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Courthouse waiting room makeover a soothing refuge for victims and families

April 26, 2012
  • North Hagerstown High School art teacher Brandy Merchant, left, and senior Alicia Lamarche work to complete an Annapolis waterscape mural on a wall in the witness room at Washington County Courthouse.
By Don Aines

Waiting to testify during a trial can be a distressing experience for victims and witnesses of crime, but the room where they wait before taking the stand is getting a soothing makeover.

During this National Victims Rights Week, North Hagerstown High School art teacher Brandy Merchant and senior Alicia Lamarche donated their time to paint a mural in the room.

The waterscape of Annapolis was nearing completion earlier this week.

“I think victims need a place to go and think about other things. To get away from the trial and the trauma,” said Jill Ritter, the director of Victims and Witness Unit for the Washington County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Some of those victims are children who must testify against defendants accused of physically or sexually abusing them, Ritter said. They and their families need a place of refuge, she said.

The other walls were also changed from a bare white to a warmer color called tea cookie, Ritter said.

Ritter is also looking for donations to update the furniture in the room, and a courthouse employee has donated some teddy bears for the room, she said.

Merchant said she has done murals in the past at the Safe Place Child Advocacy Center and the Washington County Department of Social Services.

As part of National Victims Rights Week, a Western Region Memorial Service for Crime Victims and Their Families was held Sunday at the Seventh-day Adventist Church on Robinwood Drive near Hagerstown.

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— Don Aines

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