Eagle County: Crime victims calls for help answered | VailDaily.com

Eagle County: Crime victims calls for help answered

Kathy Heicher
Eagle Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Collorado ” Last year, the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office served nearly 600 new victims of crime.

Some of that service was as simple as a follow-up postcard sent to victims of non-violent crimes. But some of it was as intense as arranging for advocates to accompany victims during court hearings, or keeping them informed of critical stages in the judicial process.

Crime victim’s rights have been a part of the Colorado constitution since 1992. The Victims Rights Act ensures that victims have an active role in the criminal justice process. The law specifies that any victim of a criminal act, or their family members, have the right to be heard; and to be informed and present at all critical stages of the criminal justice process.

Colorado Chief Justice Mary Mularkey says that a combination of educational efforts and hard work has enabled the Colorado Judicial Branch to make significant strides in understanding the impacts of crime; as well as improving services to affected families and the general public.

This week was National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. The Eagle County Sheriff Office’s Deena Ezzell, victim services coordinator, started her work with crime victims as a volunteer victim’s advocate. She says the Victim’s Service Unit ” which consists of two staff members a handful of volunteers ” is on call 24 hours a day. They help victims of any crime or crisis.

“People have called us the ’emotional first responders.’ We like to be there early on,” she says.

“The (justice) system is confusing. We’re here to provide calmness and support through the whole experience,” she says.

One of the more memorable cases the local Victim’s Service Unit has handled was the case of a young woman who was being abused by her boyfriend. The couple had a couple of children together; but the relationship was made rocky by the man’s obsessive jealously. When he raped the woman at knife point, an arrest was made.

The case then began a long trip through the criminal justice system.

Ezzell recalls that the Victim’s Service Unit provided emotional support for the woman. They accompanied her to a medical examination; and attended court hearings. They explained how the system worked, what was happening next, and helped her find help through community resources.

The man was convicted. When prosecutors asked the woman for her input on sentencing, she asked that he be locked up long enough that she could raise her children. She feared that once he was out of prison, he would return and kill her.

“She did the hard part. She faced him in court,” Ezzell says. “I am just in awe of the strength and courage that most crime victims show, because that is what it takes to go through the system.”

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