VIOLENCE Group seeking changes in criminal law
The founder's son was killed in 1994 during a carjacking in Cleveland.
By SEAN BARRON
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Felix DeJesus painfully recalls the day last year that his daughter, Georgina DeJesus, and a friend used a pay phone on their way home from school.
Afterward, the two girls split up, and DeJesus later learned from his wife that Gina, as the 14-year-old was known, had failed to come home.
It was out of character for Gina not to call, so he searched the area near her school and began asking people in the vicinity of where she was last seen if they had noticed anything unusual.
"No one saw anything," he said sadly. "It hurts every day not knowing where my child is."
A day or two later, a search was under way for the teenager. DeJesus is still angry that news of his missing daughter wasn't disseminated faster.
Gina disappeared April 2, 2004, from Lorain Avenue in Cleveland. She hasn't been seen or heard from since, her father said.
DeJesus was one of about 10 members of Survivors/Victims of Tragedy-Black on Black Crime Inc. who came Sunday to the Lincoln Knolls Plaza on Youngstown's East Side.
The Cleveland-based group came to hold a vigil remembering children and young adults who have disappeared or were murdered.
Here's the scene
The three-car caravan arrived with a fold-out poster board depicting the more than 980 children and young adults whose names are inscribed on a Memorial Wall/Wall of Sorrows in a dilapidated building in East Cleveland. The list was made up of people under 25 who have been killed in Cuyahoga County since 1990.
It also includes the names of 78 county residents killed in the war in Iraq.
They also brought six posters on which were the names, descriptions and faces, many age-enhanced, of kids who have gone missing -- some since the 1970s.
Judy Martin, founder of the advocacy group, said one of its main purposes is to reach out to victims' families while building a support network for them statewide.
Martin said she wants to stop kids from killing other kids while increasing awareness of the problem. The victims group holds vigils in several Ohio cities and elsewhere.
"It's not just a city problem. Too many kids are killing each other," she noted.
Martin's son, Christopher Lee Martin, was shot to death May 23, 1994, in Cleveland during a carjacking. She copes with her grief by speaking at schools, prisons, to church groups and others.
"We talk to kids about what happened to us when our kids were killed," she explained.
Martin emphasized that parents need to listen more to their children, teach respect and be less afraid to talk to them. "If we're not afraid of our kids anymore, we could reach them," she said.
Another senseless death
Eudice Tracey, also of Cleveland, said she joined the group after learning her daughter, Amy Silberman, 31, was killed Dec. 31, 1994, while celebrating New Year's Eve in New Orleans.
Some people in the crowd with Silberman and her two friends fired guns as part of the festivities, and one of the friends initially thought Silberman was joking when she suddenly fell after being hit, her mother recalled.
The bullet that struck Silberman was damaged and its caliber undetermined, Tracey said. No one has been charged in her death, her mother added.
Martin and DeJesus said they want to see various changes in laws pertaining to crimes against children. Martin said she wants it to be mandatory that law enforcement distribute to the media pictures of children as soon as their parents suspect something is wrong and want it done.
DeJesus said he wants sexual predators who victimize children to receive life sentences. He would also like to see information on a missing child flashed across TV screens, much the way information regarding approaching severe weather is relayed.
"Had Gina's picture been in the news earlier, maybe she would be here," he said.
For more information about the group, call Martin at (216) 990-0679 or (216) 586-7398.