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Crime victims remembered at vigil

LAWRENCEVILLE - Families joined together in the cold Thursday evening, candle lights blowing in the wind, to honor the memory of loved ones who fell victim to crime.

The annual vigil was created eight years ago by Stan Hall, director of the Victim Witness Program, who said he wanted to express to families and friends that although the case is closed in the court room, it's never closed in the heart.

"Not only does this vigil give the victims' families a time to come together to see their loved ones recognized, it also affords the community the opportunity to send a message that these victims are not forgotten," Hall said.

Beginning the vigil, four Gwinnett County police officers in blue dress uniforms presented the American flag. After the crowd said the Pledge of Allegiance, Sheila Howell lit the podium candle. Her second time lighting the vigil candle, Howell again honored the memory of her daughter and grandchild who died in a violent carjacking.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said he looks at the faces of the people here and knows what his business is about - justice.

"People have had a tragedy happen through no fault of their own and are looking to us to serve and honor them," Porter said.

About 40 people attended the vigil, an increase from the first year's vigil, which had around 10, Hall said.

Every year since her husband's death, Jenene Craig, a Grayson resident whose husband was killed on the road by an impaired driver, has come to the vigil.

"The DA's office has been a source of support and strength and gives us an outlet to remember our loss was real and won't go away," Craig said of her fourth year attending the vigil.

Following musical presentations by Melissa Melton and "Design" from Hebron Baptist Church, Hall read 30 names from the 2005 homicide victims list. The sound of a bell tolled between each name.