Office to pay tribute to victims

By Eric Butler: PNT Correspondent

District Attorney Matt Chandler said victims of violence are all too often forgotten once a trial is over.
The first-year district attorney asked the Curry County Commission on Tuesday to help rectify the problem by funding a Victims Memorial Garden to be built near the Main Street entrance of the courthouse.
The memorial’s construction and upkeep will be provided by the local chapter of the Survivors of Homicide group.
“I think it will help (the victims’ families) and I think it will also help keep the victims in the public’s memory,” said Jennifer McKinney, who formed the Clovis chapter after her husband, Chad Smith, was killed 4 1/2 years ago. “They’re not going to be able to just forget.”
McKinney said the project will feature a tribute to all victims engraved in a headstone and friends and families of victims could purchase 2-by-2 inch individual name plates to place in the garden.
Chandler told commissioners he hoped the memorial would be in place by the end of Crime Victims Rights week — April 10-16.
“I’m kind of embarrassed that we have neglected this group. (Studies) indicate that victims expect more closure from the judicial system than from any other source,” Chandler said. “And that includes funerals. We sit them on benches for days and weeks and then, after the verdict, we meet them in the hallway and thank them for their patience.
“Then we shuffle them out,” he added. “It’s embarrassing and sad to say we do that.”
Earlier in the meeting, commissioners proclaimed April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in support of Court Appointed Special Advocates in Curry and Roosevelt counties.
Catharine Johnson, CASA program director, said about 30 volunteers are currently appointed to cases on behalf of children suspected of being abused and neglected.
A candle-light ceremony will take place at noon Friday in front of the Curry County courthouses.
“We want to bring to the attention of our community their plight,” Johnson said. “Many of them are going from foster home to foster home.”
Johnson made a plea to commissioners as well as the community at large for more help.
“I know many of you lead busy, busy lives,” Johnson said. “But we still need volunteers for these children.”