Eagle County declares National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims
Catherine Kelley, the county’s only victim in the last five years, lives on through her daughter and other loved ones
Denise Tavani does not need a National Day of Remembrance to honor her mother, Catherine Kelley of Edwards, who died by homicide in January 2018.
Tavani does not even need to remember her mother, she said, because she has never forgotten her. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t feel the familiar twang of longing in her chest.
“It’s like 100 years ago, when people would move away and you couldn’t call them. They’d be so far away there was no ability to speak,” Tavani said. “I feel like she’s here. I just can’t pick up the phone and call or get on a plane and see her, but I don’t remember her like she’s in the past.”
“It’s like this constant longing that you can’t quite quench, and she’s far away, but I know she’s here,” she said.
That pain will likely always be there, but so will her mother’s memory, which she strives to honor every day.
“Life is for the living,” Tavani recalled her mother often saying.
And live Kelley did.
She was a vibrant woman, fulfilled by a strong circle of friends and beautiful alpine valley she so joyously deemed as her “forever place,” Tavani said. Kelley lived in many parts of the country throughout her life — the West Coast, various stops in the Northeast — but when she landed in Colorado, she knew that was it.
“She just loved it. She used to say, ‘I want more Colorado,’” Tavani recalled. “I want to see that mountain range. I want to see this. I want to watch the elk walk through my yard. Those are the things that made her happy.”
Kelley loved to bike and hike near her home in East Lake Creek in Edwards. She was dedicated to her faith and family. She was so much more than the final moments of her life, moments that too often dominate the conversation around remembering her, Tavani said.
“It doesn’t get any easier. It’s been three and a half years,” Tavani said. “The hurt of it never goes away.”
In 2007, U.S. Congress designated a new national holiday — a day of remembrance for murder victims like Kelley — but also for those who remain to carry the pain left behind.
Since then, the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims is recognized Sept. 25 to pay tribute to victims and their loved ones, according to a news release from the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
This year, Saturday was officially recognized as a day of remembrance by the Eagle County Board of Commissioners.
“For every victim lost, it is estimated that 7-10 others are seriously impacted,” the release stated.
This impact cannot be overstated, said Annabelle Kinney, a victim and witness services coordinator for the District Attorney’s Office. Kinney provided support services to Kelley’s family during the legal proceedings of her two killers.
“For the family, it’s really hard to go through the criminal justice system regardless; but while you’re grieving and have a sense of not understanding why this happened and not really ever getting the answers that question. It’s a huge weight,” Kinney said.
“We like to think horrific things like this don’t happen here,” Kinney said of Kelley’s murder. “It really rocked the community.”
To mark the National Day of Remembrance, District Attorney Heidi McCollum released the names of people in the district whose lives have been lost to homicide in the past five years.
McCollum and her staff offered their condolences to the victims’ family, friends, loved ones and anyone else who has felt ripples of pain from violent crimes.
“We want to take just a moment and pay homage to those individuals,” McCollum said in a video statement. “You inspire us with your courage and with your strength. We are so sorry for your losses.”
“Thank you, and we remember,” McCollum said at the end of the video.
Clear Creek County
Eric Spencer, Mary Jo Head, Genny Morgan, Jaydee Asencio, Dakota Parsons
Jordan Gausman, Randy Flores, Yolanda Jeanette LaCome, Gary Brown
James Bradley Nicholas, Joshua Caleb Baumann, Nichole Gough, Jacob Horacio Gomez-Baray, Michael Kennedy
Email Kelli Duncan at firstname.lastname@example.org