Murder victim’s mother supporting April 20 banquet
By PHOEBE DONALD ROBINSON / Community Columnist
VOCAL (Victims of Crime and Leniency) and Safehouse are two organizations whose missions are to help victims of violent crime and domestic violence, respectively.
On Monday, April 20, the first Advocate Awards Presentation and Banquet will be held at the Pelham Civic Complex, 500 Amphitheater Road from 5:30-8 p.m.
Speakers are Gerie Budgick King, whose husband was murdered in her home before her eyes, and Tahiera Monique Brown, who was physically and sexually abused as a child. Following the banquet, an outdoor candlelight vigil for families of those who have lost loved ones to violent crime will be held, open to all.
The project is due to a VOCAL grant from the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice.
Joshua Adam Smith (age 22), Casey Lee Cumberland (age 22) and Simeon Gilmore (age 19) were having a sleep-over when Jon Staggs broke into Smith’s parents’ home to steal a TV and murdered the three young men on Sept. 12, 2012.
Smith was shot in the head while asleep and the other two brutally murdered.
On Oct. 14, 2014, Staggs was convicted of five counts of capital murder and is serving life in prison with no chance of parole.
Smith’s mother, Linda Coogan, was in New York with husband Danny on business when she received a phone call from younger son, Matthew, “Mom, someone has been killed at our house and you have to call the police.”
Coogan called the police and learned that her son and two boys were killed in her home.
“My world changed forever,” said Coogan. “When Danny and I got home, we could not see Joshua’s body – it was evidence; we could not enter our home – it was a crime scene; and we could not grieve in private – the press were everywhere. This has impacted our family and friends forever. I could not have gotten through this time without the help of VOCAL whose volunteers, all victims too, prepared us for the emotional impact of the trial and gave us support to go through it.”
Attendance is free to the banquet, but reservations are required.
For more information, see Safehouse.org, Advocateawards.eventbrite.com/or call (205) 669-1877.
For VOCAL, call (205) 668-0636. For Safehouse help 24/7, call (205) 669-SAFE (7233).