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Homicide victims honored with candlelight vigil

Dawn Bowen, left, Anna Bell McKendree, 12, and Michele Adams, 10, of Lilburn light a candle during the Gwinnett County District Attorneys Office Victim Witness Program’s annual candlelight vigil at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville on Tuesday. The vigil is held to remember those that have been lost as a result of homicide in Gwinnett County. Bowen mourns the death of her daughter Ashley Bowen who was killed in April of 2006. McKendree and Adams are sisters of Ashley. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Dawn Bowen, left, Anna Bell McKendree, 12, and Michele Adams, 10, of Lilburn light a candle during the Gwinnett County District Attorneys Office Victim Witness Program’s annual candlelight vigil at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center in Lawrenceville on Tuesday. The vigil is held to remember those that have been lost as a result of homicide in Gwinnett County. Bowen mourns the death of her daughter Ashley Bowen who was killed in April of 2006. McKendree and Adams are sisters of Ashley. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

LAWRENCEVILLE — Twenty-four names, 24 bells.

Over the last year, Gwinnett County has seen 24 people killed as a result of homicide.

On Tuesday, family members, friends and various fire, police and government officials honored those lost during a candlelight vigil held at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

“There’s no need for me to explain the effect crime and homicide has on our homes, our neighborhoods, our schools and in our communities,” said Department of Juvenile Justice Commissioner Avery Niles. “But I challenge each one of you to stand as a village to prevent these senseless acts from happening in the future. It’s our job to protect each other. That’s what a village does.”

There was also a 25th bell to honor those who had been lost in years’ past. Remembrance trees held photos, names and mementos of those lost, as families decorated the trees with items to honor their loved ones. Derek Weston remembers it just like it was yesterday when his father, Farris Weston, was murdered Feb. 29, 2012.

“I think back to him and remember him,” Weston said of his father. “I remember all the good times we had.”

Weston admitted he didn’t want to attend the ceremony last year, less than 10 months after his father was killed. But he said it was for the best and this year’s vigil was no different.

“I didn’t want to come at first,” he said. “But it helps. I want to see other families who have lost loved ones and offer support for them.”

The ceremony began with Robin Moss lighting a candle in honor of all of the victims. Moss is the grandmother of Emani Moss, who was allegedly murdered by her father and step-mother in November.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said the ceremony is important for two reasons — “We want to welcome those who have suffered loss. We also want to remember those who have been lost, and remember them with joy.”

But he also challenged all of the police, fire and government officials.

“Take a look around this room,” he said. “These are the people we serve. These are the people we’re here to protect.”