Court Advocates: Helping Crime Victims Endure The Process - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Court Advocates: Helping Crime Victims Endure The Process And Find Their Voice

SPOKANE, Wash – It's one of the hardest things a person can experience: losing a loved one to murder or being the victim of a violent crime.  What happens in those few moments a crime is being committed can change lives forever. 

That's where victim/witness advocates come in.  In Spokane County, there are six who work as liaisons through the Prosecutor's Office to help victims – and their families – get the assistance and emotional support they need.  They help them get resources to pay for the burial of a loved one, get counseling, walk them through the court process, and attend hearings with them. 

Relationships that often last for years. 

"We care so much about the people that we help, that we're pouring out ourselves as well," said Lori Sheeley, an advocate who works with the gang unit and felony crimes, like stabbings, shootings, robberies and property crimes.  "I had the mother of a homicide victim last year after trial say, ‘I'm really going to miss you, you're like part of our family right now,' and that right there is why we do this." 

And sadly, the demand for their support is overwhelming in Spokane County.   

Sheeley and fellow advocate Heidi Wehde, who works with major crimes and sexual assault cases, is each working with about 300 victims right now, and combined, are handling about 15 open homicide cases. 

Including the May murder of Sharlotte McGill; a homicide that's become one of the most high-profile cases in Spokane in recent memory. 

When McGill's daughter wanted to attend the first court appearance of suspect Avondre Graham last week, the advocates helped protect her privacy, getting her in and out of the courtroom, and helping her know what to expect. 

While advocates can't speak about specific cases, it's clear their work makes a huge impact. 

"There are not nearly as many rights for victims of crimes as there are for defendants, and their voices need to be heard," Sheeley said.  "They need people in their corner." 

The advocates also help explain why the court process can sometimes take so long, helps them become notified if the suspect in their case is released from jail on bond, and helps them prepare for sentencing, when they're allowed to make their voice heard for the first time in the form of a victim impact statement. 

"It's a time for them to stand up there at that podium and tell the judge how that crime has affected them," Wehde added.

But one of the most stingingly painful parts of the process is that justice isn't always served. 

"The hardest part of my job, the thing that breaks me, is a bad verdict from the jury," Wehde added. 

In her experience, that's most often been seen in rape cases, where the victim has already been hurt in the initial attack, then must relive the experience during interviews with the defense attorneys, may be re-victimized a third time testifying as a witness, only to be crushed by a jury that sometimes doesn't reach a ‘guilty' verdict. 

"You know the evidence and you know what happened," Wehde told KHQ.  "You just hope that somehow the victim and the family, and even within ourselves, we can get some kind of peace and think there will be some kind of justice in the long run somehow, somewhere, but it wasn't here." 

Sheeley and Wehde are among the six advocates working at the Spokane County Courthouse.  

They tell KHQ that they work so closely with victims and their families – and often for so long – that they form lasting relationships with them. 

One victim even wants to become an advocate herself, to make the process easier for others who find themselves in the same unfortunate position in the future. 

Learn more about the work the advocates do at: http://www.spokanecounty.org/prosecuting/victimwitness/content.aspx?c=1072

  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Spokane woman finds baby left in freezing car

    Spokane woman finds baby left in freezing car

    Thursday, February 22 2018 8:33 PM EST2018-02-23 01:33:43 GMT

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Picture this, a baby freezing, bawling, and alone in the back seat of a car. That's what one Spokane woman stumbled upon in a South Hill parking lot. "Complete shock," Windy Delandro said. A frightening sight, Delandro says she saw what looked like a six-month old sitting in her car seat, car turned off, tears streaming down the little girls cheeks. "I looked around to see if I could find anybody, see something, I told my mom 

    >>

    SPOKANE, Wash. - Picture this, a baby freezing, bawling, and alone in the back seat of a car. That's what one Spokane woman stumbled upon in a South Hill parking lot. "Complete shock," Windy Delandro said. A frightening sight, Delandro says she saw what looked like a six-month old sitting in her car seat, car turned off, tears streaming down the little girls cheeks. "I looked around to see if I could find anybody, see something, I told my mom 

    >>
  • Fatal apartment fire at Hartson and Perry on Spokane's lower south hill

    Fatal apartment fire at Hartson and Perry on Spokane's lower south hill

    Friday, February 23 2018 8:46 AM EST2018-02-23 13:46:40 GMT
    SPOKANE, Wash.- One person is dead in a fatal fire at the Liberty Park Terrace Apartments on the lower South Hill. The fire was confined to one apartment. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The building was evacuated but everyone has returned back inside. No roads blocked at this time. BREAKING: Fatal Apartment Fire at Hartson and Perry>>
    SPOKANE, Wash.- One person is dead in a fatal fire at the Liberty Park Terrace Apartments on the lower South Hill. The fire was confined to one apartment. The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The building was evacuated but everyone has returned back inside. No roads blocked at this time. BREAKING: Fatal Apartment Fire at Hartson and Perry>>
  • Canadian women's hockey player apologizes for removing medal

    Canadian women's hockey player apologizes for removing medal

    Friday, February 23 2018 10:49 AM EST2018-02-23 15:49:37 GMT

    KHQ.COM - The Canadian women's hockey team wept on the ice as they accepted their silver medals after losing to the Americans at the Pyeongchang Olympics.   One Canadian player, Jocelyne Larocque, took her medal off immediately and held it in her hands as the Americans stood nearby awaiting their gold Thursday.   Larocque says, "It's just so hard."

    >>

    KHQ.COM - The Canadian women's hockey team wept on the ice as they accepted their silver medals after losing to the Americans at the Pyeongchang Olympics.   One Canadian player, Jocelyne Larocque, took her medal off immediately and held it in her hands as the Americans stood nearby awaiting their gold Thursday.   Larocque says, "It's just so hard."

    >>
HD DOPPLER 6i
/