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Nov 21, 2012 12:22 AM by Steven Albritton

V.O.I.C.E.S Support Group Helps Families Cope With Violent Crimes

Families who have lost loved ones to violence have a place to go for help. It's called V.O.I.C.E.S, or  Voices of Innocence, Empowered Citizens.

"My son, Bennie Marks, was murdered September 18, 2004," Effie James of New Iberia said.

The group has helped James cope with the loss of her son eight years ago. With the holiday season upon us, the most recent meeting was about dealing with these times without their loved ones.

"I've seen times where we've set dinner and we'll set an extra plate. You know if the door will open on it's own, we'll tell him to come on in," James said.

Two new faces showed up to the most recent meeting. Joe & Alma Olivier of New Iberia. Only seven weeks ago they lost their son Derek to murder. A football player at Arkansas Baptist in Little Rock Arkansas, Olivier was helping a friend change a tire when someone opened fire.

"I needed this, I really did, both of us did" Joe Olivier said.

The couple was very pleased with their visit and plans to come back for the next one. The meeting brought comfort to them knowing others were in the same shoes.

"I enjoyed it. I really did. and a lot of what he said, (the speaker) was true. Everybody deals with death or losing a loved one or a child in their own way," Alma Olivier said. 

For these families, tragedy has brought them together. Catalene Theriot started this group shortly after her son Dean was killed in 1994.

"And that's when I said I have to do something positive and start helping other people that's going through the same thing that I went through, so they don't have to go through it alone," Theriot said.

The group isns't just for those affected by murder. It is open to anyone who has lost a loved one. Even though the monthly meetings help with the pain; their lives are changed forever and they know closure is something they will never have.

"Our lives never get back. We have a hole in our heart and we don't get to fill that hole again," Theriot said.

V.O.I.C.E.S meets once a month at the New Iberia Courthouse. For more information visit the District Attorney's website.


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