21st an­nual can­dle­light vigil for homi­cide vic­tims held

The Modesto Bee - - Front Page - BY JOHN HOL­LAND jhol­[email protected]­bee.com

The names of 885 homi­cide vic­tims in Stanis­laus County scrolled on a video screen at a can­dle­light vigil Thurs­day night. They went back more than half a cen­tury.

One name was fairly re­cent — Lau­ren Lon­don, whose body was found in south­west Ceres on the day in 2015 that she would have turned 25. Her mother, Denise Don­nell, gath­ered her strength and stepped to the podium.

“Lau­ren had an in­fec­tious smile and laugh,” she told a few hun­dred peo­ple on the court­house lawn. “You had no choice but to re­turn her smile and to share her laugh­ter. She also was a very em­pa­thetic and sen­si­tive per­son.”

The Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice hosted the 21st an­nual vigil and dec­o­rat­ing of two Christ­mas trees in the vic­tims’ honor. The or­ga­niz­ers said they were not sure just how far back the homi­cide cases went, but for the gath­ered sur­vivors and sup­port­ers, the spirit of those they lost lived on.

The event fea­tured a few speak­ers and hol­i­day and other songs. The au­di­ence heard about the long-term help pro­vided by Jes­sica’s House, a grief sup­port cen­ter in Tur­lock, and the DA’s vic­tim ser­vices di­vi­sion.

“Our hope is that in some small way, you see that you are not alone,” Dis­trict At­tor­ney Bir­git Fladager said. “There are many of us here for you and in sup­port of you.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors have not solved the slay­ing of Lon­don, whose burned body was found in a field be­hind Cen­tral Val­ley High School in March 2015. She had her own daugh­ter, Ken­nidee, who was al­most 2 at the time.

Don­nell told the vigil au­di­ence that it gets a lit­tle eas­ier each year to cel­e­brate Christ­mas amid the sor­row. She noted the help pro­vided by Jes­sica’s House, which has pro­grams for kids and adults.

“It took a will­ing­ness and a deep de­sire to move be­yond the ag­o­niz­ing pain of her death and the courage and de­ter­mi­na­tion to do what­ever I needed to do to move to the other side of my grief,” Don­nell said.

Erin Nel­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Jes­sica’s House, also spoke. She urged sur­vivors of homi­cide vic­tims “to seek hope, to en­vi­sion pos­si­bil­i­ties, to wel­come love as you re­mem­ber them.”

Save Mart do­nated the trees that now bear or­na­ments in mem­ory of the vic­tims.

‘‘

IT TOOK A WILL­ING­NESS AND A DEEP DE­SIRE TO MOVE BE­YOND THE AG­O­NIZ­ING PAIN OF HER DEATH AND THE COURAGE AND DE­TER­MI­NA­TION TO DO WHAT­EVER I NEEDED TO DO TO MOVE TO THE OTHER SIDE OF MY GRIEF. Denise Don­nell, mother of Lau­ren Lon­don

JOHN HOL­LAND jhol­[email protected]­bee.com

Alinna Val­dovi­nos, 4, hon­ored the late Jamie Gar­cia at a vigil for homi­cide vic­tims Thurs­day in Modesto, Calif. The 21st an­nual event was hosted by the Stanis­laus County Dis­trict At­tor­ney’s Of­fice.

JOHN HOL­LAND jhol­[email protected]­bee.com

Denise Don­nell speaks about her late daugh­ter, Lau­ren Lon­don, pro­jected on the screen, at a vigil for homi­cide vic­tims Thurs­day.

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