KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — In honor of the National Day of Remembrance for Murdered Victims, family, friends and leaders met outside the City-County Building to mourn people who were taken from this world by violent crimes.
H.O.P.E. for Victims hosted the memorial. Seven large posters were covered with pictures and names of victims who were murdered either in the Knox County area or from the Knox County area.
“This is a time to remember victims and to be aware that we need better laws and we need to, we need justice,” Joan Berry, founder of H.O.P.E. for Victims, said.
District Attorney General Charme Allen, U.S. Congressman Tim Burchett (R-TN 2nd District) and State Rep. Michele Carringer (R-Knoxville) were all there.
Allen read off the names of the murdered victims.
“We just feel alone sometimes, but this is a great way of them, you know, letting us know that they care. They haven’t forgot about us, and they appreciate their lives like we did,” LaRon Johnson, brother of Denise Stevens, said.
Stevens was killed in 2018, but she wasn’t the only victim Johnson knew who was being honored on Sunday.
“I’ve known at least 12 people on there, you know what I’m saying? You know, Dobson, Zeavion; Maurice, Sydney. So, you know, we’re just here to make sure that they’re not forgotten,” Johnson said.
Every year, several names are added to the brick memorial for murdered victims outside the City-County building.
Berry said that’s the saddest part about hosting these memorials because she knows there are new families who feel the pain she does.
“It leaves a hole in your heart that you can’t imagine, and we’re sorry that we have to add new names to the list,” Berry said.
This year, Staff Sgt. Ryan Knauss was one of the new names added to the memorial.
She said that’s why making a change via legislation is important. At these events, she lets other families know what they are dealing with if they don’t already know themselves.
“When something like this happens to a family member of yours, you don’t really realize how lacking the system is,” Berry said.
Berry lost her daughter, Johnia Berry, in 2004.
She mentioned new legislation coming up in the next session that, if passed, would reduce the life sentence from 51 years to 25 years.
“That is not justice. My daughter or any of these victims, they don’t get a second chance. So, we have to stand together and make our voice be heard,” Berry said.
Johnson said change doesn’t necessarily need to come from legislation. He said it needs to start from within the community.
“Get that murder-istic state of mind out of our psyche, you know? We have to look to the future. You know, we all have to help each other. We all have to work with each other, and if there’s a problem or issue, we need to talk about it instead of going on impulse,” Johnson said.
But, while they are praying for change, they are also praying as a community of people who have lost family, and coming together so their names will never be forgotten.
“I think that this would make Johnia happy because that’s what Johnia loved to do. She loved to help people She was you know, she was kind to everyone,” Berry said.