'There is more work to be done': Domestic violence vigil draws hundreds to Festival Park




  • In US
  • 2022-10-07 09:02:23Z
  • By The Fayetteville Observer
Doves are released at the Remember My Name domestic violence vigil at Festival Park on Thursday, Oct.
Doves are released at the Remember My Name domestic violence vigil at Festival Park on Thursday, Oct.  
Friends and family of Maggie Lashauna Fulmore wear hoodies featuring her photo in her memory at the Remember My Name domestic violence vigil at Festival Park on Thursday, Oct.
Friends and family of Maggie Lashauna Fulmore wear hoodies featuring her photo in her memory at the Remember My Name domestic violence vigil at Festival Park on Thursday, Oct.  
Elenah Kelly speaks at the Remember My Name domestic violence vigil at Festival Park on Thursday, Oct.
Elenah Kelly speaks at the Remember My Name domestic violence vigil at Festival Park on Thursday, Oct.  

A sea of purple flooded Festival Park on Thursday evening as at least 200 people gathered for Cumberland County's annual Remember My Name domestic violence vigil.

The event, hosted during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, featured purple at every turn, the color of domestic violence awareness. Victim witness coordinator Renée Carter wore two shades of purple as she led the ceremony, beginning with an introduction of Chief District Court Judge Toni King, who gave opening remarks. King highlighted the Field of Shoes, a new installation featuring the shoes and photos of domestic violence victims from all over North Carolina.

"You can go put a face with the shoes and a name with the shoes of the victims of domestic violence," King said.

Representatives from Fort Bragg were especially involved in the ceremony; members of the 82nd Airborne Division's All-American Chorus performed the national anthem, "Amazing Grace" and "Stand by Me," and garrison commander Col. John Wilcox spoke at the vigil.

"The Army's response to domestic violence requires the community and a coordinated effort," Wilcox said. "We are fully committed to ensuring that our homes are a safe refuge."

The vigil's keynote speaker, Elenah Kelly, is a Fayetteville native and Air Force veteran who works as a violence prevention integrator at Pope Army Air Field. Kelly began her remarks by leading the crowd in a series of chants to remind attendees of their worth.

"You are special, yes, you are," Kelly chanted, smiling wide. "I won't abuse you. I won't misuse you. I'll just R-E-S-P-E-C-T you."

Kelly's cheerful mood quickly turned somber as she shared with the crowd the story of her friend, 2nd Lt.  Annise King-Hall, a mother of three who was murdered by her estranged husband near Florence, South Carolina, in March 2002.

"I remember screaming," Kelly said, recalling the moment she learned of her friend's death. "I can still see that bright smile on her face."

Over 73 people died from domestic violence in North Carolina that year, according to Kelly - but the pain caused by the loss had a silver lining, she said, noting that Annise's death led one of her sorority sisters to escape an abusive relationship.

"Her life nor her death was in vain," Kelly said. "As we remember, we make a difference."

Kelly urged those in the crowd to speak up and do whatever they could if they believed someone in their life was experiencing domestic violence.

"You don't have to have special training," she said. "Who will remember to stand up? Let it be us. Let it be me. Let it be you."

Robin Spann, a special victim liaison at Fort Bragg, shared the story of Sgt. Catalina Ruiz, a Fort Bragg supply sergeant who was fatally shot in Fayetteville by her ex-boyfriend, Warren Cummings III, after trying to escape the relationship. Ruiz died Oct. 6, 2011 - exactly 11 years to the day of Thursday's vigil, Spann said. Cummings then killed himself.

"I really think about those victims who did everything they could to get out but couldn't," she said. "Remember their names."

After Spann spoke, A. Elizabeth Keever, retired chief district court judge for Cumberland County, read aloud the names of the 58 victims of domestic violence in North Carolina from Sept. 9, 2021, to Sept. 8, 2022.

"We read their names so that we can remember their names," Keever said.

The list featured seven victims from Fayetteville and Cumberland County who officials say died in domestic violence:

  • Nicoda Melvin, 21, shot to death in her Southern Avenue home Sept. 18, 2021.

• Tanajwa McMurray, 31 and her unborn child, killed in McMurray's Pittsfield Drive home Oct. 11, 2021.

• Xamegga Whitfield, 25, shot to death outside of her Miller Avenue apartment by her boyfriend who then killed himself Oct. 21, 2021.

• Maggie Lashauna Fulmore, 22, shot to death in a parking lot on Gardner Street Oct. 30, 2021.

• Mercedes Rosa Sterling, 41, shot and killed at her Ryan Street home Jan. 10.

• Jason Albury, 56, allegedly shot and killed at his home by his son April 3.

• Tanisha Donnette Raeford, 44, fatally stabbed at her Shiloh Court home on Aug. 22 by her husband who then killed himself by ramming his car into parked semi-trucks.

Fayetteville Police Department detective Jennifer Kelly rang a bell after the names of Cumberland County's victims. Not mentioned were Heather Melvin, 54, who was killed in a murder-suicide perpetrated by her husband at their Berkshire Road home on July 14, and Norelly Lockamy, 40, who died following a fire set by her ex-boyfriend at her Lyon Road home July 17. He also died as a result of fire, the medical examiner's report said.

Three white doves were also released as part of the vigil. Attendees craned their necks to trace the paths of the birds as they first circled the sky around Festival Park, then flew off into the distance.

District Attorney Billy West, sporting a purple tie, followed the dove release with a community address.

"If you see something, say something," he said. "There is more work to be done."

West told the crowd he believed the COVID-19 pandemic was partially responsible for a recent rise in domestic violence cases. His office has seen 1,557 misdemeanor domestic violence cases since the start of 2022, he said, averaging out to about five cases each day.

"We need to talk about it more," West said.

West featured the case of Enelrae Collier, a Methodist University employee who was fatally shotin her Linden home by her husband, Leo Rubenstahl, in February 2021. Collier went to her pastor for advice three weeks before the killing, showing him the choke marks around her neck from her husband, West said. Rubenstahl would ultimately shoot her 10 times, including five times in the face, the DA said.

"Last week, a jury took 10 minutes to convict Leo Rubenstahl of first-degree murder," West said, noting Rubenstahl would spend the rest of his life in prison.

But Rubenstahl's conviction wasn't the best possible outcome, West said.

"Justice has not been served," he said, explaining that Collier should have been able to escape with the help of community resources, but she didn't know they existed.

King closed out the ceremony by encouraging attendees to be active, not passive, in the face of domestic violence.

"It's our problem," she said.

Public safety reporter Lexi Solomon can be reached at ABSolomon@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Cumberland County domestic violence vigil honors victims, urges action

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