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Families share loss, ease pain at Hernando's Victims Voice 2010

BROOKSVILLE — It's been three years since the wreck, and now Debbie Wynn can finally go into stores and pick out things that her granddaughter might have liked.

Snacks. Toys. Video games. Any other item you could imagine that a teenage girl would have cherished.

And then, all over again, Wynn feels the profound sense of loss: Her 13-year-old granddaughter, Shelby Taylor Hagman, was killed in a drunken driving crash in April 2007.

"I'll say, 'Shelby would have liked that.' And then I'll smile," Wynn said Wednesday. "But I still want her back."

Wynn was one of nearly 50 people who attended Victims Voice 2010, an annual gathering sponsored by the State Attorney's Office in Brooksville to remember those killed during crimes, as well as victims and family members who survive.

The program took place at the Hernando County Government Center as part of National Crime Victims' Rights Week, which is being observed throughout the country to promote victims' rights and honor crime victims and those who advocate on their behalf.

Tears flowed freely as family members and government staffers read the names of the deceased one by one and placed ribbons on a memorial wreath. Among those memorialized were Hagman; Hernando County sheriff's Capt. Scott Bierwiler, who was killed in a car wreck last year, and Hernando Deputy Lonnie Coburn, who was fatally shot in 1978.

This year, event organizers in Brooksville invited members in the audience to share their stories rather than have a single guest speaker.

"Lots of people want to speak," said Mary Johnston, a victim and witness counselor with the State Attorney's Office. "And it's really special when people come from out of town, like Tampa and Jacksonville. They come here for support."

The first family member to address the group was Assistant State Attorney Jason Smith, who talked about the murder of his older brother in Belleview in April 2005. "It took a long time to remember the happy times," Smith said. "It was really tough to go through."

Other family members and victims who spoke said they still were learning to deal with the grief, and still needed the support offered at events like these.

"We didn't even know a county would care for us after the fact," Wynn said. "They didn't just dismiss us. And that helps us a lot."

Joel Anderson can be reached at joelanderson@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6120. You can follow Anderson on Twitter at twitter.com/ jandersontimes.

Families share loss, ease pain at Hernando's Victims Voice 2010 04/21/10 [Last modified: Thursday, April 22, 2010 1:09am]
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