Gone but not forgotten
A few dozen people gathered Sunday afternoon in the shadow of the Allen County Courthouse to pay tribute to the city’s homicide victims, whose chalk-written names covered the sidewalk alongside pleas for justice.
Family of the slain shook with emotion and struggled to speak as they shared their experiences, including the horror of discovering their beloveds’ lifeless bodies.
“I asked God, ‘Why? I’m a woman of faith,’” said Timika Bonner, whose 18-year-old son was killed in October 2012.
Recently formed group Justice, Accountability & Victim Advocacy, or JAVA, spearheaded the brief event. Organizers plan to hold monthly tributes as well as monthly meetings featuring speakers and connecting families with resources, spokeswoman Amy Davis said.
There have been 34 homicides in Allen County this year. There were 41 in 2017, making it the third time in five years the county had more than 40. The deadliest year was 2016 with 49 homicides.
When asked about Sunday’s turnout, Davis said it is uplifting to see those affected by a homicide support each other.
It doesn’t, however, ease the pain of losing a child, attendee Ruth Cox said. A portrait of her slain son, Michael Wilcher, was in her arms.
Wilcher, 51, was found beaten on Huffman Street last September. He died from blunt force injuries to the head. A poster at the event encouraged witnesses to come forward.
Before leaving her house Sunday, Cox looked at a family photograph featuring her six children. She tried to picture the image without Wilcher.
“It left a hole in our family,” Cox said. “We all miss him so dearly bad.”
Melissa Deputy attended in remembrance of three people and an unborn child who were killed on Holton Avenue two years ago. She described one of the victims as her stepson.
“They were all so full of life,” Deputy said.
Davis, who mourns a nephew, led those gathered in prayer. Along with comfort and love, she prayed for community leaders to solve the crimes.
Elected officials must be held accountable, fellow JAVA member Nasim Walker said, noting families can’t have justice when killers remain free. She urged attendees to vote.
“They’re supposed to protect us,” Walker said.