Crime victims remembered at services

April 22, 2002|BY MARLO BARNHART

As she reverently read from a list of more than 200 victims of fatal crimes and traffic accidents at a memorial service Sunday, Julie Gehr's voice faltered for a moment as she came to the names of her grandparents, Daniel and Wilda Davis.

"It was eight years ago but it is still hard when I remember them," Gehr said.

Even harder is the knowledge that Gehr's youngest child, who was just 6 months old then, will never know his great-grandparents.

The Davises were the victims of a brutal double murder in their home at 109 W. Wilson Blvd. on Valentine's Day in 1994.


The Davises' story may differ from the others but as the survivors gathered at the Hagerstown Seventh-day Adventist Church Sunday afternoon, it was clear they all shared one reality - the sadness cast over the living upon losing a loved one suddenly and violently.

One of three such memorial services held around Maryland Sunday, the event was sponsored by the Maryland State Board of Victims Services. Washington County hosted the 13th annual service this year for the western region of the state.

"These services help me if only so I'll realize others feel the same as I feel," Gehr said.

Lori Mills and her uncle, Charles Mills, journeyed from Pennsylvania to honor her uncle and his brother, Terry Mills, a trucker who was killed in March 1993 by another trucker in a dispute along a highway near Hancock.

"It was my first time," said Lori Mills, who read a poem at the service. "It's painful but I will come from now on."

Charles Mills said this was his eighth time attending a similar memorial service. With tears in his eyes, he said it helps to remember the good times but even then, the pain returns with the realization that there won't be any more good times for Terry Mills, known as "Popeye" by those who loved him.

"He was my brother. I'll never get over it but it helps to come here," Charles Mills said.

The highlight of the service was the procession of a huge banner featuring stars representing the victims under the theme "Their Light Still Shines."

Everyone carrying the banner, reading the names and distributing the programs Sunday was a survivor of homicide.

"The years pass and it softens the pain a little," said Vernon Davis, son of Wilda and Daniel Davis. "Still the most vivid memory is of their deaths."

In addition to the local victims of crime and accidents, the service Sunday also honored those who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The memorial services kicked off National Victims' Rights Week, which will be observed through Saturday.

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