COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— The local District Attorney’s Victim Witness Office unveiled their newest installment of a memorial Friday to honor all the lives taken by homicide in Columbus.

The plaque explaining the memorial was set to be installed months ago. However, vandalism put the process on pause for months.

The Columbus Homicide Victims Memorial has more than 300 bricks engraved with the names of those murdered here in the Fountain City. Friday, members of the Victims Services Office, District Attorney Stacey Jackson, and loved ones of the victims all gathered for the unveiling.

The memorial was first reported vandalized last September.

“When the vandalism happened, that was when we reached out to the victims and said, ‘whatever we’ve got to do, we’ll get it done to rebuild the site,'” Director of Victim Services Shelly Hall says.

Extensive damage was done to the memorial…bricks were strewn out of place, a tree and bushes around the site were uprooted, benches were damaged, light fixtures around the site were broken.

Hall called the vandalism a direct re-victimization for the individuals remembered in the memorial and for their families. One mother in attendance lost her son in 2001. For more than 20 years her son’s brick laid undisturbed.

“It’s just like a crime committed all over again to my son and to the other victims and the parents,” mother of Damon Caldwell, Kathy Caldwell said. “It was really devastating it was just like losing them all over again.”

Over a month later, the memorial was put back in place by families whose loved ones are represented on the bricks.

“It was very inspiring because so many victims came forward and made the repairs. They did that. The city didn’t do that,” Hall said.

Members of the Victim Witness Office wanted to make the memorial better than it was before the vandalism occurred.

“I think that I have always had an empty feeling when I looked at the site and there was nothing to mark it. Too many people have said to us, ‘what is this place? Where is this place?’ A lot of planning went into it so that it would be not only durable, but everything that’s on it would be meaningful,” Hall said.

Caldwell says she was overjoyed to see the plaque unveiled.

It means a lot. This is where I come, where we come and meditate and think about our sons. It means so much to us to have a place to remember them,” Caldwell said. “And it is soothing to know that someone cares.”

Funds for the plaque were raised by donations from a family whose loved ones are represented on the bricks and from a volunteer with the Victim Services Office. 

The memorial has been overseen by the District Attorney’s Victim Witness Office since the mid 90’s. It was started by Jim and Bernice Johnson following the murder of their daughter and three grandchildren, one unborn, in 1995.

Previous Reports

Sept. 20, 2022: ‘It’s very angry,’ Columbus Homicide Victims Memorial vandalized | WRBL

Oct. 17, 2022: Homicide victims’ families restore Columbus memorial honoring those killed | WRBL