Family members remember Knoxville area murder victims at remembrance ceremony

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The families and friends of loved ones lost to violent crime gathered Thursday evening to honor their memories.

Every year a tree is set up at the City County Building in Downtown Knoxville, decorated with ornaments hung in honor of victims to violence, as part of the Hope for Victims Remembrance Ceremony.

“My world had changed dramatically, I had no idea how I was going to move forward, I made myself literally get up off of the couch,” said Lu Snellings the wife of Larry Snellings.

Snellings lost her husband Larry to a violent crime just three years ago. Larry was was working in a pawn shop in Clinton when a customer came in the store and shot him in the neck. Snellings says her husband was her best friend.

Lu Snellings
Lu Snellings

“He really doted over me, he made me feel like someone special, I had the love that I had always dreamed of and that I had always wanted and it was just taken away,” said Snellings.

This Saturday marks 10 years since Joan Berry’s daughter Johnia was murdered. She was stabbed multiple times in her West Knox County apartment. Even though years have passed, Joan still thinks about her daughter every day.

“She had a huge smile that would light up the room when she came in and she always found the good in everything,” said Berry. “She was always happy and she was very ambitious.”

Joan says its hard not having Johnia around, especially during the holidays.

“We talked every day. We just talked the night before she was murdered and it was about this time at Christmas,” said Berry. “Christmas is supposed to be about joy and happiness, but when you’ve lost a loved one to murder, Christmas can also be very painful.”

Joan Berry
Joan Berry

Both Berry and Snellings agree events like the Hope for Victims ceremony lift their spirits before Christmas.

“There maybe closure to one part but there’s never closure because there’s a hole in my heart that will never be filled,” said Berry.

“Now I’m at a point to where I can look back and laugh about things that he had done or things we did together, but I will always miss him,” said Snellings.

At the ceremony, each person gets to say their loved one’s name lost a violent crime and will hang an ornament on the Christmas tree.

Hope for Victims operates solely off of donations, but they are looking for a corporate sponsor.

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