York City Police starting homicide support group 'For the Ones Left Behind'
A support group for the loved ones of York City homicide victims will connect them with others who have gone through the same nightmare, let them ask questions of police and prosecutors and direct them to various victim services, according to the police commissioner.
It's been a long time coming, Commissioner Michael Muldrow said. The group, called "For the Ones Left Behind," is just getting off the ground, he said, and city Detective First Class Andy Baez is one of the officers leading that effort.
"I can only imagine what emotions they are dealing with," Baez said.
The detective said it will be good for investigators to be reminded of families' pain — and for grieving loved ones to see that detectives are emotionally invested in solving murders and that they want to get justice for the victims.
"The weight of it all on your shoulders is overwhelming," Baez said, adding he still has relationships with families of homicide victims whose deaths he investigated, and many are still suffering years later.
There's a lot at stake, he said, likening the emotional process of achieving justice to riding a roller coaster. When a murderer is pronounced guilty in court, families are often overcome with feelings.
"That same emotion is inside me when I hear that guilty verdict. You want to bust out crying," Baez said. "The people I work with feel the exact same way."
And when detectives are unable to solve a homicide, "you feel almost defeated because you can't give (loved ones) the answers they're looking for," he told The York Dispatch.
Tragedy hit home: The grief and frustration experienced by those who have lost someone to homicide can't be fully understood by anyone who hasn't gone through it, according to Muldrow.
The commissioner can speak with authority on the subject. His wife's brother, Wayne Weedon Jr., was killed in Girard Park on April 10, 2016, during a shootout.
Two groups of young people agreed to meet at Girard Park so a dispute over an apparent drug deal and robbery could be settled with fists — but gunfire erupted. One of the teens brought his uncle to the park, and that was the 25-year-old Weedon, York City Police have said.
Brothers Bradley Koehler and Brady Koehler later pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and each was sentenced to 4½ to nine years in state prison.
Muldrow said he watched family, including his wife, Nakesha Muldrow, and her mother, Trish Weedon, struggle, and he struggled as well. They learned there wasn't much community support for people thrust into their circumstance.
Nakesha Muldrow later spoke to her husband about starting a support group for those left behind when loved ones are killed, according to her husband. He said she and Trish Weedon have offered comfort to those grappling with the violent deaths of loved ones.
Muldrow said he's watched city detectives including Baez, Travis Sowers and Paul DeHart III working tirelessly to solve homicides and stay connected with grieving families.
"But as police officers, there's a limit to what we can do — we don't have all the answers," he said.
'All-inclusive' support: Building an all-inclusive support network involving different community entities will allow the community to "truly wrap around these families," the commissioner said, adding WellSpan Health and York College are already on board, as are local clergy members and the city's own Group Violence Initiative.
Baez will invite the state's Victims Compensation Assistance Program to participate, Muldrow said, and the York City School District and York County District Attorney's Office have expressed interest in being part of the group.
"We're excited to participate and collaborate with the York City Police Department on this amazing initiative," District Attorney Dave Sunday said. "Any time that we can provide comfort to victims that are going through such difficult circumstances, it's always a positive."
Trish Weedon will be the group's facilitator.
"No matter what side of town you're from, you can come to one safe place and be able to hear whatever voice you need — whether it's police, whether it's clergy, whether it's a therapist," Muldrow said. "I do think this is going to be therapeutic and transformative for the officers involved, too."
Muldrow said the meetings will be casual and held about twice a month at a neutral location. The city is looking into having the meetings in the old Thackston Charter School building at 625 E. Philadelphia St.
Cyndi Dotson, who is acting as a liaison for the building's owners, said the owners want to open the building to the community, rather than let it sit empty.
How to sign up: The meetings will be held at set times so people can simply drop in when they need to, but preregistering is encouraged because it will help group leaders know which officials to invite, Muldrow said.
The police department will be inviting families, but there's no need to wait for an invitation, the commissioner said. Individuals and families can preregister now by contacting Baez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
People can also sign up by calling the police department at 717-846-1234, or simply stopping in at headquarters, 50 W. King St., which is open until 11 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"Everyone is welcome," Baez said. "It's an open-door policy."
— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.