FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Nonprofit Justice, Accountability & Victims Advocacy (JAVA) marks three years of helping families of homicide victims. In that time, they have accomplished more than they thought they could but say they are not done yet.
“JAVA started out as myself and about four or five other families were kind of floundering in the system, trying to figure out how we were going to get justice for our loved ones, not getting any help from the system,” said Stacey Davis, part of JAVA’s leadership.
The death of Davis’ son death opened her eyes to the issues victim’s families face in trying to get justice.
“I thought that bad things happen, the police get them, they go to jail and that’s it,” Davis said. “Well, after my son was killed, I found out that that’s not how it works.”
JAVA started out as a grassroots movement. Now, a fully-fledged 501(c)(3) nonprofit working with over 100 families of homicide victims the group has grown beyond their monthly meetings to offer concrete help to families. They connect them with resources and help navigate their way through the legal system, as well as getting their stories out to the community.
Their community has grown online as well, with their Facebook group growing to more than 3,500 people. While their name has grown, Davis said the solve rate has gone up.
“The solve rate for 2016 is below 60%,” said Davis. “Last I checked, it was like 52%. The solve rate for 2019, after JAVA came to be in 2018 is over 80%, the solve rate in 2020 is close to 90% and 2021 is panning out to be the same. I would never say that JAVA is 100% responsible for that. But there’s some things happening in our community, while Java is out here watching.”
Their third anniversary comes just days before the National Day of Remembrance for Homicide Victims. To mark the occasion, they joined other friends and family of victims to tie red and black ribbons down Clinton Street, near Headwaters Park. As the group sees those trees, some with several ribbons tied around them, they are reminded that there is still more that needs to be done.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Davis. “It really is heartbreaking that there’s that many families and that doesn’t even represent a quarter of the families in this community that are hurting and affected by homicide and, and drug-induced homicide, and fentanyl poisoning. So when I look down Clinton, I tried to extrapolate that across our community, and to me it equates to thousands; hounds of people in our community that are hurting and devastated due to homicide.”
That devastation is part of why JAVA believes their work to support families as they greive is so important.
“We all have sadness and grief in our lives, but the type of grief that occurs when you lose somebody, a child, sibling, cousin, close family member, close friend, close neighbor, the grief that a person endures with that kind of a loss is nothing to any of us can ever prepare for,” said Nicole Gaunt, a member of JAVA leadership.
As they continue to work on assisting families the group is also looking to expand their scope. In the works for the coming months, JAVA is also hoping to shed light on what people face behind bars.
“One of the things that we’re going to be expanding is is the jail and prison and justices because even me, with my son being murdered, I don’t they believe that his killer should be treated like an animal in prison,” Davis said. “I believe that he needs to be in prison, but I don’t believe that he needs to be treated like an animal in prison.”
“And along with that would be those that suffer mental illness that stems into addiction,” added Theresa Juillerat, a member of JAVA leadership. “Jail is not the answer for those individuals. There’s a lot of folks in the jail that have to go through withdraws and that can be very dangerous for them. So we want to just highlight and spread awareness there too.”