DA: Crime Victims Must 'Never, Never Be Forgotten'

A victims' rights candlelight vigil held at Harveston Lake Park in Temecula was one of three scheduled this week by the Riverside County District Attorney's Office in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 21-27.

Saskia Burke, 18. Shanae Wesley, 23. Larry Robinson, 64. Wanda McGlover, 68. Christine Stewart, 47. Samuel Vanettes, 36. George Alongi, 76. Ryan Armstrong, 22. Kerianne Bradley, 517 days.

Holding flickering candles, clusters of family and friends listened Wednesday night as officials read aloud the names of 75 southwest Riverside County homicide victims taken within recent years.

“Being a crime victim or murder victim can happen to anyone, regardless of their age, gender or race,” said Riverside County District Attorney Paul Zellerbach, who was on hand to host the county’s 10th annual Crime Victims’ Candlelight Vigil.  They “must never, never be forgotten.”

The Temecula ceremony, held at Harveston Lake Park, was one of three scheduled this week in Riverside County in conjunction with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 21-27.

“We know and appreciate and understand the victims do not always receive the dignity and respect that they deserve. Victims are the ones that oftentimes absorb the emotional, physical and financial cost of crime, largely by themselves,” Zellerbach said.

Joining the DA’s office in reading the names were elected officials, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, Murrieta Mayor Rick Gibbs and Murrieta Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Bennett.

The DA’s Office will be adding 81 names to its memorial wall this year to signify those lost to violent crime countywide during 2012, Zellerbach said.

“Those numbers are way too high,” the District Attorney said.

“It is continually amazing to me—I have been involved in the criminal justice system for 35 years in this county, 24 as a prosecutor and 11 as a Superior Court judge—and I am continually amazed by what power and strength the victims’ families and loved ones have in the face of evil," Zellerbach said. "And that is what allows the people in my office to continue to do what they do, because we see how it affects you and how it protects society and that is extremely important.”

One survivor—Cheryl Plato, whose daughter, 27-year-old Elizabeth “Bipsy” Amirian, was murdered in Temecula by ex-fiancee Mickey Wagstaff in February 2009—was invited to be the guest speaker for Wednesday’s event.

“I wish I could describe her to you but I can’t,” said Plato, as she mustered the courage to address the crowd. “...She was my baby and the one who liked hanging out with me the most. Being around her was a gift, one I thought I would have forever.”

Plato’s coping mechanisms included getting in her car and driving, screaming at the top of her lungs and crying. She continues to cry almost daily, she said.

“But I am here to talk about victims’ rights,” Plato said. “...As you know we are engaged in a battle...violent criminals are being let out early and they go out and reoffend. Some go on to rape and murder again...we can not allow this to happen. We have to stand up and fight for victims’ rights. We can not let our loved ones down.”

She encouraged survivors to support law enforcement.

“They are the ones who speak for the innocent victims, they are the ones who get the bad guys, who fight to put our loved ones’ killers away. They are often in life-threatening situations...For those murdered who are no longer here, they are their voice.”

Amber Bailey April 25, 2013 at 08:03 PM
My name is Amber Bailey and I attended last night's "celebration" because My soul mate, Saskia Burke was brutally stabbed to death. Part of me can understand what these people are trying to do. But the other part of me says that what words were chosen and things that have happened are just not right and not enough. I don't see how it was at all appropriate for D.A. Paul Zellerbach to use the word "celebration" to define what we were there for last night. I do not in any way find that to be a celebration. I do feel that the proper and more appropriate way to address what we were there for would be that we were there to "REMEMBER" them. We were not there to celebrate anything. As victims I feel that his word choice was offensive to the people because it showed no compassion. It could not possibly be a celebration to ANYONE except the people who did this monstrous thing. I also want to say that it is totally unfair for any murderer to not get a punishment equal to their crime. I hate that Cheryl Plato's Daughter Bipsy's murderer was able to take a plea bargain and not even be sentenced to life in prison. I personally feel that every single victim should have so much more rights in this because we had no choice what has happened to us. We have to now deal with it every day of our lives while everyone else can go about and live oh so normally. Do we not deserve at least that in all of the completely unfair chain of events?
T 22 April 25, 2013 at 09:00 PM
Amber, my son was also murdered in February 2012. We chose not to attend this years vigil because our daughter just had a new baby and we chose to "celebrate" that new life instead. I did not hear the words or in what context they were spoken. But, I do agree with you, there is no celebration nor will there ever be. We will always "remember" them, but will not celebrate their death. Did he maybe mean that it was a celebration of their lives? I'm just wondering since I wasn't there. I'm truly sorry for the loss of your friend. Having lost my son, there is no greater pain than losing someone you love so dearly. My heart is with you and all of the Burke family. May we all get as much justice as the system allows
julie arias April 26, 2013 at 12:50 AM
I couldn't attend last nisime ghts avents my name julie arias my daughter was Angelina she is a victim as we all r i want to thank riverside county for having the events and to my family who attended for me i love u all and Angelina is watching us from above and smileing down on all of us
Cat Burke April 26, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Last night, Kessa, Amber and I attended the Crime Victims Vigil in Temecula. We went, to honor Saskia. I finally met Cheryl Plato and her husband, as she was the speaker this year. It is a sad and somber thing, to be with so many people who are ALL suffering as victims. We love you Saskia! YOU ARE NOT DEAD AND FORGOTTEN, but live within us still - each and every moment. The rest of the world has moved on and left you behind now, but we NEVER WILL... As I sat there surrounded by so many last night, I realized how important it is - THAT WE VICTIMS TAKE BACK CONTROL FROM THESE MURDERERS, AND THOSE WHO DEFEND THEM... So next year? WATCH OUT! For no longer will our voices be silent! No longer will we let others control us! WE WILL RAISE OUR VOICES TOGETHER, AND DEMAND ABSOLUTE JUSTICE FOR ALL! NO LONGER, WILL WE FEAR SPEAKING OF THESE THINGS, OR ALLOW THIS STUPID WORLD TO SHAME US FOR THIS! BECAUSE EVERY MURDERED VICTIM HAS PAID THE ULTIMATE PRICE - AND THE TIME HAS COME, FOR EVERY MURDERER TO PAY THE SAME! No longer will Victims of Murder demand ANYTHING LESS FROM JUSTICE, THAN THE DEATH PENALTY - AND SWIFT EXECUTION! OUR time has come... Catherine Burke
Cat Burke April 26, 2013 at 01:40 AM
T - Congratulations! I was thinking of you last night...
T 22 April 26, 2013 at 02:44 PM
#1 What happens in the "My Child is Dead" club should be known by everyone in the Universe. This is not fight club. This is I can't believe I'm living this nightmare club. The club shouldn't be a secret. It shouldn't be hush-hush. It should be talked about, shared, supported and know across the land. We are hurting. We need love. Understanding. Non-judgmental and unconditional support. We need to be listened to, not told what to do or how to feel. We need time. We need tissues. We don't need to eat, sleep, 'get over it' or 'move on'. We don't need to hear how much better off they are, how it was somehow for the best or at least they didn't suffer or are no longer suffering. WE are suffering. WE are hurt. WE need to walk our own road, at our own pace, in our own way. WE will never, ever be the same. We are not bad, stupid or neglectful parents. We are parents who loved our children and now they are gone. Time may heal, but it doesn't cure.
T 22 April 26, 2013 at 02:44 PM
#2 Joining a club is typically a positive experience, one made voluntarily and with great enthusiasm for the subject. Not so with our club. We are a unique group. We are the club no one ever wants to belong to. We are the person you never want to be. We are the person some of you can't handle being around, because we 'bring you down'. Because YOU can't deal with our pain. We have no choice. We are parents who've had to bury our own children. We didn't expect to join this club and we are beyond ticked that we had no choice but to become a part of it. So, what is the club like? It's a living hell. You've not known pain until you've held your dead child. Until you've seen their tiny lifeless body in a casket. Until you've attended their funeral, buried them and came home without them. You can never, ever know what it's like unless you've experienced it. Don't ever pretend to *know* what it's like. Don't ever say you understand how that person feels unless you've lost a child yourself. Even then, your experiences and feelings could be very different. That which comforted you may not provide any comfort and in fact may anger another person. Please think before you speak. There are certain 'trigger days' when you can expect a resurgence of emotion. They are the difficult days. Today I had one of these "trigger days" I could barely stand, think or move. But I AM allowed this time."
Michelle Brown April 26, 2013 at 02:57 PM
Hopefully he meant a celebration of who they were and what they meant to everyone who loves them and knew them. The justice system just doesn't seem fair at times...it's discouraging when we hear news where a murderer was given special rights and so on BUT God has a greater judgement for them. I hope you can find some peace soon from the hurt you've had to endure.
Cat Burke April 26, 2013 at 06:28 PM
California’s Death Penalty is NOT broken beyond repair… It is CHALLENGED into the NEED FOR FIXING, by every organization that defends both the MURDERERS lives and rights in every possible way, raising the COSTS in our state to fight against these organizations to keep EACH MURDERER ON DEATH ROW. The laws we need to change should focus on this part of the issue. 1. Convicted MURDERERS LOSE their “constitutional rights” once the sentence of death is given AND upheld through its one and only review. Taking ALL rights away from these organizations to fight in any way to SAVE THEIR LIVES… 2. We should bring back many options for execution. The electric chair, firing squad, hanging. We need to approve a protocol for injection, and protect the rights of those making and supplying these protocols. California's DAs feel compelled to propose a new execution method because THE TIME HAS COME to execute everyone on Death Row! For far too long, Victims and their families have been waiting for the verdict in their case of Murder to be carried out. And the CONTINUED INJUSTICE TO THEM ALL, that they must wait Decades for this is ludicrous! The truth about death penalty proponents being desperate? The only thing we are desperately trying to do is MAKE THE SYSTEM FUNCTION – that Executions can be carried out in a much more timely manner. We continue to search for solutions. With one basic goal in mind: The swift EXECUTION of EVERY SINGLE MURDERER given the Death Penalty!
Cat Burke April 26, 2013 at 06:30 PM
Sanity and savings… What a statement! How INSANE is it, that what you are conceding to in Losing the Death Penalty, is the ever LARGER NUMBER of these most BRUTAL AND HEINOUS MURDERERS who may one day be FREE again in our society, to KILL? If we in any way allow the erosion of the Death Penalty in our country, it will in fact directly lead to the erosion of Life in prison without the possibility of parole by these SAME organizations who continue to defend both the MURDERERS lives and rights in every possible way. And this sentence already is crumbling before our eyes! EVERY VICTIMS FAMILY KNOWS that Life in Prison Without the Possibility of Parole is - a LIE! And it never ceases to amaze me, people’s sheer stupidity when it comes to the issue of Life Without the Possibility of Parole. Somehow, society thinks we lock these MURDERERS away for life and throw away the key! They don’t see, how often these sentences are overturned or reduced, because of the MURDERER’S “good behavior behind bars”, and “overcrowding” in the Prisons… Forcing Victims families to ONCE AGAIN deal with the MURDERER by attending Parole hearings every 2-5 years for the rest of their MURDERERS LIFE if they are to KEEP the MURDERER behind bars. And if even ONE IS SET FREE, that is ONE too many!
Cat Burke April 26, 2013 at 06:34 PM
SOLUTIONS WILL ONLY COME, when we RESTORE RIGHTS TO VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES! 1. WE, must have the right to seek the Death Penalty in EVERY CASE OF MURDER. 2. WE, must have the RIGHT to a swift EXECUTION after each CONVICTED MURDERER is sentence to the Death Penalty, saving us all so much money. 3. Each MURDERER, must be given only ONE case review, and IF the result upholds the conviction, EACH MURDERER THEN LOSES ALL CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS FOR ANYTHING FUTHER, saving us all so much money! 4. EVERY MURDERER must be swiftly executed - as Victims and families have ALREADY been waiting years to get through the trial and sentencing phases. JUST THINK OF HOW MUCH MONEY WE WILL SAVE! FOR WE VICTIMS ARE NOW - TAKING BACK CONTROL FROM THESE CONVICTED MURDERERS, AND THOSE WHO DEFEND THEM... No longer will our voices be silent! No longer will we let others control us! The WORD “VICTIM” is only given to us BY the MURDERER. What we really are, in truth – are ENLIGHTENED AND LEARNED PEOPLE who not only have dealt with these MURDERERS, but with OUR FAILED JUSTICE SYSTEM – for far too long. Catherine Burke MOTHER OF A MURDERED CHILD And - VICTIM OF VIOLENT CRIME
Cat Burke April 26, 2013 at 07:36 PM
T - I love you. Yes, these trigger days ARE THE WORST OF THE WORST! And this is what I speak of now - ENLIGHTENING the outside world, to who we really are! I believe in EQUAL JUSTICE FOR EVERY MURDERED VICTIM. Meaning, IN CHOOSING TO "TAKE" A LIFE, YOU NOW FORFEIT YOUR OWN LIFE... We Victims must unite, and join our voices in this - STOP letting the Justice System, and the Defenders of Murderers lives and their rights, from deciding FOR us what will be done, AND FORCE THEM TO DO THE RIGHT THING EACH TIME... California has this little handbook of Victims Rights we are given, but no where in it, ARE THERE REALLY - ANY RIGHTS! We are each assigned a victims advocate in court. Yet when we need HELP from this advocate, all we are given is a list of phone numbers to call... Basically, all this is - is a person to sit with you in the courtroom. What kind of RIGHT, is that? We want REAL RIGHTS. EFFECTIVE RIGHTS. We no longer ASK for this - WE NOW DEMAND IT! EVERY MURDERED VICTIMS LIFE HAS BEEN TAKEN - FROM US! And every MURDERED VICTIM MUST HAVE THE RIGHT IN DEMANDING EQUALITY. MAKING THE PENALTY FOR TAKING A LIFE? DEATH. For anything less? Is the most Unjust thing imaginable to every human being.
Cat Burke April 26, 2013 at 08:07 PM
I was told in the beginning, to speak with people from both groups. All I heard, was the horror of what happened. To them, to those they loved! I felt each persons pain, on top of my own, and jeez, if THAT doesn't leave you feeling too hopeless and suicidal, I don't know what could... I took a pill, but it never made me feel happy. It only interfered more, with helping my children. I couldn't drive on that pill, or think. The outside world has expectations that something WILL help, but the truth inside - NOTHING EVER WILL. Only the resurrection of our lost loved one. That's it. We HATE THIS "NEW" LIFE GARY GAVE US!!! WE HATE EACH AND EVERY ASPECT OF IT! But we have NO alternatives. We live with this NEW LIFE GARY GAVE US, or die. We have every right to mourn our wonderful life that is lost to us now - and I find it impossible to do anything with this NEW LIFE he has given me, as it goes against EVERYTHING I EVER WAS IN MY LIFETIME... How do you simply ACCEPT everything is always going to be ugly and painful for the rest of your life, after working so long and so hard to make your life so beautiful and wonderful? How do you do that... Living with so many children spinning so out of control, SCREAMING FOR RELEASE, and knowing there is NOTHING I can do for them at all. I was always so happy, and now condemned to be forever sad. I'm so sorry T! That we have only this, while the rest of the world ENJOYS WHAT THEY HAVE, because they've lost nothing...
On the right side April 26, 2013 at 09:30 PM
Cat Burke, you are exactly right. Things need to change and change SOON. Victims and their families and friends have rights. Those who commit these terrible acts have voluntarily given up ANY rights that they might have had. THEIR DECISION!!!!!! Execution should take NO LONGER than 30 days. PERIOD!!!!
Cat Burke April 27, 2013 at 03:31 PM
Julie - I invite both you and T to look me up on facebook. Where I battle from the inside, with the outside world... "The only way to CHANGE peoples minds, is to enlighten them. Help them to discover the truth, and see the reality they live in - in a whole different light. THIS is what I am always trying to do. Because I AM LOOKING FOR CHANGE!" We live in a world, that continually allows things to go on as they are... And makes too many excuses along this path. We just DO, live in a dangerous world! Where people just ARE so out of control. NO WHERE is safe anymore. Not our schools, movie theaters - or sporting events! IT IS TIME TO MAKE CHANGES, to ensure SAFETY for all. I listened to the DA talking about how the Police should keep our society safe. And yet, when I called the MPD, and officers Gerber and Driscoll came to my home - AND I REPORTED SIMPSON TO BE A THREAT? They did nothing. HOW CAN WE CHANGE THINGS, WHEN NOTHING IS DONE TO STOP IT? The time has come to stop asking for change, to step up and DEMAND CHANGE! I do not fear saying these words out loud to the world: THAT WILLIAM GARY SIMPSON MUST BE EXECUTED FOR WHAT HE HAS CHOSEN TO DO. Because I do not say this with vengeance, nor "eye for an eye". I want my children FREE from him, to REMAIN SAFE from him, their FUTURES PROTECTED from him -always! And Simpson is a THREAT to these 3 things, for as long as he LIVES...
Suva April 27, 2013 at 06:37 PM
I agree with all of those comments above... I also attended the Candlelight Vigil... and had the honor of meeting Cat Burke and her daughter... “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” ― Benjamin Franklin
cheryl plato April 28, 2013 at 02:23 AM
We have to start fighting ceaselessly for the rights of the victims and to strengthen laws against the criminals. The pro-criminal crowd fights hard and they fight dirty. We have to stand up to them and protect the innocent!!
Becca April 30, 2013 at 02:11 AM
Cat I haven't followed your case but am familiar with the heinous crime done to your daughter and family. At the time I lived right around the corner from you and had my kids on lock down while the police were searching for that monster. Did they go for the death penalty? Unfortunately I was also there at the temecula candle lighting. I did not lose my own child but shanae wesley was one of my best friends. She was murdered in her apartment and lit on fire. It was a horrible thing to happen and all we can do as her friends and family is thank God that her son was saved. Our hate is deep for her murderer and I don't think we will ever be able to forgive.
Cat Burke May 03, 2013 at 06:00 PM
Dear Becca, I am so sorry for what was done to Shanae. There just are some things, that ARE truly unforgivable. How is her little boy? I think of him often - for he too, has suffered THE GREAT HORROR... All we can do, in the aftermath of such horrible things, is ask ourselves "what now?" Keeping such dangerous and brutal people from ANYONE, EVER is the only thing left. For we will always carry with us, THE GREAT HORROR... Like a cloak, that is now permanently attached to us. Saskia's terror and HORROR and PAIN reverberate through my soul every moment, and I am unable to ever forgive THIS!
Becca May 06, 2013 at 06:28 PM
Cat, is doing ok. He was there with us. If you look in the pictures he's the lil boy looking down. He is with his dad and doing very well. He of course doesn't understand but is going thru counciling. As for what now... all we can do is keep our loved ones spirit and memory alive. We have a long battle before us as we are about to begin with our hearings. Will probably be extremely hard to endure being that that's when we will find out details of her murder. My prayers are with you and your family


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