WHEELING - The healing process can be never-ending for those who have lost a loved one to murder - but a sympathetic ear can go a long way toward helping them get through another day.
That's what Sharon Parker, victim and witness coordinator for the Ohio County Prosecutor's office, hopes to provide by bringing together murder victims' friends and families at the seventh annual Murder Victim Day of Remembrance.
This year's gathering - set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Wheeling's Heritage Port - figures to be particularly poignant, coming just weeks after Wheeling Jesuit University senior Kevin Figaniak died from injuries sustained in a fight.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Sharon Parker, victim/witness coordinator for the Ohio County Prosecutor’s Office, prepares for the seventh annual Murder Victim Day of Remembrance, set for Wednesday at Wheeling’s Heritage Port.
Craig Tyler Peacock, 22, of Clewiston, Fla., and Jarrett Mathis Chandler, 24, of Winnfield, La., have been charged with second-degree murder in Figaniak's death.
Parker is not sure what impact that tragedy, so fresh in community members' minds, will have on attendance at Wednesday's vigil, but she urges anyone who feels they might benefit from the shared experience with others whose lives have been impacted by violent crime to attend.
"I would like to think that the family and friends of this young man would come, and we especially invite them to come and meet people who care and can offer them some guidance, some empathy and some support," Parker said.
During Wednesday's event, people will be invited to speak about their loved ones, sing a song, or read a poem. A local pastor will be on hand to lead prayer, candles will be lighted in memory of victims and there will be a balloon release, Parker said.
Also, several law enforcement officers will speak to present a different perspective on coping with murder and its aftermath.
"Working these murder cases ... can be very emotionally draining to anyone, and how do you deal with that?" Parker said. "How do you shut it off at night, and do those things?"
Parker believes Wheeling's annual Murder Victim Day of Remembrance is the only such event in West Virginia, often drawing families from outside the area and bringing together people who otherwise may never have met.
"They have exchanged phone numbers and still have contact with each other," Parker said of families who have met at past vigils. "It does help to be able to talk to another mother who has been in your shoes."