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1997 Crime Victim Service Awards



Vice Chair, Texas Board of Criminal Justice

Eleven years ago Ellen Halbert was raped, beaten, repeatedly stabbed and left for dead by a drifter dressed in a black Ninja outfit who broke into her home. She left her job as a real estate broker and dedicated her life to victim services. Today, Ms. Halbert has just finished a six-year term as the Vice Chair of the Texas Board of Criminal Justice, which oversees the massive criminal justice system for the State of Texas. Appointed to this position by Governor Ann Richards as the first victim to serve on this important board, Ms. Halbert had oversight responsibility for the world's largest prison system, parole, probation, state jails and victim services, and has become one of the state's foremost leaders in restorative justice. Ms. Halbert's leadership and determination has led to marked changes in the criminal justice system in Texas including victim sensitivity training for thousands of parole and probation officers, a 30 member volunteer Victim Services Advisory Council, and victim impact panels used inside the prison units prior to parole or release. She is the first victim to have a prison unit named after her -- The Ellen Halbert Drug and Alcohol Treatment Facility for Women. Her nominator wrote that Ellen Halbert is, "a true 'standard bearer' whose person and accomplishments establish the scope and promise by which the victims movement and all related programs are judged."


Peggy Bird, Director

Native American Family Violence Prevention Project

For thirty years DNA has provided free legal and other services to victims of crime on the Navajo and Hopi nations. From its nine offices located throughout Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, DNA serves victims in some of the most remote and impoverished places in America. At a time when many legal service programs do not serve crime victims at all, domestic violence cases have constituted nearly twenty-percent of DNA's total caseload for the past three years. DNA has been instrumental in the development safe homes, support groups, shelters and crisis counseling for victims on the Navajo Nation, as well as in drafting police arrest protocols for the Navajo Nation police force, and in the drafting and passage of culturally appropriate domestic violence laws for both the Navajo Nation and the Hopi tribe. DNA has also worked to increase public awareness of the new domestic violence laws, and to train Navajo nation police, courts, peacemakers, hospitals, and social service offices about their obligations under the laws.

DNA's Native American Family Violence Prevention Project conducts basic community education about family violence prevention across the entire Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Peggy Bird, the director of the Project, is a Native American attorney from the Santo Domingo Pueblo who has herself been a victim of domestic violence. In 1993, Ms. Bird started weekly women's support groups. She is the co-President of the Shiprock Domestic Violence Task Force, and a member of the Attorney General's Task Force on Domestic Violence and the New Mexico Stop Violence Against women oversight committee. DNA's nominator wrote that the dedication of this group of professionals to help victims of crime has been truly "extraordinary."


Janice Lienhart, Executive Director

Janice Lienhart and Sharon Nahorney formed Victims for Justice in 1985 after their parents and aunt were brutally murdered and they discovered that there was no organization or support network in Alaska that could help them deal with their grief. Victims for Justice is now the only organization in the state to provide victim services such as crisis intervention, short- and long-term individual and peer group counseling, advocacy and support in dealing with the criminal justice system, and community education. The organization's two founders have forged alliances with other victims to bring about significant changes to both public attitudes and public policies concerning how family members of homicide victims are treated. Their dedication and leadership culminated in the passage of a state constitutional amendment on victims rights, and the passage of a juvenile waiver law that ensures that teenagers who commit violent felonies are held accountable for their conduct. The Attorney General of Alaska, who nominated Victims for Justice wrote, "Janice Lienhart, Sharon Nahorney and others have poured their hearts and souls into ensuring that victims throughout Alaska have a place turn for help."


Violent Crime Counselor

Karen Muelhaupt has been a compassionate and pioneering advocate for crime victims for more than a decade. As a young woman, she was attacked and raped as she was walking home from her apartment. Since that time she has dedicated herself to improving services to crime victims through her work as a pre-sentence investigator for Iowa's Fifth Judicial District, as a rape counselor, and currently as a violent crime counselor. Not only does she provide advocacy and counseling for victims of violent crime, but she works tirelessly to expand rights and services for crime victims in Iowa. She helped develop a death notification training manual for coroners, law enforcement, prosecutors and victim service providers; she lead the development of the Polk County Homicide Crisis Response Team; she set up teams to clean up murder scenes and debrief workplaces, neighborhoods and groups affected by homicide; and she provides training to rape crisis and domestic abuse workers to extend their services to rural areas. On her own time, Ms. Muelhaupt organized the funding, design, and construction of a doll house-size courthouse to prepare children for court. Despite a recent diagnosis of cancer, Ms. Muelhaupt's efforts on behalf of crime victims have remained unflagging. She continues to work, often retiring to bed at 5 pm in order to maintain her energy. Her nominator wrote, "Karen embodies the spirit, conviction and energy of the crime victims movement."


Volunteer Victim Advocate

Genesee County Victim Assistance Program

Evelyn Dillon has contributed more than 12,500 hours of unpaid work since 1985 in her missionary work on behalf of crime victims. Her nominator wrote, 'She is a "pure volunteer victim advocate' who will do whatever and go wherever is necessary to help attend to and restore a victim who has been broken by crime." In 1983, Mrs. Dillon's husband became the first IRS officer to be murdered in the line of duty in Buffalo, NY. Since that time, Mrs. Dillon has provided extensive outreach services to victims in the upstate New York region. In 1987 Mrs. Dillon founded the Genesee County Victim Support Coalition, and she currently services as the victim advocacy liaison for the Genesee County Victim Assistance Program with the Genesee County MADD chapter and the Genesee County Chapter of Compassionate Friends. She is the standing victim member on the Genesee County Criminal Justice Advisory Council, and she is a steadfast correspondent with state legislators regarding the status of victim legislation in the areas of compensation, parole notification, victim impact statements, and statements at the time of sentencing and fair treatment of victims in the courtroom. As she approaches the age of 75, her nominator calls her, "a vision of hope to every victim."



Margot Carleson, Executive Director

The Gang Victim Services program of Community Service Programs was created in 1990 to provide crisis intervention and assistance to victims of gang related violence and their families. Last year the seven bicultural and bilingual gang victims specialists and the one witness specialist on staff provided help to more than 970 victims of gang violence. Wearing bullet proof vests and Crisis Response jackets, program counselors accompany investigating officers to give death notifications, assess victims' safety and emergency needs, and provide continuing counseling services, referrals, and support groups. Fear of retaliation, intimidation and revenge often prevent gang violence victims from seeking help or exercising their rights. Working closely with the District Attorney's Gang Unit, Gang Victim Services staff provide support to victims and witnesses throughout the investigation and prosecution of each case. Ms. Christine Lopez, the program supervisor, is recognized statewide and nationally for her expertise in gang related victim/witness issues and for her knowledge of the Hispanic community. In 1993, Ms. Lopez was awarded the first annual Doris Tate Award by Governor Pete Wilson in recognition of her outstanding commitment and service to victims of crime. Gang Victim Services was recently recognized as a model program by the Office for Victims of Crime and is currently developing a protocol for similar programs across the nation.


Attorney at Law, Jacksonville, Florida

Jay Howell began his involvement in the victims field as a victim-sensitive prosecutor in Jacksonville, Florida. As the Chief Counsel for the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Investigations and General Oversight, he was instrumental to the passage of landmark legislation affecting missing and exploited children who, at that time, comprised a truly under served victim population. Mr. Howell later founded and was the first Executive Director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In 1986 he was a founding member of the National Victims' Constitutional Amendment Network (NVCAN), which has provided sound legal counsel in developing amendment language and strategies for states, 29 of which have successfully secured passage of victims constitutional amendments. He remains a key activist in NVCAN's current efforts to secure a federal constitutional amendment. As a civil attorney for the past 10 years, Mr. Howell has helped define the relatively new discipline of victim-related civil litigation. His nominator wrote, "Jay is truly an 'unsung hero' -- he is not doing the right thing for any recognition, but simply because it is right, and it is needed by traumatized victims, as well as by our communities that strive to promote greater safety for all of us."


Director, Rape/Crime Victim Advocate Program

Gainesville, Florida

For the past fourteen years, Loretta Lewis-Golden worked tirelessly to shape the development and growth of the Rape/Crime Victim Advocate Program in the university town of Gainesville, Florida. Starting as an Advocate Counselor in 1982 and Director of the program since 1993, Ms. Lewis-Golden is the epitome of a direct service provider and advocate for victims rights who has gone "above and beyond" the call of duty in her dedication and commitment to crime victims. She was described by her nominators at "a quiet, persistent, and inspirational leader," who is able to break down barriers and instill trust and communications between victims, victim service providers, correctional institutions, law enforcement agencies, and the medical profession. An exceptional trainer and eloquent speaker, Ms. Lewis-Golden has presented at local and statewide conferences and is active in victim groups nationwide.

As an advocate and community activist, Ms. Lewis-Golden led grassroots efforts to get a State constitutional amendment passed on victims' rights. Her successful annual Rape Awareness Luncheon brings much needed attention to the concerns of rape victims. Through her hours of volunteer consultation and training, she has changed the attitudes and practices of law enforcement, the State's Attorney's Office, and the judiciary towards crime victims. The Gainesville Commission on the Status of Women awarded her the Martha Varnes Award for Achievement in Sexual Battery Prevention. She also received the University of Florida Woman of Achievement Award in 1995 for the impact she has had on University of Florida students. She is a member and co-developer of the National Black Women's Health Project, a local self-help group.


Executive Director, LAO/USC Violence Intervention Program

Los Angeles, California

A brilliant physician, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, and victim advocate, Dr. Heger founded the Center for the Vulnerable Child in 1984. Together with her newly established Violence Intervention Program at L.A. county- USC Medical Center, the combined program is the first Family Advocacy Center in the Nation. The concept she developed has now generated over 300 Child Advocacy Centers across the United States. Dr. Heger is recognized nationwide for pioneering the use of photo-documentation techniques for the medical evaluation of child and adolescent victims of sexual assault. In addition to her work with children, Dr. Heger expanded the use of multidisciplinary services -- medical treatment interfacing with legal, social and mental health services -- for child and adult victims of family and community violence. Recently, she developed and implemented the first telemedicine project to guarantee that remote areas will have access to expert evaluations to protect the rights of victims.

Dr. Heger has devoted her entire professional career to guaranteeing that victims of violence receive sensitive, loving attention as well as the highest quality of medical care and forensic documentation. Responding to the need for medical professionals to be more sensitive to victims of spousal abuse, she is building the first hospital-based emergency shelter for women and children. The LAPD commended her for devoting so much of her time to educating law enforcement officers on the dynamics of child sexual abuse, thus ensuring that child abuse investigations will be conducted in a professional and sensitive manner.


Executive Director of Exodus Center for Life
Cleveland, MI

Pastor Mitchell opened his New Life Church in Cleveland, Mississippi, to a Salvation Army rape crisis program in need of a home. He is the rare minister in a rural community in the south to speak out against spousal violence, spousal rape, sexual assault, and child abuse. Pastor Mitchell speaks from his own personal experience as a victim of domestic violence. When only nine years old, he had a gun put to his head while trying to protect his mother. Many a cold winter morning he had to flee the house with his mother and smaller siblings to hide in the cotton fields, away from the reach of his abusive father.

Pastor Mitchell is best known for talking to students in Junior and Senior High Schools and Headstart programs about child abuse. He uses puppets to show young people that their bodies should not be touched by anyone. He has developed a special program called "Preparing Our Sons to Manhood: Salvaging the Seeds" to reach youth on prevention techniques instead of crimes against the family. He also serves as a counselor in the MASH Program --Men Against Spousal Harm -- a batterers program with an exceptionally high success rate.


For the past 20 years Sue Hathorn has waged a one woman campaign against child abuse in Mississippi. Touched by the memory of an abused child she saw returned to a home where he had been beaten, she vowed to change the system, to develop services, shelters, and legal protection for abused children. In 1984 she organized the Mississippi Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse. Her well-known statewide conferences on child abuse educate over 500 child advocates each year. Her realized her dream of funding a Children's Advocacy Center for the State of Mississippi by forging a unique partnership with the private sector in which charitable bingo fund raising was used to defray expenses. Her struggle to create the remarkable center is recounted in James Colbert's book: God Bless the Child: A True Story of Child Abuse, Gambling, Southern Politics...And One Woman's Struggle Against the Odds. Colbert's book tells of a seven year old who was afraid to testify in court against the perpetrator who sexually molested her. The terrified child asked that Sue's German Shepherd, Vachss, an obedience trained dog, be allowed to accompany her to Court. With Vachss at her feet, the first dog ever admitted to a Mississippi courtroom for that purpose, the little girl testified in a loud and clear voice.

Ms. Hathorn was also the moving force behind the establishment of several important multidisciplinary, public/private partnerships of law enforcement, social services, medical, and judicial personnel for the investigation of child abuse cases in Mississippi. She organized Mississippi's Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), a network of specially trained volunteers who advocate for child victims in seventeen Mississippi counties. Children First! Inc. Was established by Ms. Hathorn to help teens in foster care pursue educational and vocational training goals. A foster mother of eleven children, Ms. Hathorn knows first hand the lack of services for foster children in Mississippi. She has obtained probono legal representation for hundreds of foster children, as well as finding medical, psychological, and financial assistance for foster children and child abuse victims.


Senior Policy Analyst

Education Development Center, Inc.

Newton, Massachusetts

As both a paid professional and a volunteer, Karen McLaughlin has worked for over 20 years --since her college days at Marquette University-- at the cutting edge of victim services. She is a true "unsung hero" of the victims' movement, having initiated a remarkable series of firsts in victims services. She was a key activist in Massachusetts' efforts to become one of the FIRST six states to establish a statewide network of victim services, and then became the FIRST Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance, itself the FIRST independent state agency for victim assistance funded by state criminal fines. As Executive Director she awarded the FIRST VOCA funding to assist victims of anti-gay violence, as well as the FIRST parole-based victim assistance program. She sponsored one of the FIRST statewide trainings on community crisis response and organized the FIRST statewide conference on victimization of racial minorities. As the same time, she put in endless hours of volunteer time, much of it traveling to promote international networking on behalf of victims. Clearly, her influence on victims services both in the United States and abroad has been profound. Today her creative energy is directed towards violence prevention -- an integral part of comprehensive victim assistance. Working with the National Organization of Victim Assistance, she has helped guide the field to a better understanding of the need for violence prevention strategies, particularly for child victims of violence. Her nominator described her as "a pioneering program director, an imaginative and courageous state administrator, a creative force for growth ..., and one of the most giving of victim advocates our movement has produced."


Director, Pima County Attorney's Victim Witness Program

Tucson, AZ

Ms. Sharpe's career in victim services began in the volunteer corps of the Pima County Attorney's Victim Witness program in 1976. She became the first staff volunteer coordinator in 1984 and since 1985 has served as Director of the program. Under her leadership the program has become a national model. Ms. Sharpe is best known for her extraordinary training and speaking skills. She has trained advocates, law enforcement and prosecutors throughout the United States and in New Zealand, "literally effecting the quality of services provided to thousands of victims," according to her nominator. Astonishingly, all of these trainings were provided on her vacation time and the majority without compensation. In the last year alone, she taught crisis intervention skills and victimology in Indiana, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Texas, North Carolina, Hawaii, and Utah. She is described as a "masterful woman who is guided by her own sense of purpose and her single-minded dedication to making a difference.


Special Courage Award:


The Tariq Khamisa Foundation

San Diego, California

Azim Khamisa and Ples Felix had never met -- had never even heard of each other -- before January 21, 1995. On that Saturday, Axim Khamisa's only son, Tariq, 20, an art student at San Diego State University, was shot to death as he was delivering pizza. The trigger was pulled by Ples Felix' 14-year-old grandson, Tony Hicks, on the orders of an older gangmember. Tony was caught, charged, and pleaded guilty to the killing. Sentenced under a new California law that allows children as young as 14 to be tried as adults, Tony will be 37 years old before he is eligible for parole. "All the dreams and hopes I had for Tony just came crumbling down," says Ples, Tony's grandfather and guardian.

Nearly overwhelmed with grief, but believing "that there were victims at both ends of the gun," Azim got in touch with Ples and invited him to be a part of forming the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to combat the phenomena in our society of "children killing children." Through the Tariq Khamisa Foundation, Azim and Ples have taken their message of nonviolence and concern for children to the San Diego school system. They have presented the first in a series of Violence Impact Forums which are designed to inform kids, parents, and school officials about the devastating consequences of violence, how to deal with peer pressure to join gangs, and provide information about school and community victim services.

It took courage for Ples to go to Azim's home that November day in 1995. It also took forgiveness, compassion and great valor for Azim to make the call. Today, these two men have formed a strong alliance to save other families from a similar tragedy. They have been featured on national television shows, in People Magazine, and in many other publications due to their unique educational efforts.

Date Created: June 3, 2020