The group of people brings in snacks, bottled water, and food to share. They “hello” one another and exchange hugs. They each settle into a chair and share funny stories, discuss current events, and ask one another about families, babies, friends. From the outside they could be your mother, grandmother, or neighbor. They are all this – and more. This is The Clarksville Metropolitan Parents of Murdered Children Support Group (POMC). The members are grandmothers, parents, siblings, and family to the murdered people who never had a voice, are no longer remembered in the media.
The Chapter started in 2012 and on August 19, 2013 celebrated their official charter into the national PMOC. It is the first and only POMC in Tennessee. POMC provides on-going emotional support, education, prevention, advocacy, and awareness to all survivors of homicide victims; membership is open to those who have been bereaved by the murder of a loved one and professionals who are in frequent contact with grieving families. There are guest speakers. The group partners with local law enforcement to provide comfort and education for families of murder victims.
The talk around the table soon turns to why each person is there. Chapter Founder Fairlen Browning’s daughter, I’yanna, was seven months old in 2007 when shot and killed by her father before he committed suicide. “I dropped her off at his house at eleven for their weekend visit,” Browning explains. “By twelve thirty they were both dead.” Browning tells of being ostracized, questioned, and even blamed for her child’s death. “There was no support system. After the sensationalism there was nothing else.” She needed “a healthy outlet” because “we won’t forget our lost loved ones.”
To learn about Connie Black’s daughter, Michelle Mace, you have to Google the name of her killer, Paul Dennis Reid. Even then, Michelle is reduced to “Baskin Robbins killing 1997.” But Michelle was a beloved 16-year-old daughter, sister, and friend, a natural jabber box with an adventurous spirit. “I wish there were more people here,” Black says of POMC. “It’s a place to heal, and to help heal.” Black talks about being in a spotlight no one would want. It is the same with a woman who sits beside her, a woman with a sweet but sad smile. In 1997 her grandson’s stepfather murdered the four-year-old grandson and his nine-year-old stepsister, leaving their bodies in the woods for days. She can tell about the media hounding her “until it was old news.” Both she and Black share waiting on edge for news of a massive search for the children, hoping... Both perpetrators will spend their lives in prison. Both families will spend their lives aching for their loved ones.
One family lost their daughter to a murderer who walked free. The killer often shows up at restaurants and other public places where his victim’s family is trying to return to normal. “I forgave him because I had to live,” the victim’s mother says. “After he took her, I wasn’t going to give him the power to take more.” Besides seeing her daughter’s killer in public, the woman experienced negativity from the media. “They called (my daughter) every name they could think of,” she explains. “She was a funny girl, great sense of humor, and knew her Bible inside and out. But she met him, and he was into drugs…” her voice trails off.
The members also laugh and joke about their lost loved ones. One woman talks of her victim’s red hair and green eyes. Another member recalls her daughter’s sunny smile. These lost ones are forever frozen in time at ages 16, 4, 21… Meanwhile, their other children and grandchildren keep growing. “No one can understand us like each other,” one member explains. After the media dies down, people forget “and go on to the next big crime story.” These people are left to grieve, recover, and heal – most of all, to remember all the good things. “Being a murder victim is just a tiny bit of who our loved ones were,” Fairlen Browning speaks for the group. She found people were unsure about mentioning her murdered baby, so no one spoke of her at all. “We want to remember these people, share who they were. They weren’t just ‘victim.’”
To contact Tennessee’s POMC, click HERE (meetings every 3rd Monday 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at Clarksville Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
To contact National POMC or find a local chapter click
Credit: photo of Judith Yates
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