Richard Hyatt: An outspoken advocate for crime victims

April 26, 2014 

Crime is more than screaming headlines or spreadsheets of dry, emotionless data. It is more than fractured law books or rhetoric in a political campaign.

Ask Angi Yarbrough Idel. She understands crime as only a grieving mother can.

Her story came to mind when I heard about an article in Time magazine, results of a recent Gallop Poll about Columbus, discussions on social media pages and the increasingly bitter debate over local crime between our two mayoral candidates.

She was on the sideline of this discourse until the seventh of September 2010 -- the day that the career educator and former bluegrass musician learned that Heath Jackson, her 25-year-old son, had been murdered in his home near Columbus High School.

She could have given in to the natural call for payback, but faith got her past that as she described in the 2013 trial of Ricardo Strozier -- the man who shot her son with the unruly bangs.

At first, she wanted his family to suffer the same loss she had experienced, but she was at peace when Strozier was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"As time went on, my heart changed," she told the court.

She quoted the book of Luke Chapter 6, Verse 37: "Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."

But forgiveness also calls for justice.

"We've each got to answer for what we do here on Earth," she said.

Her son's life was taken away, the Christian music he loved was silenced and her life was forever changed. She has become an outspoken advocate for the victims of crime and an activist through Healing Hearts, a support group for grieving families.

She remarried three weeks before Heath's death and Peter Idel recently retired as a corporate pilot. They moved back to town from Coweta County, and in June she retires as principal at Allen Elementary School after 32 years in education.

She has injected herself into the mayor's race, and plans to go back to the classroom are forgotten.

"Unfortunately, I will never be able to escape the murder of Heath," she wrote. "I am passionate about crime prevention so I am thinking that maybe God chose me to carry this burden so I could help others."

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906@knology.net.

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