Stay Strong

Stay Strong

Stay Strong

My name is Sylvia Alvarez. I am a bilingual victim advocate with Homicide Survivors Inc. At HSI, we offer crisis and long-term emotional support and advocacy to the surviving families and friends of all murder victims. We offer survivor support crisis line, one to one peer counseling, home visits, and monthly support group meetings. Our staff and volunteers offer personal and criminal justice system support and advocacy.

Despite these uncertain times, my role as victim advocate has not skipped a beat. We have continued serving our community with resources, support, advocacy and assisting those in need.

As a survivor myself, I lost my son in a drunk driving crash in 2015. I was referred to HSI for emotional support. I soon discovered that I was not alone with my feelings of confusion, loss and grief. The sheer validation was enough to keep me going back. To sit in a room filled with such raw emotion, honesty and absolute zero judgment was so very healing. There are many facets, phases, and even misconceptions regarding grief. One of the many challenges survivors experience is isolation. Either self-imposed or otherwise.

This pandemic that we all are going through has created yet another layer to the already existing “condition”. To shelter oneself during grief is a choice, at times subconsciously. Having to stay home or distancing from family, friends, coworkers, and or neighbors is an additional, almost foreign feeling of isolation. Even if at times throughout your grief you self isolate or choose to stay home.

This is a time when we all need each other. The very thing that we may need to help cope, is being strongly urged not practice. To be present in the presence of comforting souls. To hug, embrace, hold hands with one who is in need of comfort are all vital to some who are currently grieving.

At HSI we are adapting, adjusting and at times improvising. Holding virtual support group meetings. Continuing with our staff meetings, virtually of course. We held a virtual workshop, encouraging our survivors and families to improvise and use what materials they have at home to create memorials for our upcoming virtual candlelight vigil. Staying connected and reassuring everyone involved that we are still here for them. All the while, we are all trying to navigate the reality of what we are currently living through. Instilling hope, providing emotional support whether it be via a zoom meeting or through our various social media outlets or our website.

To be part of an organization who is there for families at possibly the worst time of their lives is nothing short of an honor and a privilege.

We are all in this together. Let us stay healthy. Stay strong. Survivor Strong!

NOBODY DESERVES TO ENDURE THE MURDER OF A LOVED ONE ALONE

Your charitable donation helps families meet the crisis and long term needs of murder victims through support, advocacy, and assistance. Help make an impact in a survivors life by making a donation today.

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

Moving Forward

COVID19 has presented a unique perspective on life, it is showing us how important it is to live in the moment for tomorrow is not guaranteed. I keep asking myself what is the lesson that I need to learn? What does humanity need to learn? What I realized is during this intense environment growth can be cultivated. We are being faced with our own individual truth and we can’t look away. My journey of growth is taking place in difficult times yet, I know that when I find my reemergence it will be beautiful. My response to COVID is to be in the moment, choose kindness and joy. Now, all of this is easier said than done, it’s a struggle that I have with myself as some days are easier than others. Yet it’s the little things that need to be celebrated so my attention can be redirected. To be reminded of being gentle to myself when I don’t have the energy to be present. To keep searching for kindness in each other.

Paloma Sainz

When HSI (Homicide Survivors Inc.) and Ben’s Bells Project decided to collaborate on the kindness challenge it was exactly what I needed without realizing it. It was something I could physically do to document all of the positive things that are still happening in our community. Humans can get very creative when faced with adversity especially when time is a strange concept right now. The world has been put on paused yet things are moving forward. Birthday celebrations, babies being born, people dying, seasons changing, etc. As a victim advocate, especially during these times, I keep thinking about the community that I serve. A survivor was able to articulate to me how there is a parallel between the pandemic and the grief they are experiencing.

From one day to another their life completely changed, there was no preparation for when their loved one was murdered. Our sense of safety is compromised. For me, it has instilled an even deeper drive to really be present for survivors. Even if that means we have to get virtually creative. Being a witness of survivors’ journey of hope and healing is truly an honor and a privilege. I will not let my community grieve alone, ever. I will choose the light, kindness, and joy every time. For together we will always be stronger.

I remember my dad as a strong, loving man who played both roles in my life. It takes an extraordinary man to do that, and that’s just who he was, extraordinary. My childhood hero and years later, my best friend. During this uncertain time, help us continue our mission to serve those grieving the loss of a loved one as a result of a homicide.

NOBODY DESERVES TO ENDURE THE MURDER OF A LOVED ONE ALONE

Your charitable donation helps families meet the crisis and long term needs of murder victims through support, advocacy, and assistance. Help make an impact in a survivors life by making a donation today.

Meet The Founder

Meet The Founder

After Gail Leland’s 14-year-old son, Richard, was murdered in 1981, she recognized the need for support for parents of murdered children. She founded the charter chapter of Parents of Murdered Children (POMC) in Tucson, Arizona, on February 19, 1982, which later became Homicide Survivors, Inc.

In the beginning, this all-volunteer group offered support & advice to families of murder victims. Support groups were held at member’s homes and later at other meeting places in the community. Between support meetings, members offered much-needed support by telephone.

Gail Leland

Founder, Gail Leland, with a picture of her son Richard.

A primary concern for most survivors was a lack of information and help. It became evident that survivors had few, if any, rights in the criminal justice system, and there was no financial assistance available for grieving family members. As the group grew, our mission expanded to include crime victim rights, advocacy and assistance. As the POMC charter did not allow for the provision of these services, we formed a separate nonprofit called Homicide Survivors, Inc.

This allowed us to provide a variety of crucial services to survivors, and to advocate for legislative changes to provide Crime Victim Rights, Compensation and Assistance for survivors. Our organization became a driving force in creating legislative changes in Arizona. 

Laws were passed such as the Arizona Constitutional Amendment Victims’ Bill of Rights, State of Arizona Crime Victim Compensation & Assistance, Dangerous Crimes Against Children, Guilty Except Insane (Laura’s Law) Victims’ Right Not to Receive Inmate Mail (Judy’s Law), and others. More recently, Homicide Survivors, Inc. was active in supporting passage of the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act, advancing victims’ rights & services nationally. 

Homicide Survivors, Inc. has served victims in Tucson and Southern Arizona since 1982 and offers services at no charge to all survivors of homicide victim.

Arbitrary Death

Arbitrary Death

Arbitrary Death

Rick Unklesbay been with the Pima County Attorney’s Office since 1981 and served as a deputy county attorney, violent crimes supervisor, chief trial counsel, and chief criminal deputy.  Over the course of his career, Rick has tried over 200 cases with over 100 jury trials on first-degree murder cases. In 2010, Rick retired from the Pima County Attorney’s Office but has since been back in the office trying a few cases and starting a new unit on conviction integrity looking at potential claims of innocence.  Below Rick shares his on why he wrote the Book Arbitrary Death.

Of the many, many people who have had an influence on me in the course of my career, Gail Leland was right at the top of the list.  Gail founded Parents of Murdered Children, the precursor to Homicide Survivors. I first met Gail in the 1980’s when, as a young prosecutor, I began to try murder cases.  From Gail I learned the importance of a prosecutor not just establishing a connection to the surviving family, but having empathy for and understanding of what that family was going through

Gail wanted surviving victims to not just understand the system, but to have a say in it and be informed about the case involving their loved one. Through this connection Gail sought to ensure that victim survivors would not be lost in the justice system or be taken for granted.

In later years Gail and I spent many hours traveling back and forth to meetings in Phoenix when we both served on a committee formed by the Arizona Attorney General to evaluate the state’s death penalty system. I was fortunate to learn more from her about the needs of surviving families and the devastation brought to them by sudden violence. Those lessons she taught stayed with me throughout the years.

In late 2017, I began to write Arbitrary Death. For about a year and a half I tried to put together stories about the sudden violence of a homicide and the impact on the victims’ families over the years of litigation. Although there were too many cases to choose from, I selected a handful that seemed to demonstrate the pain, the uncertainty and the anguish that family members endure. The book focused on death penalty cases and how, in so many ways, the State’s attempt to seek death and the imposition of the death penalty on the murderer impacted the surviving family.

The book is meant to be an educational tool to explain not just the frailties of our justice system, but to give some insight into what survivors go through when the State decides a homicide is a death penalty case. For those outside of the lawyers and judges who try these cases, few understand the complexities of the cases, the lengthy delays and the unending appeals. Each step of such cases impacts the family in ways that many murder cases don’t. I thought it important to describe how these cases proceed and how such a high percentage of them come back to court for further hearings, often years after the case was seemingly over. It is, I think, important information to have.

Hopefully potential readers are not scared off by thoughts that the book might have too much “legalese”. I tried hard to write it for the non-lawyer and give my perspective on how these cases proceed through the court system and how they effect survivors. Arbitrary Death does come to some conclusions about our capital system, but it isn’t really about trying to persuade someone to believe we should retain or abolish the death penalty. Rather, as Gail taught me long ago, having surviving victims understand the system and making sure they have a voice in the case is what I felt was needed.

The stories in the book belong to the survivors of each of the victims. Those families were gracious enough to let me tell those stories and use photographs of their loved ones. Because the stories belong to them, and in honor of what Gail taught me long ago, the proceeds go to benefit Homicide Survivors, Inc. so that the work started long ago by Gail continues.

You can learn more about Rick in his interviews with KVOA and Arizona Public Media. You can purchase Arbitrary Death here. All author proceeds benefit Homicide Survivors Inc.

NOBODY DESERVES TO ENDURE THE MURDER OF A LOVED ONE ALONE

Your charitable donation helps families meet the crisis and long term needs of murder victims through support, advocacy, and assistance. Help make an impact in a survivors life by making a donation today.

Survivor Voices: Surviving Father’s Day

Survivor Voices: Surviving Father’s Day

Survivor Voices: Surviving Father’s Day

When you think about fathers day, some see the celebration, but for people like me, this holiday is usually one of the hardest. A year and a half ago, I lost my father to a senseless act of violence, and my world hasn’t been the same since. They say the first year of loss is difficult and that the second year is even more challenging, and it is true. But I also think about the father’s days that I was able to spend with him, and those are the memories I will always hold on to; those are the memories that keep me whole.

I remember my dad as a strong, loving man who played both roles in my life. It takes an extraordinary man to do that, and that’s just who he was, extraordinary. My childhood hero and years later, my best friend.

Feeling a variety of emotions is part of the process

He was my protector and my teacher. Unfortunately, he didn’t teach me about grief; because grief can’t be taught. Grief can make you feel ugly, weak, and dislike certain holidays, and that’s where I struggle. However, I am human, and it’s ok to feel those emotions. There will be holidays, like father’s day, where it may seem like there is no hope. There will be times where there will be an overwhelming feeling of sadness, but sometimes we have to allow ourselves to feel that, there is no getting over it and some days we can’t get through it and it’s ok.

This year I don’t want to celebrate Father’s day; it hurts. But regardless of how it makes me feel, I will reminisce about all the beautiful moments my father and I shared. I am going to allow myself to feel whatever it is I want to feel, there will be some tears shed, but there will also be a few smiles because I was lucky enough to call him my dad.

My Advice

We are all different people and can celebrate father’s day anyway we want. My advice to the people who are grieving their father this Father’s Day is to be kind to your self, and do what you feel is necessary to get through this day. Most importantly take a moment to breathe and remember its okay not be okay. You are not alone.

 

About The Case

On Tuesday, May 21st, Daren Encinas-Pablo was found guilty on seven counts, including Aggravated Assault, Armed Robbery and 1st Degree Murder of Nicholas Encalade. Sentencing is set for July 16th, 2019.

 This article was written by survivor, Nicole Encalade and edited by Paula Lopez, freelance digital marketing specialist. She can be contacted at glopezp33@gmail.com

NOBODY DESERVES TO ENDURE THE MURDER OF A LOVED ONE ALONE

Your charitable donation helps families meet the crisis and long term needs of murder victims through support, advocacy, and assistance. Help make an impact in a survivors life by making a donation today.