KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Dozens of families and friends honored and remembered loved ones Wednesday night as part of the Victim’s Remembrance Tree ceremony — a holiday memorial for victims of violent crimes. 

The annual event is put on by “HOPE for Victims” and held at the city-county building in Knoxville. Families put ornaments on the tree to honor the lost lives.

Jill Walker, mother of Emma Walker. (WATE)

WATE spoke to one East Tennessee mother who was there to honor her daughter. Jill Walker was seen carefully placing an ornament on the Victims Remembrance Tree.

Jill remembers her daughter, Emma Walker, who was tragically killed in November 2016.  

“Her ex-boyfriend had shot her while she was sleeping from outside of our home,” Jill says.

Jill adds the loss of her then-16-year-old daughter was nearly unbearable.

“It’s unimaginable it’s a nightmare. You have to find different kinds of purpose in life and just to live them moment by moment.”

Jill believes the annual event, as well as being part of the HOPE for Victims group, is extremely helpful as she continues to grieve her daughter’s death.   

“Is very helpful because you’re with people who feel the same feelings and know what you are feeling and have been through to help you not only with the grief but through the justice system,” Jill says.  

William Riley Gaul, Emma’s former boyfriend was convicted of killing her and given a life sentence in 2018.