ST. PETERSBURG — Since her son was murdered five years ago, community activist Lisa Wheeler-Brown has had no trouble getting her voice heard.
Which is why the past several weeks have been so tough. Since February, Wheeler-Brown has had to keep a secret. She's finally able to spill it now.
On Wednesday, Wheeler-Brown, who has become an outspoken local critic of the "no-snitching" culture and an advocate for victims rights, will be honored in the nation's capital.
The Department of Justice is presenting her with the National Crime Victims' Special Courage Award. Twelve other citizens from across the country also will be recognized.
"This award recognizes a victim or survivor who has exhibited exceptional perseverance or determination in dealing with his or her own victimization," said Joye Frost, principal deputy director of DOJ's Office for Victims of Crime, in a statement. "It may also acknowledge an individual who has acted bravely either to aid a victim or to prevent a victimization."
Wheeler-Brown, 44, has done both, officials said.
After her 21-year-old son Cabretti Wheeler was killed during a mysterious double murder in 2008 at an auto repair shop in the Lealman area, Wheeler-Brown started a foundation to support victims' families. She campaigned against violence and encouraged the community to cooperate with police, especially since for years, no one came forward with tips about her son's murder.
Just days ago, the Florida Holocaust Museum gave Wheeler-Brown a humanitarian award.
Wheeler-Brown said she is humbled by the national recognition, which she said reinforces that her son didn't die in vain.
"When I think that no one is listening, somebody is," she said. "There's still work to do. There are still children to save, people to reach."
The man accused of killing Cabretti Wheeler is scheduled to go on trial in June.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643.