Local crime victims remembered at candlelight vigil

Posted 4/5/17

By RON HARRIS

Daily Mountain Eagle

Kerri Kasem, daughter of the late entertainment personality Casey Kasem, was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s candlelight vigil to honor crime victims in …

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Local crime victims remembered at candlelight vigil

Posted

By RON HARRIS

Daily Mountain Eagle

Kerri Kasem, daughter of the late entertainment personality Casey Kasem, was the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s candlelight vigil to honor crime victims in Walker County.

The event, now in its sixth year, is one of the largest victims' rights events in the state, according to Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair. It coincides with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, which is observed April 2-8 across the nation.

Kasem founded the Kasem Cares Foundation to establish and fight for the rights to have visitation and rea- sonable access to an ailing parent, especially when under the care and control of an uncooperative spouse or sibling. The Kasem Cares “Visitation Bill” has been passed in eight states so far, including Alabama.

Kasem’s father, who died in 2014, was a victim of elder abuse at the hands of his wife Jean, Kerri Kasem said.

Kasem began her role as an activist in 2013 when she and her siblings found themselves in a legal fight with their father's wife, who they claim wouldn’t allow the family to see their ailing father.

“Four years ago, I was told I was never going to see my dad again by his wife,” Kasem said. “She isolated him.”

The ordeal led Kerri Kasem into action after she got no help from police or Adult Protective Services.

“I realized there was no law in place to help adult children see their ailing parents, even though my father said to the court-appointed doctor, the court-appointed lawyer and the judge, ‘I want to see my children,’” she said. “The judge couldn't rule on visitation because his caretaker (his wife Jean) said no, and they were at their home.”

After much work, the Kasem Cares “Visitation Bill” was passed in California and eight other states, including Alabama.

“I'm so proud of Alabama,” she said. “It took one year. A lot of states take two to three years.”

Deborah Bowie, a victims advocate whole lives in Gainesville, Fla., also spoke at Tuesday’s event.

Bowie’s sister, Sharon Anderson, was brutally murdered in a 1994 triple homicide in For Lauderdale, Fla.

“I never turn down an opportunity to talk about what happened to my sister,” Bowie said, “if for no other reason than to share my personal experience.”

Bowie said her family continues to endure pain every day because of what happened to Anderson, who was just 25 when she died.

“Twenty-three years after my sister was murdered, we are still in court trying to resolve this,” she said.

The crime was captured on video surveillance, yet one of the suspects in the case was acquitted after being given a new trial in 2012. The suspect had initially been found guilty and sentenced to death.

A second suspect was also removed from death row and is awaiting a new court date.

“Twenty-three years after this heinous crime and we’re still in court.” Bowie said. “I would have never believed this would still be going on.”

“From the moment of the murder, your whole life changes,” she added. “Everything falls apart. Everything.”

Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair began the candlelight vigil six years because he, too, was affected by a violent crime when his father, William “Sonny” Adair, was fatally shot in Lawrence County in 1981.

“What happened to my father is just part of why I do this,” Adair said.

The vigil was held at the Jasper Civic Center.