Naming homicide victims

Five years ago Talia Meguinis was brutally murdered and stuffed in a recycling dumpster in Red Deer.

Just 10 days ago, Randee Lynn Stewart, 25, the mother of two young children, became the city’s first homicide victim in 2017.

Murder is not a private event.

It affects the victim’s friends and loved ones, the community and society at large.

Concerns about crime and safety repeatedly top the city’s annual satisfaction surveys in Red Deer.

We want to feel safe in our communities.

While police tend not to release names of the victim unless they feel it will help with the investigation, it is our responsibility and duty as journalists to inform the community. It’s not without contemplation and compassion that victims of terrible crimes are identified.

By naming the victim, we are humanizing a statistic that otherwise could leave our heads as quickly as we read the next line in a story.

“Talia was a mother first, a sister, daughter, and friend to many. She lived life to the fullest. She loved to laugh and be around friends and family,” reads the 27-year-old’s memorial page.

An online public GoFundMe account set up by Stewart’s family tells us, “Randee was a beautiful young lady with a whole lot of promise and two beautiful young shining stars at her side. Randee enjoyed being outdoors and spending time with her family.”

Once charges are brought against an accused, the details will come out at trial. An open court system is an essential part of a democracy.

We name victims to honour them. We name victims because we don’t want to forget them.

Justice will be served for Talia Meguinis when a 28-year-old man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder is sentenced.

A 34-year-old man has been charged with manslaughter with a firearm related to Stewart’s death.

We ran a large photo of Talia’s Meguinis on the front page of the Advocate the day after the man pleaded guilty. We received some flak on social media for running her photo instead of the murderers.

When I was at the Red Deer vigil for the Quebec City mosque shooting victims, friends of Talia’s family told me they were pleased that her photo ran on the front page.

It is the victim’s story that we should honour not the accused.

If we start censoring the names of victims, we are in trouble as a society.

Think about all those unnamed victims whose stories will never be told. I only have to think about the families of the missing and murdered aboriginal women who will never have closure.

In today’s world of social media, nothing is kept secret for long. It is better to get the news from credible news sources than the armchair critics who have nothing better to do than speculate and feed the trolls.

Crystal Rhyno is the managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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