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Parents of Murdered Children were victims themselves

Staff Reporter

Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 01:11

“When I woke up that morning, I knew Raynell was dead,” Gilda Muskwynsky recounted to her audience.

Muskwynsky is just one of the thousands of people who have gone through what every person dreads; the murder of a loved one.

Muskwynsky’s story was one of three shared Tuesday at the 30th annual Parents of Murdered Children program. The program featured three speakers who have lost their relatives to murder, including Muskwynsky, and Andy Kahan, the Houston area Victim Advocate.

The program focused on the problems within the criminal justice system that the victim’s families experienced, as well as the victim’s rights movement.

Muskwynsky described her experience with the criminal justice system as “there is something wrong with our state”. She was forced to deal with several glitches in the system, such as the death notification process and a soft judge, in order to try to bring her daughter’s killers to justice.

Bruce Caldwell, a lieutenant with the Sugarland Police Department, felt that his experience with the criminal justice system was grossly inadequate for his son’s death. The man convicted of killing Caldwell’s son was given thirty years of prison time, the lightest sentence he has seen out of every homicide he worked in his stint as a detective.

“We go on with the trial and they made a complete mockery of my son and his life,” said Caldwell. “The jury wouldn’t even look my wife and I in the eyes.”

Carlton Collier joined the Parents of Murdered Children organization in order to help others deal with the criminal justice system, since he also experienced frustrations, such as the confession his wife’s killer made was void because of police failure.

“My best therapy is to try to help other people learn how to cope with the criminal justice system,” Collier said. “It’s more for the criminals than it is for the victims.”

Following the experiences of the victim’s families, Kahan spoke to the audience about his job as the only Victim Advocate working for a city in the nation. He feels that the least the government can do is to “watch over victim’s rights, their well-being, their due process, and what happens with them,” instead of focusing on the criminal.

To do this, Kahan focuses on passing legislature to help victims get their full rights. He has so far helped pass 22 pieces of legislature.

“Anybody can yell and scream about the injustices of the world,” Kahan said. “But I would much rather prefer to find a solution or remedy.”

Megan Stovall, a senior Criminal Justice major and student in the victimology class, really felt that the presentation brought the point across of how important victim’s rights are to society.

“Instead of focusing on and glorifying the crime, more people need to get involved in the system and learn about victim’s rights,” Stovall said. “Listening to this presentation makes you understand what goes on in the background and what people go through instead of seeing the crime itself.”

Muskwynsky’s daughter was murdered along with her boyfriend by two men in a drug deal dispute. After finding out the exact scenario that took place the night of the murders, Muskwynsky learned that her daughter had simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time. If she had not been out that night, her daughter would still be alive.

“My pain will never, ever go away,” Muskwynsky said. “I will never forgive either one of them.”
Caldwell’s 21-year old son was murdered by a neighbor and close friend who had grown up with Caldwell’s son. Caldwell’s talk stressed to listeners the importance of recognizing that murder victims and their families are real people, and not just another statistic or news story.

“My only son, the last of my blood line, was extinguished.” Caldwell said. “You can’t replace a child. And he didn’t die, he didn’t pass away; he was taken from us, he was murdered.”

Collier’s wife and niece were home alone when they heard noises outside, so his wife went to go check out the disturbance. A local teenager forced his way in the house after she stepped outside, and forced Collier’s wife and niece to lay face down on a bed. In an attempt to protect her niece, Collier’s wife tried to reach a gun kept in the nightstand nearby, but was shot in the head before she could get the weapon. While recounting the tale of her murder, Collier shared his last memories of his wife with the audience.

“My wife and I were on top of a hill, looking at the tangerine colored sky,” Carlton Collier said. “She was talking and I was looking at her and just thinking to myself just how lucky I was to have her in my life. Little did I know, that was the last time I would see her”

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