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Grieving victims of violence; National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims gives families a chance to share stories of their loved ones

Karen Owens wasn't sure she if she could share the story of her son's homicide without breaking down.

She persevered through her tears Sunday afternoon in Martin Luther King Park, revealing a touching portrait of Ronald Evans, the beloved son she knew as "Benji."

"Words can't even say how much I miss him," said Owens. "Everyday I say, 'I love you, baby, and I miss you.' "

Owens hoped her participation in the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims might help spur witnesses to step forward and tell police more about what happened to Evans, a 21-year-old man who was found shot on Chelsea Place on Sept. 1, 2010. Evans died 15 days later in Erie County Medical Center, and the crime remains unsolved.

Owens was among several mothers of homicide victims who discussed the pain and torment of losing a child to a violent death during the three-hour remembrance gathering near the giant bust of King off Fillmore Avenue in the park. About 100 people attended.

The event, one of many around the country, was sponsored locally by PEACE, Parents Encouraging Accountability and Closure for Everyone, and included remarks by Mayor Byron W. Brown and Deputy Police Commissioner Charles Tomaszewski, a candle-lighting ceremony and displays of photographs and personal items of area homicide victims.

"I wish it was not necessary for any of us to be here," said Brown. "It's important for us as a community to let the families who have lost loved ones to homicide know that they are not forgotten."

"We are all related because we have shared tragedy," said the Rev. James A. Lewis III, director of pastoral care at ECMC, who introduced some of the speakers. "We come together today to say enough is enough."

Patricia Clark mourned the loss of her son, Clarence Jackson III, whom she called "C.J."

Jackson was found Feb. 2, 2009, in an abandoned house on Koons Avenue, shot to death, after having been missing for two weeks.

"There's always a reminder," said Clark. "He had a light, and somebody took it from him."

Sandra Green lost two sons to homicide within 10 months.

Her oldest, Steven E. Barney Jr., 31, was leaving a Waffle House in Atlanta when he accidently stepped on another man's sneakers.

"The man felt disrespected," Green said. "He went to the trunk of his car, got a gun and shot my son in the chest."

The culprit is now serving a life sentence in prison, said Green.

Police are still searching for the killer of her other son, Corey Green, 21, who was shot and killed Nov. 12, 2007.

That night, when police showed her a photograph of the victim, Green's initial reaction was to deny it was her son and to shoo officers out the door.

"I thought I was going to die," she said. "That was four years ago, but it still feels like it happened today."

Sandra Fleming lost her son, Kenzel, on April 6, 2010, when he was shot in the head on Davidson Avenue by an East Side gang member.

Fleming said she and her son finished a positive conversation about his latest job interview before he left to go to the store and never came back.

The shooter said Kenzel Fleming "looked at him wrong," recalled Sandra Fleming, who called her son "a loving person, a peaceful guy."

Trumaine Suttles, 22, was sentenced in July to 20 years to life in prison for the killing.

email: jtokasz@buffnews.com