Families also suffer: Victims share stories of healing at emotional event

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Editor's Note: The Jackson County Legal News asked local attorneys to comment on the Michigan Supreme Court case involving the death of Ben Willard. The story ran April 12, 2012. See http://www.legalnews.com/jackson/1279648/

By Tom Gantert

Legal News

Sandra Willard remembers the last words she exchanged with her 21-year-old son. It was July 6, 2010.

"I'm leaving, Mom. Love you," Ben Willard said.

"I love you, too, Ben," Sandra said. "See you soon."

Instead, she would get a knock on the door with news that would change her world.

Sandra Willard said she was telling her story for the first time Tuesday at the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney Crime Victims' Rights Tribute at Trinity United Methodist Church in Jackson. About 140 people attended the annual event.

Willard said she was thinking Ben had been gone a long time when at 9:30 p.m. two Jackson police officers were at the door. They asked her to sit down. Then they told her that Ben was dead.

"My world would never be the same," she said.

Ben's murder case will go before the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on whether some of the statements made by Ben Willard's accused killer will be allowed in court.

"God is in control," Willard said. "That does give me great peace."

Willard said writing has helped keep her "sane." But she said she still feels the emptiness.

"There are many pages and chapters to my story," she said. "My son Ben will never be forgotten and his story will never be forgotten. But my story continues."

"I chose to survive," she told the crowd. "I will weather this storm."

She said forgiving the perpetrator of the crime was a big part of the healing process.

When the speakers concluded, members of the audience walked up to the front and lit a candle and mentioned the name of the victim in their life they were remembering.

"We all have our stories," said John Lazet, the Crime Victim's Advocate for the Attorney General. "And it just grabs you. Sometimes you feel really alone. Tonight, you are not alone."

Published: Thu, Apr 26, 2012

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