Victims of crimes remembered at ceremony

benw@ledger-enquirer.comApril 27, 2013 

Mary Lockhart was on her way to pin a carnation in a memorial wreath to remember her slain grandson, Herman Lockhart Jr., Saturday when her knees weakened and she was overcome by tears.

“I couldn’t take it,” Lockhart said after the 10 a.m. ceremony on the plaza level of the Columbus Government Center. “I had been thinking about him all night.”

Lockhart joined more than 100 survivors of crime victims in a tribute to about 40 slain men and women in the Chattahoochee Valley. The ceremony was part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week with the theme, “New Challenges, New Solutions.”

Lockhart said her grandson was 25 when he was killed in November 2011. She doesn’t only cry for him on special days to remember him but all the time. “He is dead and gone but I still love him,” she said of the man she helped raise as a child. “He is still my child. He was a good child.”

More than 18 months since his death, Lockhart said it still hurts to think about him. “Nobody acts like they care about him,” she said. “I had the funeral and everything. All his friends were there.”

Janet King was at the program for her son, Joshua “Peanut” Hill, who was fatally shot in the back of his head Feb. 18, 2010 while getting a ride to the store.

“I can’t even tell you how it has affected me,” said King who was at the program with her two daughters and a friend. “He was a child. I kept him safe when he was young, then he gets older. Coming down her made a big difference. I’ve met a lot of people who had the same story as I did and it made my story not seem as bad.”

The man accused of shooting her son was sentenced in December 2012 to life in prison. King said she wants to get into a crime victims program to make sure the man doesn’t hurt another family. “I don’t want this guy to get out and do this to someone else’s family,” she said. “My son was brutally murdered. He was just getting ride to the store.”

The program put together by the Victim-Witness Assistance Program of the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit has helped King realize the city is aware of what’s going on in the city. “This makes me feel good that the city is aware of what’s going on,” she said. “The suffering needs to stop.”

Julia Slater, district attorney for the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, said one of the biggest challenges has always been communicating with victims and families. It is not a new challenge, but it’s one that has increased with case loads and limited resources. “I want you to know we are doing all we can to find solutions to that,” she said.

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