Murder Victims’ Families Honor Loved Ones

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(Memphis) So far in 2012, 146 people have been murdered in Memphis.

Behind each statistic is a family in mourning.

Monday night homicide victims' families gathered to remember their loved ones at the Second Presbyterian Church for the 17th Annual Victims to Victory Candlelight Service.

About 300 people attended the event to memorialize their loved ones.

Carol and Joe Brannon have been coming to the event every year since it began. Their son, Chris, was murdered when he was 17.

"They put 13 holes in his pick-up and one in his head while he was driving down the street," Joe Brannon said.

They never found his killer.

Seventeen years later, Chris Brannon's picture lives on an ever-expanding quilt of homicide victims from the City of Memphis.

"If I knew October 11 was going to be the last day I was going to see my son, I would have really hugged him really tight," Sharon Martin said. Her son was robbed and murdered.

Martin's son's picture is also on the quilt that threads these families together.

The quilt hung at the 17th annual Victims to Victory candlelight vigil, set before the holidays to help families cope with the toughest time of the year.

"It gives you strength. It gives you hope that everything's going to be okay," Martin said.

"It helps us through the sad times. His birthday was Thursday and then we have Christmas, so all together it's hard," Brannon said.

"It's hard when a loved one isn't there and you have an empty spot at the table. It makes a big difference to come out and share with another family," Brenda Gilmore said. Gilmore's son was shot to death in 2011.

This year 146 families were affected by homicide in Memphis, including Brian Cooks'. His 29-year-old daughter was caught in cross-fire while walking down the street in North Memphis.

"Our grandson who's 10 years old is going to be celebrating Christmas without his mom.  It's going to be tough on him, and it will be tough on all of us," Cook said.

Hoping to ease the pain, victims were remembered with a slide-show, and candles were lit in their honor.

"I love that they light a candle. It's a way to memorize and say this is someone that we cared about deeply," Gilmore said.

The victims' families say it lets them know their loved ones may be gone, but won't be forgotten.