truthfulness are the keys to working with survivors. Survivors also must be careful not to share information received if they are told not to by law enforcement. Those working in law enforcement must also remember that the victim’s family members and friends can often provide them with vital information on solving a case. This extends on to cold cases even after years go by. Relationships change over the years and family and friends may not feel like they have to protect certain family and friends they might have immediately after the murder. They might give out more pertinent information because of the passing years. Also, some witnesses may feel safer coming forward as time has passed. This is most common among gang members when there has been a homicide.
Sadly, as time goes on, co-victims of homicide do not have the same support from family and friends as they did in the beginning. Some people think that they should just move on because it has been long enough. They do not understand that homicides cannot be resolved. They also do not understand that “cold cases” keep wounds from healing. Family and friends live with unanswered questions.
If a homicide case has “gone cold”, a co-victim now must face months or years of still not knowing. Their world is now a world that is “hurry-up and wait”. They live for the slightest bit of information. Yet, besides a “cold case”, some co-victims are still traumatized by other factors. Experts in the field have found that lack of communication can cause even still more trauma for co-victims. Jo-Anne Wemmers wrote in “Victim Notification and Public Support for the Criminal Justice System,” in “International Review of Victimology the following, “Research has found that victims are more critical of police for not keeping them notified than failing to catch the offenders”. Gayle Moffitt, mother of Diana Moffitt, agreed with this. She was traumatized more by the indifference shown by the treatment she received from the detectives in San Diego than the case not being solved. It was the combination of the two that made moving forward impossible. The justice system should be designed to aid, rather than further traumatize, victims and co-victims of crime.
In writing this article, I did not want to put the blame of unsolved crimes on the criminal justice system as a whole, or on some of the greatest people I have ever met working in all aspects of law enforcement. These people are dedicated to helping victims and co-victims of homicide. There are excellent people working in the justice system from clerks to judges. It takes all of them to make it work. Like any profession, some people should not be there. I believe that most law enforcement officers, district attorneys, and victim assistance workers are there because they want to make changes for the better and they are concerned. Citizens of our country need to be protected from violence and criminal behavior. But, in order to protect our citizens, we must see that those working with victims of crimes and co-victims of homicide are given the tools to help balance our justice system and protect society. Implementing new practices and improving the ones we have will help us support and serve co-victims of homicide when they are experiencing cold case investigations. This is a time that they will need continued communication, commitments and appointments honored. Survivors need to be personally called and the name of their loved one should be mentioned each time they are contacted. They continually need to know that their loved one will always be remembered. This is important for co-victims of homicide to get to a new normal..
All my love and support,
The Greater Portland Chapter is hoping that many of our members will be planning to come to the 2015 POMC National Conference in Las Vegas. Airfare is less expensive when flying to Las Vegas and the rooms will be only $99.00 a night. The site is just beautiful and we hope that many will start planning early so they will be able to go.
Our Portland Chapter is in charge of planning the Memorial Service and we are excited to have as many members as possible come. We want it to be a special event that we can share with all of the POMC members who will be there. “Sharing is the Key”. Thank you so much!
I’m from Sibley Hospital’s bright red sign
From D.C.’s crowded city streets, tangled up like a pattern of chaotic lines.
I’m from the salty smell in the air that fills the Coast Guard boats.
I’m from the swirling tornado that messed up my room
To the useless junk I cannot throw away.
From the green and red Mountain Dew can, saved for reasons unknown
Yet prominently displayed; hot-glued to the wall
To the ball of sticky candle wax from 2001.
I’m from the loud jungle beats of a drum. I’m from the beats of the Arctic Monkeys, the Killers, and U2
Where it smells like teen spirit
And it looks like purple haze.
Where it tastes like the Red Hot Chili peppers
And feels like the Strokes.
From the wails of Led Zeppelin
To the soothing sounds of Coldplay.
I’m from the rich tastes of Ireland’s potatoes.
From Czechoslovakia’s crunchy oplatke, that tastes like cardboard.
I’m from the loud buzzers and beeps of Gateway 26 casino
And the bright, blazing lights of Wildwood’s boardwalk
that never stop flashing.
I’m from the sound of my dog’s jingling collar
And his silky smooth fur
To the look of his distant gaze out the door, ears forward, staring intently from the
top of the stairs.
I’m from the sound of laughter and giggles during Superbad.
To the terrified screams and shrieks of terror during the Ring.
I’m from the one-dimensional blank piece of paper
To the three-dimension skyscrapers of New York
Where I hope to one day be.
The poem was written by Annie McCann (1/5/92-11/2/08). She is the daughter of Mary Jane and Dan McCann. Annie was only 16 when she was murdered. We would like to thank her family for allowing us to share it. It was very appropriate to use Annie’s poem this month as well. Annie’s case is also unsolved. Our support, sympathy, and love goes out to her family.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 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)
MARYALICE G. AND RICH U.
GWEN J. K.
THE GREATER PORTLAND CHAPTER IS NOW FUNDING FOR THE NEW WALL FOR OUR MEMORIAL GARDEN. WE APPRECIATE ANY AMOUNT OF HELP ANYONE CAN DO. AFTER THE NEXT NAMES ARE ADDED, WE WILL HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL THE NEW WALL IS COMPLETED TO ADD NEW NAMES. THE NEW WALL SHOULD GIVE US MANY YEARS TO ADD ADDITIONAL NAMES. THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT. WE APPRECIATE ANY HELP WE RECEIVE. DONATIONS CAN BE SENT TO THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS: POMC, 14427 S. FORSYTHE RD. OREGON CITY, OR 97045.
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.
We are continuing to accept donations for our Memorial Garden and are very close to reaching our goal. Thank you to all that have already donated and to those that have not, please consider making your donation today. Please send your tax deductible donations to:
Parents Of Murdered Children
14427 S. Forsythe Rd.
Oregon City, OR 97045
If you have questions, please contact Mary Elledge at (503) 656-8039.
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 spelling will be used)
MEMBER/FRIEND’S NAME AND ADDRESS _________________________________________________
MEMBER OR FRIEND’S PHONE NUMBER __________________________________________________
(Required to verify order)
SIGNATURE FOR PERMISSION TO ________________________________________________________
ENGRAVE NAME AND SPELLING APPROVAL
Please submit one form for each loved one. Please make efforts to confer with other family members/friends to ensure multiple requests are not received for the same loved one. When completed, please mail to:
POMC, 14427 S. Forsythe Rd., Oregon City, OR 97045. The names will then be submitted for engraving on the Memorial Wall at the Mountain View Cemetery and Park. If you have 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
Turning pictures and home movies into a unique video you will treasure for a lifetime.
Tina Tanner 541-510-3075
Tana Tanner 541-935-2023
PO Box 343, Elmira, OR 97437
(Tana Tanner is a member of POMC. Prices are very reasonable for POMC members.)
We would like to get to know your loved one and gain and understanding of their lives, achievements, accomplishments, goals, and personalities. We’d like to celebrate the LIFE of our loved ones rather than remain in the pain of their death. If you would like to share a unique story about your loved one, please submit a short (1 page) letter telling us about them. Some possible ideas to include are:
Their favorite food, movie, book, and why
Their most successful accomplishment
A funny childhood story/experience
Their most exciting vacation
A unique talent
Their most prized possession
Their favorite school subject or teacher
Their educational/professional goals
A personal goal they planned to fulfill
An obstacle they overcame
A school play they may have performed in
Their favorite season/holiday
Please include your contact information as well as their full name and birth date. Thank you.
Please also include a picture of your loved one, if possible. Please keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that your photograph will be returned to you.
Please mail submissions to:
Portland Area Chapter
Parents Of Murdered Children
And Other Survivors Of Homicide Victims
14427 S. Forsythe Road
Oregon City, OR 97045
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 newsletters 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 the newsletter or contact Erin at Hondaerin2@aol.com if your address changes or you no longer wish to receive this publication.