Victims and survivors

Memorial for DaShondra Guillory, killed at just 26 years old

Correction: The April 5 printed edition of The Examiner incorrectly identifies the relationship between 26-year-old murder victim DaShondra Guillory and her assailant, who targeted Guillory after the gunman had an earlier encounter with the woman's boyfriend, Israel Manuel, also killed in the attack.

 

Victims, survivors and loved ones of those touched by violent crime are coming together in Jefferson County to remember the lives impacted by the nefarious acts of others during 2018 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 8-14. Returning for the 28th annual affair, the Jefferson County Coalition for Victims of Crime is hosting the Crime Victims’ Candlelight Vigil at 6 p.m., April 12, in the Jefferson County Courthouse Jury Impaneling Auditorium, 1149 Pearl St., Beaumont.

This year, connecting to the national theme to “Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims,” the Jefferson County Coalition will welcome a representative of victims not usually in the forefront – those left behind by victims killed in the course of a violent crime. According to Misty Craver of the Jefferson County Coalition for Victims of Crime, the public vigil will include words of remembrance and encouragement by Demetricia Holloway, whose 26-year-old daughter DaShondra Guillory was killed by a man who had an altercation with the victim's boyfriend, Isreal Manuel, also killed in the attack.

“She was my oldest child,” Holloway said of Guillory, who was also pregnant with Holloway’s grandchild at the time of her death. “She was so kind. She was a mother, a daughter, and a friend.”

As the founding story of Surviving Parents of SETX goes, a Beaumont police detective walked Holloway through the grief and stress of dealing with her daughter’s tragic loss of life and that of her unborn grandbaby. That same officer also asked the grief-stricken crime survivor to take that knowledge and help others who suffered a similar loss. Now, she and Surviving Parents of SETX co-founder Ann Marie Medina are taking up and carrying that torch by reaching out to parents who lost their children and by holding monthly meetings in Beaumont to offer a place for surviving parents to talk about their situations with those who have also been in a similar position.

Holloway and Medina share their story with those in need on a regular basis, in person and online.

“Surviving Parents was founded by two mothers who were strangers and sadly shared only one thing in common, we had lost our child thru a violent act,” they say. “We were brought together by the kindness of the detective that handled the cases – a single gesture that pointed out the need for families who have lost a child to support each other. Something we both needed and found in each other.

“Now we would like to pay that kindness forward with this organization. Our goal is to host activities, counseling meetings, provide emergency funds, scholarships and most importantly support.”

With the motto of “Moving from Grief to Hope Together,” Surviving Parents of SETX strives to “be the voice and face of survival after the tragic loss of a loved one; compassionately providing support to meet the emotional, spiritual, physical and financial needs of survivors,” while also “creating a network of hope and support to empower survivors and affect positive change for their family and our community.” Unfortunately, surviving parents aren’t the only victims of crime, and National Crime Victims’ Rights Week serves as a reminder that many challenges remain for those touched by criminal activity.

Over the last 34 years, according to the local coalition supporting crime victims, tremendous progress has been made. Just three decades ago, crime victims had no rights, no access to compensation, no services to rebuild their lives, were often excluded from courtrooms, and denied an opportunity to speak at sentencing. Still, despite the strides made, crime victims’ rights are not universal and are often not enforced, Jefferson County Coalition’s Craver reports. According to her, advocates also face a host of new challenges as they strive to provide culturally competent services for increasingly diverse populations and victims of newly prevalent crimes. As funding decreases, she stated, providers must target their services more strategically.

Craver added that “Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims” reminds us that we must design a new vision for reaching and empowering all victims of crime as individuals and as a community. We must broaden our thinking, strategically plan our future, and creatively expand our resources and tools.

“This is a place for victims of all crimes to meet together as family and support each other,” said Chris Castillo, a member of the Coalition for Victims of Violent Crimes and volunteer coordinator from Criminal Justice Ministries with the Diocese of Beaumont.

Representatives from area agencies, as well as victims of crime will be available for interviews at the vigil. The event is free of charge and open to the public. For more information, contact Craver at (409) 839-2318 or mcraver [at] co [dot] jefferson [dot] tx [dot] us, or Castillo at (409) 201-7106. 

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