National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

Remarks of:

Ventura County District Attorney
Gregory D. Totten

National Crime Victims’ Rights Week

April 24, 2013

National Crime Victims’ Week is a time to remember the countless lives that have been lost or forever altered by crime in this country.

In the nine days following the Boston Marathon bombing, it has been virtually impossible to open a newspaper or watch television and not see the very real impact this horrific crime had on its victims and their loved ones. Even as public attention turns from the vivid images of victims and crime scenes to the apprehension and impending prosecution of one of the perpetrators, thankfully the media continues to run stories about the victims.

Inevitably, this period of national mourning will end, and so too the accounts of the bombing and stories of the victims and survivors, and as time marches on, this human tragedy will slowly fade from the public consciousness. Yet those who are left behind carry with them the wounds and sense of loss that crime wreaks on the innocent. Like the countless crime victims that came before them, they will return to work and school and the routines of life forever changed, and many will struggle under the weight of this immense burden.

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So, as we observe the 33rd Annual National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, our hearts, our thoughts, and our prayers go out to the victims in Boston and across the nation, their families and their friends.

Here in Ventura County, nearly 6,000 crime victims came to the Hall of Justice last year seeking help, restoration and most importantly — justice. Statistics of course never tell the real personal stories. And so today I want to tell you about one these victims, Diane Cox, this year’s recipient of the Ellie Liston Hero Award.

Our Crime Victims’ Assistance Program bears the name of Ellie Liston, an extraordinary human being whose career with the District Attorney’s Office began in 1979. For 20 years, Ellie was a leader in the movement to treat victims with greater sensitivity and compassion. Whether seated on the floor talking to a child molest victim or comforting the parents of a murdered child, Ellie was unfailingly devoted to the victims she served. Ellie retired from the District Attorney’s Office in 1999 and lost a courageous battle with cancer in 2000.

In recognition of her exceptional work on behalf of victims, the District Attorney’s Office created the Ellie Liston Hero Award to honor individuals who have acted selflessly to come to the aid of a victim of a crime, to prevent a crime from occurring, or to help capture a suspect.

On August 12, 2007, Calvin Sharp grabbed a meat cleaver and chased down, attacked, and brutally killed a 6-year-old boy, Sev’n Molina. When Sev’n’s mother, Sandra Ruiz, tried to stop the attack, Sharp viciously attacked her as well, causing major life-long injuries. The attack occurred in the courtyard area of an apartment complex and was witnessed by a number of neighbors who were simply too frightened to intervene.

Fortunately, one of those neighbors knocked on Diane Cox’s door, telling her “a man is attacking a woman and no one is helping her.”

Upon hearing this plea, Ms. Cox immediately took off running toward the attacker while yelling, “get off of her.” Upon reaching their location, she literally flung herself at Sharp, effectively pushing him off Sandra and tackling him to the ground. In an instant, Sharp retaliated violently swinging the meat cleaver at Ms. Cox striking her in the face, fracturing her cheekbone and producing a three-inch gash. Despite the gravity of her injury, Ms. Cox had the presence of mind to grab Sharp’s hand and pin his wrist to the ground and then with the help of another neighbor held Sharp until the police arrived.

And then began a five-year odyssey that would include hospitalization, extensive medical treatment, numerous law enforcement interviews, testimony and years of subpoenas and delays that always seemed to overshadow the normal comings and goings of life.

But in the end her courage and persistence undoubtedly saved the life of Sandra Ruiz and helped ensure that Calvin Sharp was punished for this terrible crime. Late last year, he was sentenced to Life in Prison without the Possibility of Parole. And for that reason, we are pleased to honor Diane Cox with the Ellie Liston Hero Award. Unfortunately, she was unable to be here today and asked that I present the award later to her in a private setting.

It is now my pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, Manuel Vega. “Manny” as he is known to his friends is a tough guy, a Marine decorated for saving the lives of other soldiers, a retired veteran police officer and detective and … a victim of child abuse at the hand of a trusted priest. Manny Vega is both a crusader and compassionate advocate for other victims, a warrior, and living proof that crime victims can profoundly change the face of justice and protect others from suffering the unspeakable. Please join me in welcoming Manny Vega.