WARREN - For Kelly Brooks, the pain is still new.
Brooks' daughter, McKayla Hopkins, 18, was fatally shot by her friend Aug. 2 during a birthday party at Perkins Park. Tears streamed down Brooks' face as she described her anger and confusion.
"I have a lot of unanswered questions. I've heard explanations. I don't know what to believe. As the days go on, my heart gets heavier and heavier. I think I was in such shock at first. But it hits you. It keeps hitting you heavier and heavier."
Brooks was among the 30 or so people who met Sunday at the Log Cabin downtown for the annual balloon launch sponsored by the local chapter of Parents of Murdered Children.
The group gathered inside the cabin before moving outside to release balloons that contained messages to their deceased loved ones.
For some, the event has become tradition. For others, it marked the first time they made the decision to seek help from and share their experiences with other parents.
Ja’Mayla Cole, 7, of Warren, gets ready to release a balloon in remembrance of her uncle, Jeremy Cole, on Sunday during the annual balloon launch at Warren’s Log Cabin sponsored by the local chapter of Parents of Murdered Children.
Tribune Chronicle / Virginia Shank
"The one thing we all share is that we have each had a child taken from us. People can try to understand. But until you go through it you can't know what it's like. It's something you never get over. But this helps. Coming together like this. We can help each other. We can show one another that there is hope," explained Kathy Migliozzi, chapter leader.
Karen Booth's daughter, Lena Cross, 22, and grandsons, Mason Cross, 5, and Christian Pizzulo, 1, died Sept. 13, 2005, in a house fire in Girard that police believe was deliberately set. The children died of smoke inhalation. Lena Cross died as a result of multiple stab wounds. No arrests have been made.
"It's that one phone call and your whole life falls apart. My life fell apart that day," Booth said. "There hasn't been any justice for my babies, for my family. I have one son left. That's all I have. It would help to have justice. But no matter what my life will never be the same. It's something people can't understand unless they've been there, unless they've lost a child, unless they've had someone take them from them like this. It's a pain you can't describe."
For Wanda M. Cole and her family, Friday will mark the first anniversary of the death of her 21-year-old son, Jeremy, who was fatally shot while tied up in a home on Warren's southwest side. Cole was shot in the head.
"We came last year. It was something I think we needed to do, even though it was still so new. But it helps. It helps you realize you're not alone, that other parents, other families have gone through and are going through what you're going through. Nothing can make it easy. But it helps. It helps to know you have support here. It helps to know people care and that there are people who understand. It helps to know you're not alone."
The suspect in McKayla Hopkins' death, Lakeisha Denise Bell, 19, was indicted last week on a charge of murder with a firearms specification and involuntary manslaughter with a firearms specifications in connection with Hopkins' death. She was also indicted on charges of having a weapon under disability, carrying concealed weapon and tampering with evidence. She is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday.
"I don't hate 'Keisha. But I will never forgive her. I don't think that I can face her. I haven't wanted to. Even now, with court and everything, no matter how much time she might spend in jail it won't bring my daughter back. That's something I have to live with for the rest of my life."