'Deep' time dulls pain as crime victims struggle to heal

rdymond@bradenton.comApril 24, 2013 

MANATEE -- Geologists speak of deep time, the millions of years it takes for forces deep within the Earth to create new landscapes.

But there's also deep time for humans, which is the time it takes to dull the sharp pain family members feel when they lose a loved one to a violent crime.

Although time can ease the pain, it's never completely gone, said Joan Brier , grandmother of teenager James Brier , who died 12 years ago following a fight with a fellow Manatee High School student.

"The passage of time helps you get through it, but not over it," Joan Brier said Tuesday as she and her husband, Ed Brier, held candles for James during the Manatee Victim's Rights Council's 27th Annual Candle

light Vigil in front of the Historic Manatee County Courthouse.

James, who would be 28 June 7, was frozen in time at age 16 in the portrait Joan Brier held.

James' brothers, Matthew and Noah , were 3 and 4, respectively, when he died. Now, Matthew is 15 and Noah is 16, the age James was when he died.

"Noah looks so much like James now sometimes it takes my breath away," Joan Brier said.

Roughly 100 people were drawn to the courthouse on a lovely April night to compare stories and to honor loved ones who died by crime.

As they have done several times over the past seven years, the family of Tamara Toy , whose body was allegedly buried somewhere in Manatee County by her boyfriend but has never been found, came from West Virginia to light candles for her.

Time made it a little easier, but the Toy family will never stop caring, they said.

"I miss her and I love her," said Brooke Toy, Tamara's 21-year-old daughter.

The Toy family is reaching out to residents for help finding Tamara's remains.

"I will not rest until I find her," said Tamara's sister, Andrea Poston .

Tips about Tamara Toy can be called to 1-866-634-8477.

Penny Hedrick , a Manatee County Sheriff's Office Victim's Advocate, told her own personal story of how her father's murder shaped her life when she was 17.

After her father, Loal Goatcher was murdered, she was questioned by the police for 30 minutes before being told he was dead.

The experience led her to want to help others in such tense situations.

Keynote speaker James Wischer , a detective with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office Crimes Against Children division, gave an account of his own battles living a decade with a stepfather who was a sexual predator.

He told the audience that, in his book, "The Boy Who Never Cried Wolf," he explains how victims can be whole again.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.

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