Candlelight Vigil honors victims of crime


CORDELE, Ga. — They come from all walks of life, different ages, different races, different religions, but they all know the pain of loss.

In honor of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week the Cordele Circuit District Attorney’s Office held their annual Candlelight Vigil at the Cordele Community Clubhouse Thursday night.

Celanese Ford, VWAP Coordinator for the District Attorney’s Office in Ben Hill County. She offered a welcome to those attending this year’s ceremony.

“This year’s theme, Honoring Our Past, Creating Hope For the Future celebrates the progress made by those before us, as we look to the future of crime victims, that is even more inclusive, accessible and trauma informed.”

Bishop Arthur West of the Evangelistic Tabernacle of Vienna, Georgia gave an invocation.

Cordele Circuit District Attorney Brad Rigby introduced Aaron West as the guest speaker. West’s daughter, Jana, was murdered by her boyfriend on March 20, 2016.

“The pain we share, the pain that visits us everyday. The pain that bonds us all together. We, you and I, are certainly victims,” said West. “Family members are victims just like the individuals that suffer violence. We are also victors, if we manage to keep moving. Some of us are witnesses to unthinkable crimes but we are also survivors. We are all legitimately in pain, but we must take our collective pain and put it to work and let it fuel future victories.”

Rigby presented the awards for Officer of the Year to Ben Bray of the Crisp County Sheriff’s Office and Clint Karsten of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The duo received the honor for their efforts in recovering a young female from Cordele who had become victim of a sex trafficking ring. Together they located the young lady in a matter of hours.

Following the presentation Jacqueline Smith introduced the participants lighting special candles for the ceremony. Lelee Phinney, Executive Director of the Gateway Center, lit the Candle of Love. The Candle of Courage was lit by Will Kendall, Assistant District Attorney. Cordele Police Chief Lewis Green lit the Candle of Hope. A Memory Candle was lit by DA Investigator Ketorie Sales and Crisp County Sheriff Billy Hancock lit a Candle for Slain Officers.

Those attending the ceremony then lit their candles in memory of those who have been taken from their lives. A closing prayer was offered by Charles Sheppard, VWAP Investigator for the Ben Hill County DA’s Office.