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Crime victims speak out at Capitol rally - abc27 WHTM

Crime victims speak out at Capitol rally

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

The mother of a York County man killed by a drunk driver.

The daughters of a Cumberland County woman murdered by an estranged boyfriend.

A district attorney who says too much attention is paid to the rights and needs of the criminals and not enough to the shattered lives they leave behind.

They came together for the 21st annual Crime Victims Rights Rally in the Capitol Rotunda. They came to remind lawmakers that victims and survivors are an important part of the criminal justice system and their needs should be met.

Hannah and Sarah Keefer addressed the crowd and spoke from the heart. Hannah, 14, is an eighth grader in New Cumberland who will attend Cedar Cliff High School next year. Sarah, 20, is a sophomore at Penn State Harrisburg.

But they were both students at Highland Elementary School in May 2005 when their mother Kim was shot and killed by an estranged boyfriend in the school's parking lot while waiting to pick them up.

The serenity and innocence of a suburban elementary school was rocked by the evil of domestic violence. It is an all-too-frequent scene across America.

Kim, 32, wasn't the only victim.

"We know how your life can change in an instant when someone decides to take a loved-one's life for no reason," Hannah said at the rally as she stood side-by-side at the podium with Sarah; two girls speaking with one voice.

"My mom can't stand here and explain what happened to her and to be her own voice," said Sarah. "We are left to do that. If we don't do it, there's nobody left to do it."

Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed lamented a system that too often overlooks victims.

"There's a whole segment of this system that are innocent victims, people put in the system through no fault of their own," Freed said. "We need to be sure that their rights are preserved and their needs are met."

Missy Sweitzer of York County lost her son Zac to a drunk driver on Thanksgiving morning 2008. She said she's become an active volunteer for Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Gift of Life Donor program. She does it, she says, to give voice to Zac and ensure that he's not forgotten.

"We could either be bitter or we could be better," Sweitzer said. "My husband and I and our family made the decision to be better."

They are not alone, and a look at the headlines would suggest the numbers of crime victims and their families are growing.

A murderer stopped Kim Keefer from speaking, but Sarah makes sure her message is still being delivered.

"I'm not willing to just let her (Kim) be forgotten over something she couldn't even control," she said.

Both Sarah and Hannah say speaking out, attending rallies and realizing they're not alone has helped them transform from victims to survivors.

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