Efforts are underway to locally expand a group that provides support to parents of murdered children.
State Rep. Charlotte Douglas on Wednesday presented a $1,000 Arkansas General Improvement Fund grant to Bethany Ault-Pyle and Amy Stivers with Parents of Murdered Children to help support the group’s local efforts.
Ault-Pyle is the mother of Briana Ault, a Fort Smith woman who was murdered in 2010 at the age of 21. She started a local meeting of the support group and a portion of the money is meant to go toward her efforts, Douglas said.
“We are trying desperately to get this group - Parents of Murdered Children - on their feet,” Douglas said.
There is only one chapter of Parents of Murdered Children in the state, in central Arkansas.
After being helped by the group in the aftermath of her daughter’s murder, Ault-Pyle started a group meeting two years ago to help other victim’s families in the area.
The meeting is held the second and fourth Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at Central Christian Church in Fort Smith.
Ault’s murderers, brothers Elvis and Jonathan Thacker, were convicted just last year of first-degree murder.
“We feel like we can offer as parents and loved ones a lot to other parents who are just starting the cycle,” Ault-Pyle said.
During the presentation, Stivers, the parent of a murder victim and a victim advocate with the Parents of Murdered Children Central Arkansas Chapter, spoke about what the group offers to the families of victims.
“The reason we’re out here is to bring awareness to homicide and let the community members know there is a support system for survivors of homicide,” Stivers said.
In place for those who have had a loved one murdered are 24 hour crisis hotlines, and POMC offers on-going emotional support, education, prevention, advocacy, court accompaniment and awareness as part of its services.
“I don’t think people understand the impact it has on survivors and what it does to people’s lives,” Stivers said. “For parents of murdered children, and anyone who’s lost a loved one like that, there’s no such thing as closure.”
Stivers’ own daughter at the age of 18 when she was murdered for her car on Aug. 15, 2008, she said.
Attending the event were representatives from Crawford and Sebastian counties prosecutors’ offices, elected officials and local families of murder victims - including the mother and sister of Lisa Lewis, who was killed in her Van Buren home on June 24, 1997.
Lewis’ mother Veneta Blasingame and her sister Rhonda Webber both said POMC played an integral part in helping them through Lewis’ death and her murderer’s subsequent trials, and in keeping Lewis’ memory alive.
“Over time, people forget her name and the date of her murder, but Parents of Murdered Children never forgets,” Webber said. “It helps to know that somebody else outside the family cares.”
Douglas, who is a voice in the state legislature for victims of abuse and violence, said she hopes local partnerships between prosecutors, law enforcement, legislators and support groups such as POMC will form to help families get through emotional and judicial processes.