For families, it's all about remembering victims: To help kin cope, names are on the 'Murder Wall'

Kate Boone: Her daughter, Sarah, was slain in 2006.
Kate Boone: Her daughter, Sarah, was slain in 2006.
Posted: August 12, 2010

As members of an honor guard unveil the panels of a "Murder Wall" to show the names of sons and daughters who were fatally beaten, shot or stabbed, Kate and Jeff Boone will be watching for their daughter's name.

Sarah Boone, 24, who worked alone at Cricket Catering in Ardmore, was stabbed and beaten to death Jan. 26, 2006, a crime for which Jacuqin Byrd, 31, a former employee of the company, is serving life in prison.

The "Murder Wall" is a traveling tribute to remember the slain sons and daughters of members of the Ohio-based organization Parents Of Murdered Children (POMC). It has grown to 31 wooden panels, all but one filled with 120 names each - 3,715 names in all, each engraved on a brass plate.

It will be unveiled tonight at the start of the group's annual conference, held this year at the Philadelphia Airport Marriott.

Kate and Jeff Boone attended last year's national conference in Cincinnati. There, they saw their daughter's name on the Murder Wall for the first time.

"To actually see her name carved into that wall was really very moving," Kate Boone said. "It was sad and touching and very moving. It's going to be difficult again this year."

This year's conference, hosted by the Delaware County chapter of POMC, will end Sunday. About 300 people from around the country are expected to attend.

Keeping names alive

"We're basically going [to the conference] to hear other people's stories, to tell our story, to keep our daughter's name alive," said Kate, 55, of Newtown Square, and a member of POMC's Montgomery County chapter.

The conference will feature workshops on dealing with grief, as well as dealing with the media and the court system. One workshop speaker is Gail Ramsey, whose sister DeAnn White, 25, was one of three women who drowned in the Delaware River when Pier 34 in South Philadelphia collapsed May 18, 2000.

Ramsey's workshop, "Story: What happens when ordinary people become the story?" will explore how people can handle being thrust into the spotlight after a tragedy.

Tonight's display of the Murder Wall will be solemn, moving and powerful, said conference coordinator Jane McPhee, secretary-treasurer of POMC's Delaware County chapter. Each approximately 3 1/2-by-2 1/2-foot solid-walnut panel bearing the names, birth and death dates of homicide victims, will be unveiled one at a time.

Two members of the Pennsylvania State Police and a lieutenant from the New Jersey State Police will unveil the panels, McPhee said. Also participating in an honor guard during the ceremony will be four members of the Delaware County Sheriff's Office.

At a video memorial service tomorrow night, the photos of homicide victims will be shown on two big screens. Parents will light a candle when their child's photo or name comes up, McPhee said. "When it's done, it's very moving," she said. "Everyone's filled with tears."

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood, Chester Mayor Wendell Butler Jr. and Delaware County Sheriff Joseph F. McGinn are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony tomorrow morning.

The conference will include bus tours to the Delaware County chapter's Living Memorial Gardens in Upper Chichester. 

Comfort and support

Colleen Anderson-Novia, leader of the Montgomery County chapter, said the annual event enables parents to "feel very comforted and very supported. It allows a person to work through different feelings and grieving issues that they have."

Anderson-Novia's son, J.D. Anderson, 22, was fatally stabbed at a party in Spring Mount on Oct. 28, 2000.

Montgomery County First Assistant District Attorney Kevin Steele, who did not handle the case, said recently after reviewing documents in the case that State Police had responded to a house on Clemmers Mill Road about 2 a.m. and found Anderson in the rear yard. Steele said an autopsy showed that Anderson died from being stabbed in the chest. He said the coroner's office ruled the death accidental, so no charges were filed.

Anderson-Novia said she had heard from her son's friends that a young man at the party had gotten into an argument and was waving a knife he had been using to cut lemons or limes. Her son and a couple of his friends tried to get the knife away from the man, and then her son and the man stumbled off the outside deck, she said. She did not know if her son was involved in the argument.

She heard that no one had witnessed the stabbing, and that authorities may have ruled it "accidental" as a result.

"It isn't anything I have any control over at all," Anderson-Novia said. "Will I ever believe it was accidental? No, I don't believe that. Over the years, you just learn to accept things."

Her son's birthday was Aug. 1. Going to POMC conferences helps her through the grief, said Anderson-Novia, who had moved from their Skippack home a week after he died.

Kate Boone said she joined POMC a year after her daughter's murder. Besides keeping Sarah's memory alive, she wants to get the message out that workplaces need to take safety precautions, especially when they have someone working alone in an office, as her daughter was.

Her daughter's death "seems like yesterday," she said. "It's in my mind all the time, all the time." She, her husband, their son Dennis, 27, and daughter Julie, 24, all still struggle with Sarah's death, she said.

Sarah had been living with her fiance in King of Prussia when she died; she was to get married later that year. She was "very beautiful, loving, caring," her mother said.

"I feel she is with me each day. She is in our hearts, moving around like our guardian angel."

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