A little girl riding her bike, smiling. A young lady calling her dad on the phone, chastising him for working too much, not eating right, not exercising.
That is how Les Gosule sees his daughter Melissa in his mind’s eye during the day.
But, as the sun sets, his thoughts turn dark. Tied to a tree in the woods of Halifax, stripped, raped and brutally stabbed; that is how 27-year-old Melissa Gosule died in the summer of 1999.
“When I am alone at night, when I am alone in the car or watching TV and my mind wanders I think about that time in the woods,” Gosule told the crowd gathered in the lobby of City Hall Monday night for the Merrimack Valley Chapter of the Parents of Murdered Children’s Annual Vigil for Victims’ Rights. “What did she feel? What cries, what emotion, what tragedy? What was in her mind?
“I wasn’t there to help,” he wailed. “My God! My God! What private holocaust did she live through in those woods in July 1999?”
What happened to his daughter never should have happened, Gosule said. The man who killed her had 27 prior offenses on his record; he should not have been out of the street, he said.
His love for his daughter, and his belief in her love for him, fueled Gosule’s 13 year battle to pass “Melissa’s Bill” in the Massachusetts Legislature, a measure that keeps dangerous repeat offenders behind bars without the possibility of parole. Gov. Deval Patrick signed it into law last August.
“I never thought it would take 13 years – it was a common sense bill – it should have taken two years,” Gosule said, adding too many lawmakers were more concerned with rehabilitating criminals and being politically correct than standing up for accountability and the rights of victims and families.
“Where are the rights of the victims? He asked. “Where are the rights of the families who stay up at night, lying in bed, crying on a pillow thinking of their daughter being brutally raped and murdered in the woods?
“We can’t stop all crime. But we can stop crime that has feet that we see coming at us again and again,” Gosule added. “That kind of crime we have an obligation to stop.”
Sen. Eileen Donoghue, who watched as Gosule sat, day after day, in the Senate balcony awaiting the vote on his bill, praised him for his perseverance and agreed that is should not have taken 13 years to pass a bill she characterized as a “no-brainer.”
“Victims have rights too and we need to make sure we protect the victims and their rights – not just the accused,” Donoghue said.
Monday’s event was the 4th annual Victim Rights’ vigil organized by Arnie and Alice Muscovitz of the Merrimack Valley Chapter of POMC, a club of which no one chooses to be a member, but one that provides a support system and strength to those faced with the never fading pain of losing a child to violence.
Arnie and Alice Muscovitz
Karen Muscovitz was 27-years-old when she was beaten and strangled on January 4, 2004 in her Melbourne, Florida apartment by her boyfriend’s mentally ill twin brother.
Joining the POMC Monday night in a candlelight walk from the Senior Center to City Hall, followed by an emotional speaking program were: Mayor Patrick Murphy; City Councilors John Leahy, Marty Lorrey and Rita Mercier; School Committee members Robert Gignac and Kim Scott; Sen. Eileen Donoghue; Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian; Lowell Police Department Deputy Superintendent Arthur Ryan Jr.; Mary Gail Martin from Rep Colleen Garry’s office; and victim rights’ advocate Laurie Myers of Community Voices and service dog Wena.
Wena, a service dog used to comfort victims and their families.
Alice Muscovitz hold a photo of her daughter Karen, who was murdered in 2004.
The walk was led by the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Honor Guard; the Lowell High School Choir sang “Instrument of Peace” and “Light a Candle” under the direction of Andre Descoteaux and saxophonist Paul Belley played the “Star Spangled Banner” and “Amazing Grace.”
It was a night of loss, pain, and remembrance, brightened by a glimmer of hope in the person of Natalie Barros.
Natalie, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at St. Michael’s School, did not get any presents for her birthday in January; she didn’t want any. Instead, she asked family and friends to help her raise funds to send Kaitlin Roig and her fiancé on a vacation to Disney World.
Ms. Roig, a first-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School, barricaded her class in a bathroom during the Dec. 14, 2012 massacre that left 20 student and 6 staff members dead.
Natalie, who wants to be a teacher when she grows up, heard about Ms. Roig’s heroic deeds and just wanted to do something to make her smile.
Natalie Barros and Sheriff Peter Koutoujian
Natalie was recognized Monday night with commendations from Koutoujian, Garry, Donoghue and Murphy.
“You keep going girl,” encouraged Koutoujian, who called Natalie a light in the darkness.
Koutoujian told the POMC members that their work in holding victim impact panels at the Billerica House of Correction does make a difference in the lives of prisoners preparing for re-entry into society, imparting them with some of the empathy they are lacking.
Many of the speakers touched upon the events surrounding last week’s Boston Marathon bombing, both the terror and the heroism. It was a week that highlighted the absolutely best and darkest of the evil in people.
“It has been a tough week, the anxiety, the pain the grief,” said Mayor Patrick Murphy “It has been a hard week that for most will slowly subside, but for others their lives have changed forever; many of you here know that better than most. You are not alone – we are here together.”
Muphy read from Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s “The Cure at Troy,” an adaptation of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes, which reads in part:
History says, Don’t hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.
So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.
“As Mayor, I hope and pray for peace in our hearts and on the streets,” Murphy concluded.