Victims' Families Speak Out - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/07/03 - Tyler

Victims' Families Speak Out

   Three strangers who lost their loved ones in violent crimes shared their stories with detectives, attorneys and victim advocates Tuesday.

   It was all part of the annual Northeast Texas Crime Victims Rights Conference in Tyler -- now in its third day. The U.S. Attorney's office and the Smith County District Attorney's office organized the week long event.

   Janet Holley of Plano said it was her first time to speak in front of victim advocates and authorities. When her sister, Sandy Dial, was murdered in Hunt County several years ago, Holley remembers having nowhere to turn and no advocates out there to help.

   "This is certainly rewarding," she said. "I certainly feel (we're) going directly to the source, (we're) going directly to the people who actually deal with the victims, and I hope anything I've said or done will help."

   Despite authorities giving up on the case, Holley believed two people who knew Sandy killed her and tried to collect her life insurance. Holley came up with the paperwork to prove her case and took it to a grand jury. Through research, she learned a forgotten Texas law grants citizens the right to ask for an indictment. Holley did, and she won.

   The tears kept pouring in the audience when Verna Bowman of Palestine and Kevin Cobb of Smith County took to the podium.

   Bowman's granddaughter, Nikki Michelle Curtis, was killed by her biological father a year ago. 36-year old Robert Roberson took over as Nikki's sole guardian after his release from prison. Months later, the baby showed up in an emergency room with severe head trauma. Roberson was convicted on capital murder charges two months ago and sentenced to death.

   Kevin Cobb also recalls the pain of losing a loved one. He remembers his first thought after learning his parents Frank and Bertha Cobb were shot and murdered at home. The killer set their house on fire to destroy the evidence.

   "Sadly, enough I can tell you the first thing I felt was shame," recalls Kevin. "I wasn't there to help my mother and father."

   Kevin and other loved ones said they showed up Tuesday, hoping they could help and thank the people who deal with violent crimes everyday.

   "When they searched through my parents home and found my parents that had to be very difficult for them," says Cobb. "And I feel for them just as a human being."

   Kerri Panchuk, reporting.

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