Victims Memorial Garden dedicated in Roosevelt County

Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

It was planned as a peaceful place for victims to gather during the multiple stages of a criminal trial and a memorial to victims of crime. The Victims Memorial Garden was dedicated Friday on the grounds of the Roosevelt County Courthouse.

On hand for the ceremony were victim’s families as well as representatives from the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s office, local and statewide victim’s advocates, and members of the public.

The garden stretches from the steps at the south entrance of the downtown Portales landmark all the way around the west side of the courthouse, and includes a variety of shrubs and perennials as well as a flagstone path.

The Roosevelt County Commissioners pledged $1,500 to start the project and local businesses and the local chapter of New Mexico Survivors of Homicide provided the materials, equipment and volunteer help to bring the garden to fruition.
“Today we’re here to pay tribute to and remember those who are lost,” said 9th Judicial District Attorney Matt Chandler in opening the dedication.

Chandler told the crowd that victims of crime were mostly ignored until the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan brought the focus on them during his administration. Chandler said he still thinks more needs to be done.

“We have essentially failed them,” he said of victims and their families. “What we should really be talking about is victim’s justice. The victim’s lives you see around you today will never be the same because someone has stripped it away.”

Speaking briefly during the ceremony, Joan Shirley, a statewide victims’ advocate for NMSOH from Albuquerque, drew on her own tragedy.

“My mother asked me what I wanted for Christmas,” Shirley said. “I thought about it and after all these years all I really want is Kevin back,” she said referring to her slain son, whose killer has never been apprehended.

“If we don’t heal ourselves as a community we’re never going to be whole again,” said Shirley, urging victims to get involved with a support group.

Chandler said that the justice system needs to make sure victims have shelter, clothing, medical care and mental care as well as be informed of their rights.

“What I want to say today is there is hope,” said Chandler. “There’s a place to go and people to help you. There is no justice until justice is served to the victims.”

Chandler read a list of victims of homicide and vehicular homicide in Roosevelt County since 1988.

Victims families who don’t see their relative’s name on the list can contact Lory Adams at the Portales district attorney’s office at 356-4434 to have it added. Plans are for the names of the victims to be placed in the garden at a future date.

The local chapter of NMSOH, which serves Curry, Roosevelt and Quay counties, meets at 7 p.m. the first Monday of each month in the office of counselor Charlotte Farkas in Clovis.