Loved ones remember crime victims

April 20, 1998|By LISA GRAYBEAL

It's been four years since Marian Grace Starliper Susik was stabbed to death by her husband on the corner of East Antietam and South Mulberry streets in Hagerstown.

Memories of Susik and the events of the Jan. 24, 1994, stabbing of the 21-year-old Maugansville woman surged back to her family Sunday afternoon, only this time they didn't have to bear the pain alone.

"When you have a loved one taken away by violent crime, there's one question you always ask yourself - why me?" said Susik's grandmother, Mary Reid, 73, of Maugansville, who wore a photo of her granddaughter pinned to her dress.

It's a question that probably came to the minds of the other 175 people who attended the ninth annual Maryland State-Wide Memorial Service for Crime Victims and Their Families at the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Robinwood Drive.


The Hagerstown service was one of three that occurred simultaneously in the state to kick off National Crime Victims' Rights Week, which runs through Saturday.

They sat alone, with friends, or as families in the rows of church pews during the emotional, hour-long service, separate in their thoughts of the ones they lost, but linked together in the common bond of losing them to acts of violent crime.

"Every person in this room has walked in my shoes ... We had to learn to live. We had to learn to heal ourselves. We had to learn how to be survivors," said guest speaker Hannah K. Reynolds, president of the Western Maryland chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Reynolds' only child, Jennifer Finfrock, 22, was killed instantly on July 17, 1992, when the car she was in collided with a Washington County Sheriff deputy's cruiser on Jefferson Boulevard.

The driver of the vehicle Finfrock was in, Michael Wayne Bernhisel Jr., then 20, was charged with homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated and served 2 1/2 years in jail, Reynolds said.

"It's taken me six years to actually be able to say that Jennifer made a mistake" by getting into a car with a drunk driver, Reynolds said.

She described her daughter as a "crusader" because she often made friends with people who had problems in hopes of helping them, Reynolds said. Finfrock was known to take keys away from friends if they had been drinking and was a member of Students Against Drunk Driving in school, she said.

The names of Susik and Finfrock were among more than 150 names of victims of violent crimes read aloud in two five-minute blocks of time during Sunday's service.

Between reading the names, Miss Western Maryland 1998, Toni Rickard, brought tears to the eyes of many seated before her as she sang a rendition of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," and "Hero," by Mariah Carey.

An honor guard, made up of uniformed officers from Hagerstown City Police, Maryland State Police, Frederick City Police, and sheriff's deputies representing Washington, Franklin and Garrett counties, placed flags and a wreath in front of the church at the beginning of the service.

Following that, a group of women who lost loved ones to homicide hung a purple banner inscribed with the theme, "We Remember Them," in gold letters. The shapes of doves cut out in colored felt and marked with the names of victims of violent crimes covered the background.

Ellen Alexander, representing the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, presented a proclamation recognizing National Crime Victim's Rights Week.

The service was organized by Jill Ritter, victim witness coordinator with the Washington County State's Attorney's office. Susan Lochbaum, assistant state's attorney, served as master of ceremonies.

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