- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

GREENWICH, Conn. (AP) - Kimberly Peters lost her father to murder in Greenwich 21 years ago, and after the grief and devastation she went through, another ordeal followed: the criminal justice system.

“You’re dealing with a horrific death, a murder, and then you’re victimized again, going through the system with so little information, and the system is so confusing.

“It was a very difficult time,” said Peters, a former social worker for the town of Greenwich.

With those painful memories in mind, and as a way to honor her father, Peters has organized a benefit to raise money for a statewide victims-rights group, Survivors of Homicide.

Of the criminal justice system, Peters said, “We had a phenomenal prosecutor, and we had resources. But it’s apparent that the system is in need of more victim advocates. We can’t take away the hurt or the loss or the shock, but we can help future victims.”

John E. “Jack” Peters was a successful advertising executive who was shot to death at his home on Ridgeview Avenue in 1993, while swimming in his pool on his 62nd birthday.

A mentally troubled family friend, Andrew Wilson, who had been making threats before the killing, turned himself in to town police and was later convicted of murder.

A retrial was ordered based on procedural grounds, and Wilson pleaded guilty.

He has served his sentence and is now free, Peters said. The town of Greenwich paid out a $4.5 million settlement to Peters’ late widow, Katrina, after she sued and claimed town police were negligent in not addressing Wilson’s repeated threats against her family.

Peters said the non-profit group benefiting from the fundraiser is “an organization that no one wants to belong to.”

The Survivors of Homicide, based in Wethersfield, runs support groups around the state. It encourages families to lobby for laws that take a hard line on prison sentencing, helps them prepare for sentencing statements and assists them in navigating the legal system.

People who lose a loved one to violent crime are in a unique position, said Jessica Pizzano, a representative of Survivors of Homicide.

“It’s not like any other loss,” she said, “The world becomes a scary place. And you can become overwhelmed in your grief. Or you can build a new life. Our goal is to show people that life can go on.”

She said volunteers who have lost loved ones to crime are valuable in offering advice and support. “They’re the experts,” she said.

The organization instructs also family members about the often complicated process of hearings, motions, trials and appeals that make up a murder case.

The organization was founded in 1983 by Connecticut parents Sharon and Gary Merton, whose daughter, Shari, was murdered.

While the state of Connecticut does offer the services of victim advocates, Peters believes the staff is over-burdened and stretched too thin for victims’ families.

“We can ease a little bit of that pain,” she said.

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