Event lends support for crime victims

Those killed in tragedies memorialized in quilts

Anne Arundel

April 30, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,SUN STAFF

Placidia Clark describes herself as a crime victim, but she always adds emphatically: "I have not been victimized."

Clark, a 38-year-old major in the Army Nurse Corps, spent 10 days at Maryland Shock Trauma Center after her ex-husband used a golf club to beat her - and her mother - within inches of their lives in June at Clark's home in Odenton.

She is still deeply affected by her injuries: fractured facial bones, permanent eye damage, a collapsed lung and, most significantly, a traumatic brain injury. But Clark says sharing her story has helped her heal the emotional wounds of the attack.

Yesterday, flanked by two oversized quilts memorializing homicide and auto manslaughter victims, Clark told her tale to a rapt audience as part of the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's commemoration of Victims' Rights Week. Her attacker, David Keith Clark, was sentenced last month to 25 years in prison for the crime.

For more than a decade, the Anne Arundel County ceremony has helped to draw attention to the struggles of crime victims and to underline the importance of supporting them throughout the legal process.

"A kind word on a hard day can make all the difference," said Maureen Gillmer, director of Victim-Witness Services for the state's attorney's office.

Yesterday's ceremony included the presentation of the Warren B. Duckett Jr. Commitment to Justice Award. This year, the third annual award went to state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, largely for championing numerous measures in support of prosecutors and police officers.

The Duckett award is named for the predecessor of State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee, who founded victims' services in Anne Arundel County. Duckett left for a Circuit Court judgeship in 1988 but retired from the bench seven years later because he has multiple sclerosis. He attended the event yesterday in a wheelchair.

Jimeno said he appreciated the recognition but was more moved by the people directly affected by crime who spoke at the ceremony.

Clark was joined by Barbara Knight, the mother of a 21-year- old woman abused by a boyfriend, and by Detective Richard Alban, a homicide investigator for Anne Arundel County.

Alban explained what it was like to walk through gruesome crime scenes, such as the triple homicide last week in Pasadena, and to have to deliver news about a tragic death to family members.

It can be difficult, he said, to keep his emotions in check.

"I do this job for the victims and for the people who have paid the ultimate price at the hands of another," he said.

Alban investigated some of the same crimes that inspired family members to memorialize their murdered loved ones with squares on a quilt. It hangs on a wall at the Anne Arundel County Circuit Courthouse in Annapolis.

The quilt was created in 1997, and this year, with blocks commemorating 38 victims, the state's attorney's office started a second one.

A simple white sailboat graces Straughan Lee Griffin's quilt square. Red stitching bears the sailboat's name, Box of Rain. Griffin, an Annapolis resident and active member of the local sailing community, was fatally shot during a carjacking in front of his home Sept. 19. Two young Annapolis men are being held in the case.

And on Paula Lynn Edwards' quilt square, which her three children helped design, a bright-yellow felt school bus is attached below the dates of her birth and death. Edwards, who drove a bus for Anne Arundel County public schools, was strangled Sept. 7 by her estranged boyfriend - the father of her children. Howard Alexander Jr. pleaded guilty this month to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Each quilt square was "painstakingly made in tribute to ... family members," Gillmer explained at the close of the ceremony. "It makes us sad to realize that the second quilt will one day be full."

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