Crime victims remembered at Fulton County ribbon ceremony

Bridgett Denise, center, and Melissa Patterson hang ribbons on the Tree of Hope at a Crime Victims' Rights ceremony Thursday in Johnstown. Denise's mother was murdered in 1987 in Fulton County. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The public placed ribbons on Fulton County’s Tree of Hope, concluding a solemn ceremony commemorating this week’s “National Crime Victims’ Rights Week” Thursday afternoon outside the County Courthouse.

County District Attorney Chad Brown presided over the 30-minute ceremony, in which various speakers remarked about the need to stand up for the victims of all crimes.

“Today is a day to stand together,” Brown said.

He said many people are devastated by crime, but through a terrible life experience, they are able to carry on and sometimes help others.

“The grief will never go away,” Brown said. “[But] get up and help someone else get back up.”

People hang ribbons on the Tree of Hope at a Crime Victims' Rights ceremony Thursday in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

This year’s National Crime Victims’ Rights Week theme, he said, is “Honoring Our Past. Creating Hope for the Future.”

When the ceremony was over, the public was allowed to place multi-colored ribbons representing themselves or others on the 10-year-old Tree of Hope, which stands on the grounds between the County Office Building and the County Courthouse.

Some said the pain of crime and its effect is forever.

“It doesn’t go away,” said Bridgett Denise, whose mother — 42-year-old Diana Hogan of Johnstown — was murdered on Aug. 7, 1987.

Denise said she has come to the Tree of Hope every year to hang a ribbon in honor of her mom.

A crowd gathered for the Crime Victims' Rights Week ceremony near the Tree of Hope Thursday off West Main Street in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

“This tree came about with the help of a couple of people that came before me,” Brown said.

He was referring to County Court Judge Louise Sira and former county Crime Victims Advocate Randy Smith.

County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Wilson read a proclamation issued Monday by the board. It declared April 7-13 as “Crime Victims’ Rights Week” in Fulton County.

“This commemorative week celebrates the energy, perseverance and commitment that launched the victims’ rights movement, inspired its programs, and continues to advance the cause of justice for crime victims,” the proclamation states. “Crime can leave a lasting impact on any person, regardless of age, national origin, race, creed, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigration or economic status. Incorporating communities’ existing experts and trusted sources of support into efforts to fully serve survivors will develop a criminal justice system response that is truly accessible and appropriate for all victims of crime.

“Engaging a broader array of healthcare providers, community leaders, faith organizations, educators and businesses can provide new links between victims and services that improve their safety, healing, and access to justice,” the proclamation adds. “Honoring the rights of victims — including the rights to be heard and to be treated with fairness, dignity and respect — and working to meet their needs rebuilds their trust in the criminal justice and social service systems.”

Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jack Wilson reads a proclamation at a Crime Victims' Rights Week ceremony Thursday outside the County Courthouse in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

Jennifer Donovan, an aide for state Sen. James Tedisco, said the senator apologized for not being able to attend. But she read a statement from Tedisco.

“This is a time to reflect on the people who were injured or killed because of violent crime,” he stated.

Tedisco also pointed out that he is working on two pieces of proposed legislation, some involving parolees.

Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino — a former County Court judge and district attorney — told the gathering on the lawn he recognized some victims.

“I see so many links to the past,” he said.

Fulton County Crime Victim Advocate Stephanie Porter and Lisa Cimo address a Crime Victims' Rights Week ceremony Thursday outside the County Courthouse in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

Giardino said the criminal justice system has “come far along,” such as having advocates for the public and the ability to solve cases.

“The pain doesn’t seem to go away,” the sheriff said. “It never does.”

But Giardino said the days of “no one talking to” crime victims are gone, and their rights are stronger than ever.

Fulton County Victim Advocates Stephanie Porter and Elaina Foster were introduced. They are available always to reach out for the public, officials said.

Fort Plain resident Bethany Muha sang Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird” as part of the ceremony.

Bethany Muha of Fort Plain sings, "I'm Like A Bird," at a Crime Victims' Rights ceremony Thursday in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

Fulton County Sheriff Richard Giardino speaks at a Crime Victims' Rights Week ceremony Thursday outside the County Courthouse in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

Fulton County District Attorney Chad Brown presides over a Crime Victims' Rights Week ceremony Thursday outside the County Courthouse in Johnstown.(The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

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