Chapter of Parents of Murdered Children begins

National organization provides support to all survivors of homicide victims

By Tavia D. Green
The Leaf-Chronicle

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tears streamed down Fairlen Browning’s face as she revisited the pain following the death of her infant daughter I’yanna Ellease Rawlins-Meriweather, who was murdered in December 2007.

A small group of women, Connie Black, Lisa Treat and Renee Wimberly, sat in Browning’s living room and shared personal memories about the tragedies and experiences that changed their lives. Rain beat on the roof of the home, a seemingly fitting atmosphere, as Browning recalled her baby’s death and how the shooter then turned the gun on himself.

The women fought emotions and felt more than empathy for Browning, because they, too, had been on the journey no parent should ever have to travel.
Michelle Mace, Black’s 16-year old daughter, was brutally murdered in April 1997 after being kidnapped from her job by a serial killer.

Clinton Shores, Treat’s 13-year-old son, was killed in a violent motorcycle wreck in July 1999. His father was driving drunk and convicted of his vehicular homicide.
Kendra Stanmore, Wimberly’s 19-year-old daughter, was gunned down following a domestic altercation in Oct. 2010. The shooter committed suicide shortly after.

The grieving never stops

For Browning and Wimberly, there was no trial. They buried their children. The stories disappeared from the headlines and they, along with their family, were left alone to deal with the devastation and grief. Both women had needs, questions, concerns and mounting issues that oftentimes compounded the anguish.
For Black and Treat, after burying their children, there was no closure. A long process of court dates, trials and sentencing hearing accompanied the grief. Photos spread across media outlets served as a constant reminder of their heart-wrenching calamity. Facing the often frustrating and confusing judicial system process proved to be emotionally tumultuous.

Browning, Black, Wimberly and Treat have found an outlet for their pain and suffering. These four trail blazers make up the Clarksville Metropolitan Parents of Murdered Children organization, which was officially chartered on Aug. 27.

The women use the knowledge they gained through first-hand experiences and skills in their professional backgrounds to help other families as they grieve and face the many processes that come along with the homicide of a loved one.

It is the first and only POMC in Tennessee. Donita Cavallero, victim-witness coordinator for the District Attorney’s office, is the professional liaison.

An answer to the sadness
Parents of Murdered Children is a national organization that provides support and assistance to all survivors of homicide victims while working to create a world free of murder. Membership is open to those who have been cruelly bereaved by the murder of a loved one and professionals who are in frequent contact with grieving families are welcome to join.

“Until you have to bury your child because of someone else’s actions, it’s a pain you’ve never felt ... This organization allows me to keep the memory of my daughter alive. I never wanted her death to be in vain. It gives me the satisfaction of knowing that it can be something positive to come out of that,” Browning said. “The one thing you don’t want to happen is for your child to be forgotten ... Starting something of this magnitude, it’s a great sense of satisfaction to do something with great meaning and healing.”

Soon, POMC will be given a proclamation by County Mayor Carolyn Bowers and presented a check from the District Attorney’s office.

“Death by violence is a different grief than someone who died from a sickness. It’s different and no one knows what that’s like unless they have lived through it themselves,” Cavallero said. “POMC is the biggest asset to this community because there are so many who have lost loved one to violence. There are many in the community who had loved ones who were murdered outside of Clarksville. This is not just going to reach out to those who had homicides happen here.”

POMC covers five cities: Oak Grove and Hopkinsville, Ky., Springfield, Ashland City and Clarksville, Tenn. An emergency response system is set up for POMC to respond to families in need of their services following a homicide.

The Clarksville Metropolitan POMC is a non-profit organization that will offer several services including the Parole Block Program, a program that, at the request of survivors, POMC will write and circulate petitions to stop the parole/early release of their loved one’s murderer. There will also be local survivor newsletters, advocacy and court accompaniment at criminal trials.

First chapter in Tennessee

Dan Levey, executive director for the national POMC, said there are over 200 chapters and contact people nationwide. The Clarksville Metropolitan POMC is the 58th chapter.

“We are very happy that we will have a chapter and presence in the great state of Tennessee and joining with all the dedicated people in Tennessee who work to assist victims of crime,” Levey said. “Our feeling is that survivors of homicide should have, if they want, a place they can go to for support and be with others who have endured similar, but also different experiences after a loved one is murdered.”

Monthly meetings will be held on the third Monday of each month and are open to any survivors. and will provide ongoing support. Professional guest speakers, such as psychiatrist, psychologist, medical examiners and more will be present to provide ongoing support and give presentations that focus on grief management and address issues survivors may face during the grieving process.

“When all that happens you don’t know the procedures. We have all that knowledge in us and can share that with them and take some of the pressure off the family. We will let them lean on us,” Black said. “I find what I have I can share and that gives me and God the glory. He’s the one who got us through all of it. Through us they can see his love and love of people. They will find peace and joy in the midst of comfort. ... It’s so much easier to have someone who has been there to talk to you. Now there’s an organization that we can reach out to people and we do know how they feel.”

Wimberly said being a part of POMC has been a true blessing. Following the murder of her daughter, the void was unbearable. With little resources and unanswered questions, the grief was all the heavier. Being able to help someone facing those emotions is healing.

“After we bury our kids, the phone calls stop and shouldn’t. People can be assured that there are people out there who will help you and will do things for you,” Wimberly said. “You don’t know how many days I laid in my bed crying, because I wanted someone to talk to. I needed to talk to someone. You just want to hear that voice say ‘momma or daddy’ again. ... The grieving doesn’t stop. The best thing for me right now is helping another person go through this.”

Usually meetings revolve around group member’s own knowledge and experiences but occasionally outside speakers are invited to present information and to learn from survivors, Levey said.

“For those of us who have had a loved one murdered, it’s not a one-hour TV show or a book that you read with a beginning and an end. Murder’s ripple effect lasts a lifetime,” Levey said. “POMC is there to stand with and offer support to survivors whenever its needed.”