'Survivors of homicide' remember murdered loved ones

By Nikki

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) With plenty of tissues in hand, family and friends came together inside the Lonnie Hamilton building in North Charleston to remember the lives of those they've lost to murder during the sixth annual National Day of Remembrance on Tuesday.

The event was put on by the Survivors of Homicide Support Group. It's a collaborative program between the Charleston County Sheriff's Office and MUSC's National Crime Victim Center.

Several dozen people attended the event, all who consider themselves to be 'survivors of homicide.' While not a direct recipient of the crime, indirectly they must still learn to cope with the violent death of a friend or family member in their own way.

"We're like a big family," said Tyese Miller who lost her 19-year-old son, Billy "Skippy" Jackson to murder in 1998.

Many, like Miller, refuse to let the death of a loved one prevent them from moving forward with their lives. However, their loved one is always in their heart and on their mind.

"I never forget that I lost my son. Every day it's in my heart," said Miller.

Miller first learned of his murder as she was teaching Bible study inside the Al Cannon Detention Center.

"He was coming home from work when he was killed. He was robbed and he was shot," said Miller.

Her son's killer was eventually charged with the crime and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

"It's important to have other people to talk to who's going through the same thing you went through. We draw strength from each other," said Miller. "People who are survivors I think when they meet other people similar to them, we get a chance to help others."

In Charleston County, there have been six homicides to date. In the city of Charleston, that number presently stands at ten.

"Presently, we are seventh in the nation for homicide," stated Easter LaRoche, a victim's advocate involved heavily with the Survivors of Homicide Support Group.

LaRoche's own sister was murdered more than twenty years ago. Today she is dedicated to helping others through the healing process.

"We hold a support group four times per month. We also assist homicide survivors by going to parole hearings," said LaRoche.

It's a service these "survivors" say they are grateful to have, as they carry the memory of their loved ones always with them.

"I don't believe my son would want me crying every day. I think he would want me to be happy. That's what gives me comfort to go on," said Miller.

On December 14th, Survivors of Homicide Support Group will take part in a candle light vigil to remember their murdered loved ones during the holidays. The event will take place at 6:30 p.m. at John Wesley United Methodist Church in West Ashley.