JACKSON — A Christmas tree in a Mississippi government building has been decorated to honor crime victims.
Attorney General Jim Hood and Gov. Phil Bryant spoke to more than 100 people Tuesday at a tree-lighting ceremony in the Gartin building, near the state Capitol in Jackson.
“My prayer is God will help heal you during this Christmas season and get you through it, and that you can help others in your family,” Hood said.
Bryant recalled his aunt, Shirley Roberts, who was killed in 1981 while working in a convenience store.
“It never seemed to really make any sense at all. Why her?” Bryant said. “We don’t understand exactly why evil at that level exists, but it does.”
The tree holds more than 600 ornaments with photos of crime victims. Some of the people were shot to death. Others were killed in different ways.
Lisa Donegan’s 21-year-old son, Tray Williams, was on his way home from work in July 2014 when he was killed by a hit-and-run driver in northern Mississippi’s Pontotoc County. Several ornaments on the tree are honoring Williams’ memory.
“He loved to be the life of the party,” Donegan said of her son.
She said the man eventually charged in her son’s death served three years in prison and is out.
Donegan said she moved to Arlington, Texas, after her son died because she needed to leave the place that held painful memories. Her nearly 3-year-old granddaughter, Raylynn Ward, helped Hood push a button to turn on the Christmas tree lights. Raylynn — the daughter of Donegan’s daughter — never met her Uncle Tray but talks about him all the time, Donegan said.
“She came along at a time to heal all of us,” Donegan said as Raylynn joyfully pointed at the Christmas tree.