- Associated Press - Friday, November 24, 2017

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Leslie Vetaw couldn’t sleep late one night in September, a little over a month after her son, Kenneth Leray Vetaw, was shot and killed.

“I’ve had so many sleepless nights,” she said.

Vetaw’s pent-up restlessness got her thinking about how to do something for herself and other family members of homicide victims. Soon afterward, she created MOMS - Mothers of Murdered Sons.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that four women lead the group, including Angela Lee, whose son, Justice Mitchell, 18, was killed in June. Three people have been arrested and charged in connection with his death.

Theresa Wynne’s son, Dominique White, was shot and killed by two Topeka police officers in September. Her family has been fighting to view police body camera footage of the incident. The Lawrence Police Department is investigating.

In July 2011, Shanta Trice’s father-in-law, James Trice, was found stabbed to death. His slaying remains unsolved, as does that of Kenneth Vetaw.

Members of the support group understand what the others are going through and help each other work through their grief.

“It’s been a good thing, because we talk all the time,” Leslie Vetaw said.

Some of the communication is conducted through a Facebook group where relatives of homicide victims and members of the community have been able to connect. Posts often contain words of encouragement or updates on local homicide investigations and cases.

Vetaw said she is frustrated and disappointed with how the Topeka Police Department has handled her son’s case. She said it has been difficult to get in touch with officers involved in the investigation.

“I have no confidence in TPD,” Vetaw said.

Since she noticed a social media post with information that could be related to her son’s death, Vetaw has sought answers on her own, she said.

In addition to her father-in-law, Shanta Trice has lost two other loved ones to violent crime.

“I have been able to contribute (to MOMS) because I show I am a survivor of murder and you can turn the bitterness into positivity and make a change in your own community,” she said.

She said she thinks that mothers and women are in a position to “turn the negativity around.”

“Justice needs to be served, and I think mothers can be the key to it happening in our community,” Trice said.

In the future, Vetaw said, she hopes MOMS gets involved with youth outreach and mentoring programs that work to prevent violence. The group may also organize rallies to bring awareness to issues like local violence and unsolved homicides.

“We’re a peaceful group seeking justice,” she said.


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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