By Mason W. Canales
Killeen Daily Herald
BELTON – Light from more than 200 candles and a single Christmas tree shined on the faces of victims of violent crimes and their families Tuesday night at the Bell County Expo Center.
"It just takes a moment to look in the faces and know what each one of you had endured and gone through," said Henry Garza, Bell County district attorney, during the welcoming to the Tree of Angels ceremony.
The ceremony recognizes that the holiday season is hard for people who have lost loved ones due to violent crimes, said Lisa Hatfield, the Killeen Police Department's victim's liaison. It provides help to the families by allowing them share their stories and letting them know they are not alone, she said.
"A stranger just came by and gave me a hug and said 'God loves you,'" said Johanna Mayer, whose brother, Michael Davis, was killed by a drunk driver on March 14. "This is great that a stranger can do that."
Mayer is from Virginia, but she insisted on attending to the Tree of Angels event with her mother and father, Annemarie and Jim Davis of Harker Heights, and her sister, Rene Davis.
"It just gives you an inner peace knowing that there are people who care for us," Mayer said.
The rest of the Davises felt the same way.
"I think it is wonderful, and it is just so amazing that something like this can be done for us," Annemarie said.
Before families and victims hung angels on a Christmas tree, Rick Morris, 146th District Court judge, spoke about how hard it is to see so many victims of crimes.
"I can talk to you about the 18-month-old who had a list of broken bones greater than the list of those not broken," Morris said.
He mentioned several court cases pertaining to child victims, and said no one could understand what victims and their families go through.
"All victims are innocent," Morris said. "The consequences of crime are so staggering that those not involved can't understand."
The tree was dedicated to Lila Price, a Temple police officer who died in 2004. Small angels were placed on the tree for the victims of violent crimes in Bell County.
The tree will remain in the entryway of the Bell County Expo Center through Jan. 1, Hatfield said.
"Tonight is about you and your remembrance of your loved ones who were killed in a violent crime," said Reita Hill of Mothers Against Drunk Driving before a moment of silence. "All of you are special and have courage ... tonight as we light our candles in remembrance of your loss."
Contact Mason W. Canales at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7554.