Victims of violence voice sorrow, rage, hope College Park service draws hundreds

April 26, 1993|By Edward L. Heard Jr. | Edward L. Heard Jr.,Contributing Writer

COLLEGE PARK -- Heart-broken, angry, yet still hopeful, more than 200 victims of violent crime and their families shared their tales of tragedy and grappled with solutions yesterday.

Those who gathered here for the fourth annual victims' memorial service came from different races, regions and classes, but were bound by tragic circumstances.

A man whose son was shot to death. A woman whose daughter was raped. A 14-year-old girl whose parents were killed by a drunken driver. All were victims who say they were first wronged by the criminals -- and then by the government bureaucracy that handles their cases.

"Victims are too often judged as people who want revenge," said Roberta Roper at the memorial at the University College Conference Center. "What we really want is fair treatment and justice."

Mrs. Roper and her husband, Vince, founded the Stephanie Roper Committee and Foundation after their 22-year-old daughter was kidnapped and murdered a decade ago.

The Ropers, of Prince George's County, became frustrated when they were kept from all criminal proceedings except for the sentencing of the two men convicted of the crime. One will be eligible for parole in 11 years, Mrs. Roper said.

The afternoon service was sponsored by several victim support groups in Maryland. Two displayed quilts designed by the families of crime victims. Stitched together, piece by piece, the colorful quilts represented the myriad of residents killed in the Baltimore area.

Other victims' names were read aloud in a roll call of hundreds of Marylanders who died violently.

The sadness was lifted by a spirit of hope. The silent crowd began to clap when the children's choir from the Baltimore Bereavement Center sang, "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

Warren Hayman said the event gave victims an opportunity to begin to fight back. "We must move from sorrow to solutions," said Mr. Hayman, whose son was robbed and killed in Baltimore three years ago. "We must not let sorrow get in the way of taking back the streets."

He called for teaching children ways to resolve conflicts at an early age. Others argued for stricter parental discipline, gun-control measures and tougher laws against stalking.

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