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Ritter honored for helping victims

March 28, 1997

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

Although busy with crime victims and witnesses, Jill Ritter is planning to take a little time off April 18 to receive an award from Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening.

Ritter, 30, is being recognized for her work as the victim/witness coordinator for the Washington County State's Attorney's office.

"I got the letter Wednesday and I had to read it three times before I believed it," Ritter said.

Nominated by State's Attorney M. Kenneth Long Jr., Ritter said she feels honored to be selected as one of several recipients of the 1997 Governor's Victim Assistance Awards.

For nine years, Ritter has been handling the many duties associated with the position of victim/witness coordinator for Washington County Circuit Court.

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"Mainly I help victims through the process, from square one to the end...and beyond," Ritter said.

On Wednesday, Ritter accompanied the mother of a young victim to a hearing in Washington County Circuit Court.

The two women first met months ago when the crime occurred and have been in contact, in person and on the phone, ever since.

In court, Ritter sat next to the woman and explained in hushed tones what was happening.

Ritter encouraged her to speak up to the judge and then stroked her shoulders when the the woman, obviously upset, sat back down.

After the hearing, Ritter spend many minutes speaking with the woman about what the future holds and what her options are.

They parted with a hug.

"I meet with every victim right away, if possible," Ritter said. "That is especially important with children."

It's those children that Ritter said are the hardest cases.

"I always work closely with children, showing them what a courtroom looks like and letting them meet a judge beforehand, if possible," Ritter said.

The mother of two youngsters, Ritter said she sees a lot of tragedy involving young children. She said seeing those ordeals makes her appreciate her own family that much more.

"Sometimes, if a case runs long in court, I may not get home for dinner," Ritter said. But she said her husband is supportive and takes care of everything in her absence.

In addition to handling victims, Ritter must also coordinate witnesses and work with the prosecutors to make sure cases run smoothly.

A graduate of Boonsboro High School, Ritter attended Towson University and Hagerstown Junior College.

In earning her bachelor's degree, Ritter was a member of the first graduating class of the Hagerstown campus of Frostburg State.

"I remember wondering when I was younger why I needed to get a college degree," Ritter said.

Now she looks back over her rewarding career and realizes that the years of study were worthwhile.

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