YUMA, Ariz. – It was an emotional Thursday evening at the Yuma Main Library. Dozens of people, many who lost loved ones due to homicide, gathered to grieve for the loss of local homicide victims and help each other deal with the heart ache. The Yuma County Attorney’s Office says most of these victims were murdered but they could also have been killed by drunk drivers, drugs or in several different ways.
“Our son Bryan was killed by a drunk driver that happened to be a friend of his”, said Yuma resident Susan Johns. Johns’ son Bryan died just before his 21st birthday, the year was 2011. Although he is gone, Susan says she is left with only good memories and pictures to remind her of the boy that she calls her gentle giant. A young man she says was loved by everyone who knew him.
“We’re here today to remember him and the joy he brought to all of us”, said Johns
Susan, along with dozens of other families with similar stories of tragedies, attended the 7th annual Yuma County Homicide Victims Vigil on Thursday night. They gathered at the Yuma Main Library together, to share their stories and find peace and comfort as a community.
“It helps us cope knowing there are others sharing the same type of grief”, said Johns
The Yuma County Attorney’s Office, along with multiple other agencies and organizations, help put the event together each year.
“I think nationally we deal with about 15,000 homicides each year ”, said Yuma County Attorney John R. Smith. He says the pain these families suffer can be very severe. “It’s just so sudden and there is no chance to say goodbye to your loved one and it was at the hands of another person”, said Smith.
Also on display at the vigil were several cold cases, leaving those families with many unanswered questions. “45 percent of murders go unsolved in our country, somebody lost their life and nobody was held accountable for it”, said Smith.
The cases also leave an emotional burden for the officers that investigate these homicides. “Officers see what happens at those scenes they bring it home with them, they bring it to work, they deal with it and keep going on”, said San Luis Police Chief Craig Higgins.
After listening to several stories of loss, everyone at the ceremony began a candlelight vigil to pay their respects to all of those gone too soon. Many of these victims stories may go untold but will surely not be forgotten by the ones they loved. “By any means it never goes away”, said Johns.
And if Susan could say just one last thing to her son Bryan… “Obviously we love you but can’t wait to see you again”, said Johns.
September 25th is the national day for homicide victim’s remembrance.