When a Loved One is Murdered

Facing the death of a loved one is never easy. When a murder occurs, the anger, pain, and grief are compounded by the crushing realization that another person intentionally took the life of someone precious to you.

Adding to your trauma are intrusions in your grief. Police, lawyers, and other members of the criminal justice system need information, evidence, and testimony. Television and newspaper reporters often focus up on the victim without consulting you or your family. When a suspect is apprehended, preliminary hearings, bond, postponements, trials and sentencing all force you and your grieving family to face what may seem to be a lack of justice. In situations where the murder is unsolved or justice is otherwise compromised, there is even greater pain and confusion.

There appears to be an endless list of new words, phrases, and roles in the unfamiliar world of the criminal justice system. The majority of you have never dealt with an attorney in your life. Suddenly thrust into the role of victim survivor, you must learn the meaning of related terms such as investigations, indictment, court docket management, hearings, pre-trials, plea bargain, continuances, court dates set and postponed, and learn the roles of personnel such as victim witness legal assistants, prosecuting attorneys, defense lawyers, judges, court reporters and others. And you must learn that your sense of time will not be valid in the court system. A murder is not only a crime against the loved one for who you are grieving, but also a crime against the state.

The Role of the District Attorney's Office

Once the investigation is complete and an arrest is made, the law enforcement officer turns the information over to the District Attorney's Office. Your case will be entitled State of North Carolina vs. Name of the Defendant. It will be assigned a criminal number and will have an official, permanent file at the courthouse in the county where the crime occurred. An Assistant District Attorney (or Prosecutor), a lawyer for the State, will represent you. The defendant will have a lawyer. If he cannot afford one, one will be appointed and paid for by state funds. You will also be assigned a Victim Witness Legal Assistant. She is a Legal Assistant for the Assistant District Attorney assigned to your case. It is her job to help guide you through what at times appears to be a complicated court system.

Homicide Family Support Group

The Homicide Family Support Group, HFSG, offers support to those who have lost a loved one to violence. Unfortunately, when violence takes someone, families and friends are not only left with the sadness of their loss, but also with the often confusing process of Law Enforcement investigations and the Court System.

Members of HFSG have experienced untimely deaths due to crimes such as homicides and fatal traffic accidents. They have knowledge of the court system that can help others who have so many questions.  

The District Attorney’s Office in Bladen, Brunswick and Columbus Counties has recently formed a Homicide Family Support Group. The goal is to help families who have lost loved ones come together for support.  The meetings are very informal gatherings of victims’ families to share information among people with similar experiences.

A simple meal is served. Domino’s Pizza provides pizzas and drinks. Sitting together and sharing a meal can help bring people closer. This is not counseling. This is networking between people who have had similar life experiences. The District Attorney explains the court process to new members and what to expect both in and out of court and answers any questions a group member may have. Old members often explain to new members what to expect when they go to court and reinforce what the District Attorney has said. Often, old members volunteer to attend court with the new members to sit with them for support. The victims’ families often bring a picture of the deceased and the group approves the District Attorney placing the picture on the wall of the lobby of the District Attorney’s Office.

The meeting is not open to the public or the media. The meetings are generally held once every two months, at Brunswick Community College North Campus in Leland, NC from 6:00-8:00pm. The District Attorney, Jon David, or a Senior Assistant District Attorney and the homicide Victim Witness Legal Assistant are present at the meetings, for facilitation and to answer questions.

For more information about how to get involved in HFSG, please contact:
Sharon Alford - 910-253-4122

View directions & map to Brunswick Community College - Leland Campus.

View directions & map to Southeastern Community College. (Contact: Tammy Gattoni @ 910-641-4464 or Kelly Starkloff @ 910- 641-4468)

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The Homicide Family Support Group: Helping Victims Families and Prosecutors

Memorial Service 2022

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