Cobb Judicial Circuit Victim Wellness Assistance Director Kim McCoy speaks at event

Cartersville hosts remembrance event for families, friends of murder victims

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The Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office presented a remembrance ceremony Wednesday night at the Hilton Garden Inn in Cartersville to celebrate the lives of dozens of people who were murdered in Bartow and Gordon counties over the last 50 years.

Sept. 25 is designated as the National Day of Remembrance for Murder Victims throughout the United States. The local judicial circuit has hosted an event to mark the observance since 2011. 

Close to 100 people — the majority of them the friends and families of victims — attended the event, which concluded with a roughly half-hour candle-lighting ceremony to honor the memories of more than 100 slain individuals.

Cherokee Judicial Circuit District Attorney Rosemary Greene gave opening remarks following a presentation of colors by members of the Gordon Central High School Junior ROTC program.

She then introduced the event’s guest speaker, Kim McCoy, who serves as the director of the Cobb Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office’s Victim Wellness Assistance Unit. 

“From a prosecution standpoint, Ms. McCoy is the gold standard when it comes to victim’s rights in the state of Georgia,” Greene said. “She has been instrumental in changing the law to make sure that victims have equal rights … she teaches law enforcement, she teaches lawyers and she teaches other advocates throughout the state the way things are to be done.”

McCoy, who grew up in Bartow, began her career as a victim advocate in the Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit and later became a coordinator specializing in domestic violence cases in the Cobb Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office. 

“I pretty much specialize in death penalty and homicide cases,” McCoy said. “So on a professional level, I can tell you that I’m sorry that you’re here, that I’m sorry that you have to be here. Because you didn’t really have a choice … to go through what you’re going through.”

But the subject isn’t just a professional one for McCoy — it’s also one that has affected her and her family on a personal level.

Last year, her 83-year-old uncle James “Sam” McCoy was shot and killed in Kingston. His wife — 59-year-old Kim Lori McCoy — has been charged with one count of felony murder and one count of voluntary manslaughter and is awaiting trial in Bartow Superior Court.

Earlier this month, Cherokee Judicial Circuit Judge Suzanne H. Smith denied an immunity motion filed on the defendant's behalf. Both the State and defense told the court they would like to see a trial begin in October, but an official start date has yet to be publicized.

“On a personal level, I can just tell you that I’m mad,” she said. “I’m mad I have to be here, I’m mad I have to think about my uncle being gone, I’m mad I have to think about all your loved ones and the many loved ones that are listed on the program who are gone … I want to scream and yell and shake my fist and say ‘It’s not fair that we have to be in this room.’”

Losing a loved one, she said, is difficult regardless of the circumstances. But when a friend or family member is killed due to another person’s decisions, she said the pain, sorrow and anger experienced by the survivors is especially intense.

Those pangs of grief, she said, are often accompanied by severe bouts of embarrassment and guilt.

“Did I do enough to show my uncle how much I loved him, and how much I enjoyed his company?” she said. “Did I cherish every moment and store up all of those memories to keep my uncle Sam’s spirit alive?”

For many surviving friends and families, she said life is never “the same” after a homicide. Oftentimes, she said those who have lost loved ones to acts of murder begin to gauge time simply as “before” and “after.” 

“There is that definite line,” she said. “Everything kind of stops when you get that news.”

She acknowledged that the criminal justice system can be frustrating, time-consuming and tedious. And from her own experiences, she said it can also be infuriating.

“Because when you sit in that courtroom and you hear bad things being said about your loved ones that you know aren’t true, it’s a whole different ball game,” she said. “So I get mad, on a personal level, [and] I’m just plain angry that we have to be there and go through that.”

Violent crimes, she continued, could befall anyone, adding that one’s age, race, educational level or socioeconomic standing are never safeguards against murder.

The recovery process, McCoy said, can take years for the friends and families of the fallen. Remembrance events like the one held in Cartersville, she said, offer a valuable opportunity for those impacted by such crimes to support one another.

“While all of our experiences are different, we have a shared commonality that we can experience together,” she said. “You will move forward — it might seem impossible right now, it might not seem possible in the near future, but you can do that by recalling the happy memories of your loved ones.”

She concluded her presentation with words of encouragement for others suffering the sudden loss of beloved friends and family members.

“Nothing we love is truly lost — as long as we live, they too will live,” she said. “For they are now a part of us, as we remember them."