Parents of Murdered Children: 'I'm just sorry we're in this club'

But what happens when the news cycle moves on, when the police move on to new cases, and families are left, feeling alone, to grieve?

JJ Clavo. Elizabeth Masters. Deston Garrett. Deonte Whiteside. A'Tierra Westbrook. Mercedes Williams. Airian Holly.

If these names sound familiar to you, that's because they were all murder victims in the Northern California region. They were young and they were loved. That was taken away in the worst way possible.

But what happens when the news cycle moves on, when the police move on to new cases, and families are left, feeling alone, to grieve?

In August, ABC10's Frances Wang was asked by Nicole Clavo to join her and a group of other Northern California parents at the Parents of Murdered Children conference in Irvine, California. 

Nicole's son, JJ was killed in November 2015. Since then, she has been a leader in the community and also supporting other parents who went through the same loss. She organized and raised the funds for eight parents and siblings to attend the 31st annual conference. 

The Parents of Murdered Children (POMC) is a national organization. According to POMC, 15,000 people are murdered in the United States each year. 

The conference begins with the unveiling of the murder wall, a traveling tribute to honor the memory of murdered loved ones. About 250 names are added every year, some of the earliest victims dating back to the 70s and 80s.

The conference offers dozens of workshops that cover everything from survivors' guilt to court etiquette. Many of the parents in Clavo's group attended one called 'A New Normal.'

The Egkans from San Diego were also in this workshop. Their son, Tim, a real estate developer, was killed in Stockton in September 2015.

One activity many families looked forward to was the luau memorial at Crystal Cove beach. The purpose was for families to reflect by the ocean side.

This is where many of the parents in Clavo's group realized that they can still find moments to smile and laugh.

"Just being able to say it's OK to laugh. It's OK to smile. It's OK to say 'I don't feel like doing that today,'" said Tanya Bean-Garrett, the mother of Deston Garrett

For Keijahnae Bradford, she's dealing with the loss of a brother.

"Just guilt that I'm here and he's not," said Bradford. "Not being able to save him."

Kathi Bliss lost both of her kids on the same night on April 18, 2013.

"I got a lot of love to give. I gave it to them my whole life," said Bliss, through tears. "This conference has helped me to be able to live again."

"We're only 19 months into it," said Amy Masters, the mother of Elizabeth Masters. "Seeing people who are 10, 15, 30 years into it, and knowing we can do this."

Masters added that she feels blessed in a strange way because her daughter's killer is in prison.

"It was an 'aha' moment that we were blessed in a horrific way," said Masters. "Elizabeth meant the world to us. I'm just sorry we're in this club."

Senika Shields-Levias lost her daughter A'Tierra Westbrook. 

"To hear other mothers' stories about not having a rest, having to live 30 something years. put things into perspective," said Shields-Levias. 

For more information on the Parents of Murdered Children national organization or the local chapter, click here

© 2017 KXTV-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment