2019 has been the 2nd deadliest year for the River City in two decades, and for every victim of a violent crime, comes the possibility of a ripple effect of grief and pain.
The harsh reality of it all, impacts those left behind; including, but certainly not limited to two Peoria women, whose children were murdered thirteen years apart.
Sherrce Abbey’s life was turned upside down in April, after her 19-year-old daughter, Charee Alexander was stabbed at Schmoeger Park. She was caught in the cross hairs of an argument spurred by a love triangle, when Jatarra Johnson, stabbed her in the neck.
“That’s hard to describe – that one of your kids is never coming home again.” said Alexander’s mother Sherrce Abbey.
Abbey said she and her daughter were attached at the hip. She had to make the tough decision to take Alexander off life support a day after the incident. In exchange, Alexander saved five other lives, through organ donation.
“I miss her everyday. It’s not a day that I don’t think about her.” Abbey shared solemnly.
Charee Alexander was 7th on Peoria’s list of homicides in April; a list that has tripled in seven months. And in that time, Abbey’s pain has not subsided. “People say it gets easier. It doesn’t. I go out to her grave and I see grass is growing…like ‘this is real’ she’s gone.”
And on the opposite end of Peoria is another woman. A stranger to Abbey, but with plenty in common.
“I wake up and realize this is my reality; he’s not here.” That’s how Yolanda Wallace described many of her mornings.
Wallace, a trauma survivor and activist, has made it her mission to provide support for families affected by violent crimes and tragedy; including everything from suicide to car accidents.
Her son, Jon Buckley was gunned down in front of his home in 2006. When grief struck, Wallace learned the hard way, that there was no group she could turn to.
“There’s diabetes, asthma, blood clot, heart disease… There’s cancer survivor’s support, but there are none for murder victims’ families.” Wallace expressed frustration at the abundance of resources for nearly every ailment someone may face, all but one.
For a city whose homicides have gone from an average of one a month in 2017 to an average of once every two weeks in 2019, Wallace said she’s disappointed by the lack of response from Peoria leaders.
“This is not something that our city has taken hold on, to see it as an important thing that we need to create resources for these families.” she said.
Peoria Police have made efforts to reduce the violence – offering cash rewards and protection for those who come forward with tips on crimes and putting in more community hours.
Through initiatives like their Resident Officer Program and Don’t Shoot, PPD Chief Loren Marion III and his officers have made countless public denouncements of violence; along with desperate pleas to the community – often reminding them of the intense toll it has on the city’s financial and emotional well-being.