An annual event to recognize National Crime Victims’ Rights Week was held last week at the Women’s Eastern Reception Diagnostic and Correctional Center (WERDCC) in Vandalia.
One special guest speaker for this year’s ceremony was Kim Case, Victim Advocate with the Missouri Sheriff’s Association.
Case was first introduced by CCM II/ICVC Coordinator Paula Fletcher.
Case shared a story from 20 years ago as a teenager when she said her life almost ended.
“I didn’t know the car was following me that evening,” Case said as she told about leaving a restaurant really early in the morning after work.
She told of being followed home by four men who had previously been sentenced for crimes. They were out of jail on a 30-day stay issued by a judge.
Case said when she got out of her car at home, one of the offenders jumped out of his car and grabbed her and pulled her into his vehicle.
The kidnapping lasted 16 hours and she was able to get away by the “grace of God.”
Case had been handcuffed to one of the criminals and something metal near a bridge.
When she had a chance to escape the loose handcuffs, she made her escape when the man she was handcuffed to passed out.
Case now looks back on that day and thinks about the decisions the four criminals made and how it has affected them along with how those decisions affected her. She said she hopes they are feeling restoration.
“There needs to be hope, there needs to be resilience,” she noted.
“At that time of my life I had everything in front of me as you can imagine at 19,” Case said.
“I had all of my hopes and dreams and all of the things and plans that I wanted to do. And me becoming an advocate and me working with law enforcement wasn’t a part of those dreams.”
That being said, Case is thankful for the relationships she’s made and the role she plays in bringing together communities with the goal of learning together about all sides of stories like the one she has went through.
Case added that she was humbled to speak at the event on behalf of victims.
Leigh Thomas, the Audrain County Prosecuting Attorney Victim Advocate, talked about her role working with several types of victims and their families for the county.
Thomas said her passion is working with children.
“I’m a victim advocate for a small town and I love it,” Thomas said, as she noted that she enjoys fighting for her victims.
Patricia Stathem, CCM II and Restorative Justice Coordinator, said offenders logged in 59,629 hours in WERDCC alone. Those offenders helped to donate 3,131 items to 73 different organizations.
She also said the victims impact classes in this past year included 477 participating offenders totaling 20,304 hours.
Stathem said all of the money used in the program is raised by the Restorative Justice Organization and no state funds are used as the offenders raise all of the money.
“Holding offenders accountable and providing reparative activities teaches them to care for others and a chance to feel the satisfaction that comes when you help another human being,” Stathem said.
“Helping, not hurting, is the goal of our program. To restore and reveal what was lost. And in doing this, it’s our hope, that as they return to society, our communities will be strong and resilient and that justice will indeed be for all.”
Jeannie Thompson talked about services offered at the Audrain County Crisis Intervention Service in Mexico, Mo. and talked about all of the items the group has received from offenders.
She talked about blankets, hats, and many more items that the service has been able to provide.
Fletcher made the closing remarks and recognized ICVC offender co-facilitators Autumn Smith, Theresa Fortner, Eden Ambrose, Cassandra Rayfield, Wanekii Weems, and Christine Brown.
The ICVS Staff Facilitators include CCM II’s Kirk McBride, Erin Senor, Jennifer Ward, Luann Watson, Richard Watson, Warren Winders, Patricia Stathem, and Amy Miller.
The list of Restorative Justice Organization Offenders includes Janet Baiter-Bohn, Connie Rayborn, Tessa Vlera Van, Theresa Fortner, Glenda Smith, Denise Hanna, Amy Rau, Renee Clouse, Lorie Barnes, Katherine Lindsey, Polly Guidorzi, Michelle Arnold, Janice Rusk, Cassandra Rayfeild, and Evelyn Burgess.
Theresa Fortner was the “Mistress of Ceremony.”
This year’s event began with a video and welcome followed from Deputy Warden Tom Dunn.
Dunn noted that WERDCC staff tries to do everything it can to, once the offenders arrive, to help them understand the importance of giving back to society through ICVC and Restorative Justice.
The invocation followed as the prayer was given by CCM II Ron Kukulka. Amy Harrell, Court Advocate for the Audrain County Crisis Intervention Service, was unable to attend the event.
The WERDCC Honor Guard presented and retrieved the colors for the event.