By Gloria Roemer
A memorial tradition was started in December 1991 by volunteer Victim Advocate Verna Lee Carr with People Again Violent Crime (PAVC). It was obvious that the holiday season was an especially difficult time of the year for families who have lost a loved one to violent crime. Carr started the Tree of Angels tradition that would honor the victims of violent crime by bringing an angel ornament representing each victim that would be placed on a special Christmas tree. Chambers County District Attorney Cheryl Swope Henry has brought this tradition to Chambers County by establishing The Tree of Angels ceremony every Christmas season for the victims of violent crime in the County.
Henry was teary-eyed when discussing what the event meant to her. “When we started the Tree of Angels, we had fewer than 10 represented on that tree. This year we had 50,” Henry said after the ceremony. “It is not lost on me that these are real people. These are real victims, real families dealing with the after-effects of violence during what should be the most joyous time of the year. Pursuing justice for them is why I have committed my life to this career. And gathering with so many familiar faces each year to hug, cry, and remember the good is something I hope they find as cathartic as I do.”
An extremely emotional moment came when Chambers County Ashley Cain Land spoke about losing family member Jessica Cain to a serial killer in the 1990’s. Cain spoke about how years past before Jessica’s body was discovered and the agony the family endured not knowing what happened to her. Land also spoke of how the Tree of Angels ceremony brought calm to their family by remembering Jessica as the fun-loving teen that she was when she disappeared.
Below is a list of victims of violent crimes that were memorialized at the Tree of Angels ceremony held last week at the Courthouse:
- Ronnie McGhee 2. Larry James Henderson 3. Nelson Redmon, Jr. 4. Mayson Lewis 5. Daniel Burrell 6. Jonathan Castillo 7. Cheryl Congleton 8. April Forney 9. Alex Chavez 10. Jarvis Morgan 11. Jeremy Christ 12. Leslie “Bubby” Larrison 13. Daisie Poole 14. Lillian Poole 15. Dept. Shane Detwiler 16. Jessica Cain 17. Melba Jean Dockins Campbell 18. Tyler Enderli 19. Damon Miller 20. Justin Stasny 21. Cameron Norton 22. Krystal Baker 23. Larry Smith 24. David Davis 25. Christopher Pate 26. Denroy Virgil 27. Dereck Munoz 28. Jackie Dubendorf 29. Jodee Hatfield 30. Joseph LaDay 31. Nicol Campise 32. Kameron Skinner 33. Robert Leger, Jr. 34. Demarcus Nathaniel Wilson 35. Crystal McDowell 36. Betty Blaire 37. Justin Berry 38. Xicotencatl Vega 39. Gregory Kenard 40. Dominique “Nikki” Schliske 41. Scott Privat 42. Michael Counce 43. Kristina Payne 44. Laura Grant 45. Chelsea Grant 46. Zach Miles 47. Will Bowles 48. Jared Alphonso 49. Willie Woolridge 50. *Special Honoree – Sarah Cerrone 51. Unknown Victims *Not a victim of violence, but longtime friend of DA’s Office and supporter of Tree of Angels who is no longer with us.