52 local families who lost a loved one to homicide this year gather at annual vigil
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - Fifty-two victims of homicide in Montgomery County this year means there are 52 families without a loved one this holiday season.
The Montgomery County Prosecutor's Office brought survivors together Monday night for their annual homicide vigil to help bring families some peace.
It's not a church service families want an invitation to.
"This is a club that nobody filled out membership for," Linda Parrish said.
"Anytime someone loses a loved one to violence it's an incredible loss that they see, they experience; it never goes away," said Prosecuting Attorney Mat Heck, "and especially during the holidays they have to relive this."
Families and friends of those 52 victims in 2017 gathered at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton for music, prayer, and to hang an angel ornament on a community tree with their loved one's picture on it.
They were joined by families still grieving from previous years including Parrish, who's been to every one of the 27 homicide vigils they county has ever held.
"My only child was murdered, will be 28 years Christmas Eve," Parrish said.
She lost her son Anthony DeShon Lee on December 24, 1989.
"My son was 19 years of age, had been in the Navy for six months, came home for Christmas and was murdered," Parrish told Fox 45. "Some boys were stealing my car and he tried to stop them."
Over the years Linda has been sitting in the pews, 1,591 homicide victims have been remembered.
"It's not just victims, or survivors, or law enforcement, or the prosecutor's office," Heck said. "This is a community and it should be a community effort to recognize what loss we've had as a community over the last year."
Heck said the 2017 number of 52 victims is down from 65 in 2016.
But for families missing someone this holiday season, every number is one too many.
Families posed for pictures and attached handwritten notes to balloons before the vigil balloon release after the service.
"Even though it seems impossible now," Parrish said, "you can make it."
Some of the more prominent cases with victims honored include:
- Kaiden and Khmorra Helton, who were 6 and 8 years old when their mom Claudena is accused of shooting them in their Dayton home
- MacKenna Kronenberger, who just finished her freshman year at Carroll High School when she was killed by a stray bullet asleep in her own bed
- Taylor Brandenburg, who was babysitting at a home in Dayton when she went outside to check on a noise, and was also killed by stray gunfire
The 52 remembered Monday night were victims before September 30.
The homicide count for 2017 is not yet final.