By BRAD KELLAR
CADDO MILLS —
A candlelight vigil was held on the steps of the Hunt County Courthouse Tuesday night to remember the 93 women killed in Texas last year by their intimate partners.
Women In Need presented the ceremony, with the theme of “Even 1 is 2 Many”, as the cap to local events in recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
For Cindy Ray Kemp, that “1” was her sister, Stelle Michelle “Doc” Ray. Ray’s estranged husband is facing trial on a charge of capital murder in connection with her death.
“It is supposed to be getting easier. That’s what everyone tells us,” Kemp said. “I think it is getting harder. I know it is getting harder.”
Ray, a Caddo Mills school teacher, was shot and killed in Greenville last summer. Micah Crofford Brown remains in custody at the Hunt County Jail in lieu of $1.5 million bond. Authorities say Brown has confessed to shooting Ray on the night of July 20, 2011 as the two argued over a custody dispute.
Kemp said during the first few weeks she and other family members were in shock over what had happened. Then came the first viewing of Ray’s tombstone.
“When you see it in writing, it really hits hard,” Kemp said. “It’s final.”
Kemp lived in Denton at the time, but has since moved home to be with her family. She said she visits the grave often and is overwhelmed by what she sees each time.
“We’re still finding so many cards and letters that are left,” Kemp said. Many of the messages, including heartfelt poems, have been written by Ray’s former students.
Kemp recalled how Women In Need was there for her and the family in the days following the death, offering room in the agency’s shelter and other services which helped them cope with the tragedy. Kemp said she is now a strong supporter of Women In Need, knowing how domestic violence affects not only two people but often an entire home, as Ray’s children also are suffering.
“They not only lost their mother, but also their father,” Kemp said.
Michelle Lee, Community Education Coordinator with Women In Need, likewise explained there were more than just 93 fatal victims of domestic violence in the state last year.
“Family members, children and loved ones are often left behind,” Lee said.
Lee said the candles were there as a symbole of the light from those who are there to offer support and comfort.
“We recognize we are not alone,” Lee said.
Greenville Police Department Investigator Nathan Baker said local statistics on domestic violence are staggering.
“There were 442 family violence offenses reported in 2011,” Baker said of the numbers of assaults in Greenville, adding the actual total is likely much higher “That’s just the cases that were reported.”
Baker said when investigating the incidents he wonders what impact witnessing the violence has upon the children, whether boys learn to treat women so inappropriately and whether the girls learn to becme a victim.
“We as a community cannot tolerate that any more,” Baker said, urging those gathered to make a special effort to discuss the problem amongst their families and friends. “I have no doubt we can make a change.”
Women In Need assists the local victims of domestic violence through a variety of services, from emergency shelter care, a 24-hour crisis hotline, counseling, support and accompaniment through the legal system, aftercare, assistance with clothing and household needs, as well as job training and referrals.
Those wanting additional information can contact Women In Need at 903-455-4612.