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What families affected by homicide need most after tragedy

A vigil for 530 unsolved homicides held in Independence, Missouri in 2021. Photo courtesy of Michelle Norris & Corey’s Network.

(NewsNation) — The devastation felt after events such as the Highland Park, Illinois, mass shooting highlights the ripple effects homicide has on the family and friends of those killed, which can last for years after the event.

It’s an issue with which Michelle Norris has personal experience. After her son Corey Laykovich was killed, police in Independence, Missouri, told her there was no victim’s advocate available to her family. Norris pressured police and the media to stay on the case of her son’s murder, and it took years to find his killer.

“I started watching television, and whereas before when I would watch TV and I could see a woman on television and think, oh my God her son was murdered, that’s just so sad, and then … compartmentalize that and turn around and go make dinner and not think about it. … I couldn’t do that anymore,” Norris said. “I couldn’t get over the idea that this woman is going through the same stuff that I’m going through. She’s hurting just like me.”

The experience inspired Norris to start Corey’s Network, an organization based in the Kansas City, Missouri, metropolitan area that provides support to homicide survivors.

Although nothing can ever bring back a loved one lost to homicide, Norris explained four different ways we can support their surviving family members.

Paying for funeral costs

The cost of a funeral can be devastating for a family, particularly when it is unexpected. Norris noted that many people subscribe to the myth that parents never have to bury their children.

However, homicide victims in the United States are disproportionately young and many families may not have money for an unexpected funeral.

Norris said the typical funeral in the Kansas City area costs about $8,500. But they’ve worked with several funeral homes to lower that cost to $5,000 for homicide victims. Additionally, Corey’s Network has contributed funds toward 375 funerals since its inception in 2014.

Norris noted that each state has its own crime victim’s compensation program that can offer some resources to people who have survived crimes; her organization helps survivors navigate this system.

Helping survivors navigate THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

Another thing Corey’s Network does is inform survivors about their rights after the murder of a loved one.

“Every state has some kind of code and statute as to how victims are supposed to be treated,” Norris said.

She added victims in Missouri have the right to be at a related criminal proceeding, for instance.

“All this information should be not only available to victims but actually taught to them,” she said.

All states have some form of victims’ rights in their laws, and dozens have also written these rights into their state constitutions. Many states, like New York and Florida, allow survivors to be notified when a defendant or delinquent is released or escapes.

Keeping cases alive in the media

Following the death of her son, Norris was persistent about giving interviews to local media, making sure to keep the case alive on television. She also bought a series of billboards highlighting the murder of her son.

“The only reason that Corey’s case was solved was because of the media,” Norris said.

That experience inspired her to help other families of homicide victims get their cases out into the media. Corey’s Network helps connect family members with the press and also trains them on how to best deliver their message in the most memorable way when talking to reporters.

For Norris, maximizing media exposure is one of the best ways to make sure cases get solved. She pointed to the organization Crime Stoppers, which gives out rewards of up to $25,000 in exchange for critical information about crimes.

“If I can make it so that somebody out there says, you know what, I know who did this, and he’s finally ticked me off enough that that $25,000, if I’m in Kansas City, Missouri, that $25,000 is life-changing, and it can buy a lot of diapers and I’m tired of this man, I’m going to turn (him) in, then all of a sudden, you’ve got a game to play,” she said.

Supporting survivors in their grief

Corey’s Network hosts what are called Survivor’s Workshops in order to bring together survivors. During these workshops, survivors are taught not only how to deal with the media, police investigations, and courts, but also how to manage their grief.

Organizations such as Corey’s Network work to provide counseling services and support groups. Norris also helps organize an annual vigil where they highlight the hundreds of unsolved homicides in the Kansas City area.

While there is no one way to support people in grief, Norris emphasized that we can only address that grief by understanding the full scope of people who are harmed by homicide.

“People have to get over that idea that the person who died is the only victim,” she said.


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