Viewpoint: Wall of silence hurts victims' families, endangers all of us

Posted at 10:30 AM on Sep 23, 2017



After talking with several mothers and a sibling in reference to unsolved murders and a missing person case, I feel compelled to speak out.

Having grown up here and knowing so many people in the community, it has been a blessing to share the stories of those who are helping others throughout Statesville. I love writing those stories.

But this work sometimes comes with a burden, the weight of talking to those among us who have lost loved ones to senseless violence. Those left behind are traumatized by their loss and can be paralyzed by their grief.

When you lose someone to a car accident or serious health issue, there is an initial shock, but over time a sense of healing often slowly weaves its way into the heart of surviving loved ones. But in missing person and homicide cases, the senselessness of the loss continues to haunt those in need of closure. Soon the initial shock they feel is replaced by anger.

The surviving family members in these cases often begin to distrust others -- sometimes to the point of paranoia -- because anyone they meet on the street or in the grocery store could be the killer, one family member told me.

Tanza Turner, 46, lost her nephew, Darwin "D.J." Turner this spring. His body was found in April after a three-week search. No charges have been filed in connection with his death.

Violence is rampant among this generation of teens and young adults, Turner said.

"This is killing our communities," she explained. "I had to identify my nephew and it's hurting the families so we have to come together as a community."

Turner sees a simple course for change: " We must repair, rebuild and restore for true change," she said.

The wall of silence that protects those responsible for senseless violence must come down, she said. Witnesses must come forward to report what they know so the perptrators can face justice.

She's right.

And blaming law enforcement for the violence isn't the solution. That won't help Turner deal with her grief. It won't lead to an arrest -- and it won't prevent future crimes.

How can we, as a community, stand by and allow violent criminals to get away with hurting and killing our friends and loved ones?

Lisa Harris, whose sister, Deborah Sabra, went missing in June wants those who know something to come forward with information while police await the results of DNA testing on remains found in a creek that the family believes are Sabra's.

"I continue to be amazed by all of the people my sister met and need help keeping her story alive," Harris told me. "Because, for me, it's been like an uphill battle."

The two women represent a small fraction of the people who have been impacted by violence in our community. These people are desperate for answers. They deserve closure.

In cases like D.J. Turner's, the reluctance of witnesses to come forward could lead to more violence. Those who kill with impunity are likely to kill again.

Seeing D.J.'s killer brought to justice could comfort the hearts of those who are still grieving his loss and waiting for answers.

If you have any information on Turner's murder or Sabra's disappearance, please contact law enforcement. You can reach the Statesville Police Department Investigations Division at (704)878-3515 or Iredell CrimeStoppers at (704)662-1340

Bridgett Nesbit is a writer for

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