A large crowd gathered on the west side of the Livingston County Courthouse Thursday night in remembrance of Angela Newsom and other victims of domestic violence, in a "Purple Thursday" event.
Crowd members and program participants all donned purple attire, in observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which is October.
The body of Angela Newsom (a 36-year-old Chillicothe resident) was discovered within the burnt remains of a car off the road east of Cameron, Mo., on Nov. 5, 2010. She had been missing for three days prior. Her death was ruled a homicide by investigators, via a romantic friend, Shawn Griffith. Griffith claimed upon aprehension that he and Newsom had been in a argument, and that, in an attempt to retrieve his gun from her (which he had told her to go and get), it went off, killing her. Griffith was charged with second degree murder in the incident.
"Domestic violence affects each and every one of us, regardless of whether we acknowledge that or not," said Tawnya Jones of sponsor group Livingston County C2000 — the emcee for the event. "Tonight, we're here to remember Angela Newsom. I hope the message we can learn will make an impact on [each of you], so that we can go foward, and speak out against domestic violence."
"I want to thank all of the people who have been involved in this over the last few weeks," said Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney, who presented the Newsom children with a proclamation from the city, recognizing October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"You're here, and you're here for a special reason. You're here for Angela, and for all of those who have [suffered through] domestic violence. We dedicate this to you — to your family."
A moment of silence was observed for victims of domestic violence, before a prayer was given by Matt Cairns.
Rosina Harter sang a pair of spiritual songs, with crowd participation, including "Amazing Grace." She was accompanied by Liz Cunningham, on keyboard. Cunningham also spoke on domestic violence during the event.
Morgan Cairns, Newsom's goddaughter, spoke to the crowd regarding the impact both Newsom's life and death played upon her.
"When I was a small child, Angela was always there for me," she said. "I spent a large amount of my childhood with her."
Visibly shaken, Cairns was joined before the crowd by Newsom's children.
"It has been two years now, and it is still hard for me to grasp the fact that she's gone," Cairns said. "I didn't get 'goodbyes' — no one last hug, and no chance to tell her how much I loved her before she died. I wish she was here to see all the progress I've made, because I know she'd be happy, and be very proud."
Page 2 of 2 - Cairns then announced that she had chosen another godmother, a woman who had helped her through the tragedy of Angela's death — Billi Jo (Head) Mueller — to whom she presented a plaque she had given to Angela for Christmas two years ago. It reads: "A godmother is a blessing, each day of every year. She guides me in the spiritual path. To my heart, she is so dear."
Newsom's family members spoke next.
"She was," said Anna Newsom, "my mother. Angela was a mom to me when she didn't have to be. I just hope that with [my daughter] Harlie, I'm half the mom that she was."
"I told myself I wasn't going to cry," said the youngest, Rigdon Newsom. "Now that mom's gone, I don't have anything other than these two [sisters Anna and Addelyn]. As soon as this happened to me, they took me under their wing and taught me what I need to know, and I'm still learning. I took [her] for granted, and expected her to be back — same mom. That day, when we were all told [she died], I lost it."
"She went to work one morning, and I thought she was coming back," said Addelyn Newsom. "[That morning], she texted me, and told me to tell Rigdon to brush his teeth. Those were the last things I said to my mom. It's so hard without her."
Several community members shared their feelings on domestic violence following the Newsom family. All the while, atop a trailer in the background of the event, a group of persons painted with white faces, wearing all purple, slowly dwindled down, one by one, upon the peal of a bell every 15 minutes, until none were left standing. The significance of this exercise was revealed after the speeches, to be a reminder that every 15 minutes, a person is murdered by an act of domestic violence in this country.
The local Second Brigaders motorcycle group started their bikes, and revved to a blaring unisonned crescendo for an unspecified moment in time, to end the silence associated with domestic violence acts, before the event drew to a close.
"All I can say is that this crowd has been great," Jones said. "Let's start right here. We don't need to hurt each other any more."
Inside of the courthouse, participants signed a banner, showing their support for the cause of ending domestic violence. Canned and boxed food items were collected throughout the night, and were expected to be donated to the Livingston County Food Pantry on Friday morning, in Angela Newsom's name. Said Jones, the donations "filled the entire back seat" of her vehicle.
"She was a very wonderful person," Addelyn said. "Not only to our family, but to everyone else, even if she didn't know you."