Victims uplifted: Ceremony honors those hurt by crimes

Published 4:24 am Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Victims of crime, their supporters, service providers, public officials, and other community members joined District Attorney Warren Montgomery for a ceremony that his office hosted Thursday in recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (April 8-14).

The event, held at the Washington Parish courthouse, opened outside with a dramatic raising of an oversize flag by the Franklinton Fire Department, followed by the presentation of colors by military units from Franklinton High School and Bogalusa High School. Guests later moved indoors to a second-floor courtroom for the remainder of the program, which included a keynote speech from Montgomery.

Montgomery said he and his staff never lose sight of the victims when they prosecute cases. “There is no greater job satisfaction than when we hear from victims and their families that they feel like justice was served,” he said.

Montgomery discussed some of the changes he has made since taking office, including adding three full-time Victim Assistance Coordinators, who help keep victims informed of the status of their cases and assist them through the prosecution process. Before Montgomery took office in 2015, one person handled the entire caseload in Washington and St. Tammany parishes.

Other speakers included Franklinton Police Chief Olander Smith and his wife, Elisa Williams-Smith, who discussed the trauma of losing her 13-year-old son when a drunk driver struck the vehicle in which he was riding. Rhonda Gunnell of ADAPT Rape Crisis Center in Bogalusa talked about the services her agency offers.

ADAPT was among the recipients of the Victim Services Award, presented by Montgomery for extraordinary services on behalf of victims. Other award recipients included: Assistant District Attorney Ronnie Gracianette and Cathy Haley, a felony secretary who organized a toy drive for young victims in Washington Parish last Christmas. The Tomorrow’s Leader Award was presented to Delaney Stewart, 18, a senior at Pine High School, for outstanding leadership and service to victims. Montgomery also presented a number of certificates to staff members, community volunteers, and business donors who contributed to the event’s success.

The event was coordinated by Kinshasha Medina, Victim Assistance Coordinator in Washington Parish. Other program participants included Rev. Albert Brumfield, Pastor of Plainview Church of Christ Holiness in Mount Hermon, who delivered the invocation; Leanne Adcox, who sang the National Anthem; Deidra Owens, who sang “What About The Children,” and Bro. Tom Descant, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church of Franklinton, who delivered the benediction.

The program ended with a balloon release by guests, which included crime survivors and family members of crime victims.