Coachella Valley residents honor victims of violent crimes

National Crime Victims' Rights Week events also set for Temecula and Riverside

POSTED: 11:59 AM PDT Apr 25, 2013    UPDATED: 06:10 AM PDT Apr 24, 2013 
Victims Rights Vigill

Glenda Collins shared memories of her son Jahi, who at 17 was shot and killed in Desert Hot Springs in 1994.

"He just always had a big smile. Always," she said as she held up an old photo of him that she keeps in her wallet.

As part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Collins, the event’s keynote speaker, joined dozens of Valley families at Tuesday's Victims’ Rights Candlelight Vigil. The event, put on by the county district attorney's office at Palm Desert Civic Center Park, honored the names and faces of victims of violent crimes.

Remembering their 2-year-old nephew Serik, Stefanie and Sonia Nieto, of Indio, hoped the vigil would help bring them a sense of peace for one night.

"It brings some comfort to it. We're not alone and people are victims of the same crimes as we were," said Stefanie.

The names of more than 100 victims in Riverside County were recognized. County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach says 81 of them were homicides in 2012.

"For the past 2 years the homicide rate in the Riverside County are has decreased, which is a good thing but it’s still too many. Unfortunately, throughout our country 50 percent of violent crimes are never reported to law enforcement," he said.

The vigil was Collins' first since her son's murderer Emilio Avalos, 35, was sentenced to death sentence in February.

"Regardless of what they did to who did this to my son, it was never going to get Jahi back. All I ever wanted was justice for my son," she said.

Many others still searching for closure pinned a different colored ribbon to their shirts, calling attention to the crime that's pained their families.

"We're fighting for justice. We will get justice for my nephew who's no longer here. He was a baby, a baby for crying out loud," said Nieto.

As tears were shed candles burned with faith and hope.

"Think about that love. Think about that person and who they were, not about who did that to them or what happened to them,” said Collins.”

Two more vigils will take place around the county this week.

On Wednesday a remembrance vigil will take place at Harveston Lake Park in Temecula at 7 p.m. (40135 Village Road Drive?Temecula, CA).

On Thursday a vigil will be held in Riverside at 7 p.m. at the Riverside County Historic Courthouse?(4050 Main Street?Riverside, CA).