Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange was the keynote speaker at the event, which is hosted each year by the Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair and his office.
Adair’s father was murdered years ago, making Tuesday’s ceremony an important tool in helping the families of victims of violent crimes.
Joining Strange in speaking were state Sen. Greg Reed and victims advocates Denise Gurganus and Carolyn Lassiter, who have each experienced loss due to violent crimes.
Gurganus’ sister, Karen Sanders Lane, was brutally murdered in 1988, while Lassiter’s son, DeAndre Brown, disappeared in July 2005 and has not been found but is believed to be the victim of a violent crime.
“As the chief law enforcement officer in the state, victims are my top priority,” Strange said following Tuesday’s ceremony. “The opportunity to have a vigil like this to remember these victims of violent crimes is critical.”
Strange said he was impressed with the number of people on hand for Tuesday’s candlelight vigil.
“There’s no vigil anywhere in the state of Alabama that will surpass this one,” he said. “With a turnout of hundreds of people, and the dedicated law enforcement personnel here as well as the families of these victims, it’s just incredible.”
Prior to Tuesday’s ceremony at the Community Health Systems Activities Center in downtown Jasper, Strange toured the Walker County Children’s Advocacy Center.
“Being able to tour that facility was special to me today,” Strange said. “That will do so much good for young victims of crime in this community. I want to congratulate Bill Adair and his staff for making that a reality. It’s a fantastic facility.”
Lassiter, who was joined at the ceremony by her husband, Andre, said each day is a reminder of how much she misses her son, who was 21 when he went missing. She said events like this are important to her and each person who has lost a family member to violent crime.
“I think these types of events are very important, because everybody can come together and share their hurt and pain,” Lassiter said.
Also on hand was Miriam Shehane, whose daughter, Quenette, was a student at Birmingham-Southern College when she was abducted, raped and killed by three men in December 1976.
In 1982, Miriam Shehane founded the Victims of Crime and Leniency (VOCAL) advocacy group in Montgomery.
She remains the group’s executive director.
Adair is a member of the board of directors of VOCAL.
Gurganus recounted the brutality of her sister’s murder and how her family has endured constant pain and suffering because of it.
“The two victims’ advocates tonight reminded me of my mission,” Strange said, “which is to make sure justice is swift and fair for the victims of crime. It brought home again, to me the real difficulty for families to have to wait so long to have justice done for their loved ones.”