V Glenn Fueston Jr and Laura Martin
V. Glenn Fueston Jr., left, presents Calvert County State’s Attorney Laura Martin, right, with a state proclamation.

Chesapeake Beach, MD – A small booklet listed the name of 937 individuals, all deceased due to the actions of someone else. Pictures of some of those victims were displayed on a violet-clothed table decorated with white candles. April 8 through 14 is 2018 National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW). On Sunday, April 8, residents from the four counties—Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s and Prince George’s—comprising Maryland’s Southern Region were invited to the Maryland Statewide Memorial Services for crime victims and their families. Calvert was the host county for the Southern Region this year and the Calvert County State’s Attorney’s Office was the hosting agency. The brief, moving ceremony was held at the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department. This was the 29th year the ceremony has been held and this year’s them was “Expand the Circle: Reach All Victims.”

Greeting the attendees was Calvert County’s outgoing State’s Attorney Laura Martin, who will be retiring when her current term expires later this year. During her introductions, Martin hailed the presence of Roberta Roper, a state champion for victim’s rights. Roper took up the crusade to get Maryland’s court system to weigh the wishes and feelings of crime victims’ families when rendering sentences for the perpetrators of violent crimes after her own daughter, Stephanie, was brutally murdered by two men in Southern Prince George’s County in early April of 1982. The Roper family was not allowed to observe the trials of Stephanie’s killers nor submit a victim impact statement at the sentencings. Robert Roper and her late husband Vincent started to Stephanie Roper Committee and Foundation Inc., which is now known as the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center Inc. The Ropers were part of a nationwide effort eventually to pass the Crime Victim Rights Act. 

“Education is a powerful tool,” Roberta Roper told TheBayNet.com when explaining the daunting task of aiding devastated family members in dealing with a court system that tends to prioritize the accused rather than the innocent. “They [victims’ family members] are probably still fragile.”

The keynote speaker for the April 8 event told her story of dealing with the horrific details of losing a teenage girl from whom she was guardian. The victim was only a few days away from turning 15 when she was savagely attacked and murdered in her bedroom. The speaker, who did not want her name printed in a news story, told the gathering, “I feel the pain. I was raising a young woman I loved more than life itself. You are the survivor in a horrific event.” The speaker reminded attendees that they now have a voice in the legal system. As for coping after the tragedy, she said, “you need to find a new normal. You will never be the same. You will never be whole again. You never get over it. With them in your heart it helps to start the healing process.”

The Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention Executive Director V. Glenn Fueston Jr. presented Martin with a state proclamation declaring it Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Devotional music was performed by Voices of Praise. Students from Julie Rogers Studio of Dance performed interpretive dances.

Also contributing to the ceremony were the Calvert High School Naval Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps Honor Guard, Hall of Fame Entertainment, Floral Expressions, Top Hat Party Rental and Roland’s Market.

Family and friends of crime victims stated the names of those they had lost and recited responsive readings in remembrance. “Pain that is shared is a little easier to bear,” said Martin, who added she hoped someday the violence would cease and the annual ceremony would be “an empty room.”

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com