Candlelight vigil honors crime victims

Attendees at a vigil to honor crime victims lit candles of support. (File photo from the 2019 event in Liberty, Texas)

By Vanesa Brashier,

The Liberty County District Attorney’s Office hosted a candlelight vigil on Thursday, April 11, to commemorate National Crime Victims’ Week, which was held April 7-13.

Around 100 or so participants, mostly made up of law enforcement officers, children’s advocates and child welfare workers, took part in the vigil led by District Attorney Logan Pickett at the Liberty Center inside Liberty City Hall.

Pickett explained that sometimes in his professional life he has to help people who are close to him in his personal life, like the family of Garrett Haidusek who died in a drunk-driving accident in May 2013. The 23-year-old Devers man who was driving Haidusek’s vehicle received a 10-year prison sentence for intoxication manslaughter in a jury trial in September 2014.

Pickett said the case was particularly challenging because of his friendship with the victim’s family.

“We are not robots where we can separate ourselves completely from the professional and the personal. I think it’s what makes police officers, prosecutors and advocates for children good at their jobs,” he said. “You provide the human element. The victims want to know you are with them, that your heart is invested with them, and your time, energy and heart are with them as they go on this horrible journey.”

Pickett then introduced Haidusek’s mom, Dana, who shared the heartbreaking story of the hours leading up to her son’s death.

“Never would I have thought our family would ever be the victim of something like this,” she said, her voice trembling as she cried.

Haidusek, 16, had gone to a friend’s house for a crawfish boil when she says he was bullied by a young man at the party into letting the man use his truck to go to a nearby store. She said her son would have been nervous about someone else taking the truck, so he and another friend went along. Along the way, the man crashed the vehicle and Haidusek was killed. His friend suffered critical injuries. The driver was attempting to flee the scene when he was taken into custody by an off-duty peace officer who happened by the crash scene.

Dana Haidusek wipes tears as she talks about the last day of her son Garrett’s life. He was killed in a 2013 drunk-driving crash in Devers.

Directly addressing a group of high school students who attended the candlelight vigil as members of the Liberty High School choir, Haidusek urged them to never drink and drive.

“There are too many people who will pick you up,” she said. “Since this happened, our whole life changed. We have a younger son who is a senior this year. He lost his brother. He lost his parents. Those people are gone. We are not the same people and it’s not fair to him.”

Moving on after such a loss is impossible, she said.

“I am here to tell you, you don’t move on. You go on because you have to and because you want to be there for your family, but you don’t move on,” Haidusek said.

The tragedy has not only impacted the Haidusek family but Garrett’s circle of friends.

“Some of the boys who were there that night, four of them are living next door to us now. They take care of us and we try to take care of them. They lost their friend that night, too,” she said.

She told the young teens at the vigil to not be afraid to incur their parents’ wrath if they have done something wrong or have been drinking and need a ride home.

“Your parents will forgive you a lot. A lot. I promise you I would rather argue with you the next morning than bury you. That’s the worst thing that can happen to a parent,” she said.

Liberty County Attorney Matthew Poston closed the ceremony with insight into a recent case involving sexual abuse of children.

“When I became county attorney a couple of years ago, I had somewhat hoped that I wouldn’t have to try any child sex assault cases, or at least my chances would go down. This week, on Monday to be exact, I started picking a jury for a child sex assault case,” Poston said. “I am reminded yet again of the effects and the frequency of violence, in this case sexual violence, on families.”

No person is insulated from such crimes, Poston added.

“It doesn’t matter what gender, race or social background you come from, you are at risk at some point,” he said.

Poston said he admires the courage crime victims show when they speak out against those who have wronged them.

“Take courage, as I have, in the strength of these victims to speak up. Take courage, as I have, in their ability to give voice to what has happened to them. Take courage, as I have, in their willingness and ability to overcome even when they don’t feel like it, even when they would rather the earth just swallow them up. Take courage as I have in their willingness and ability to survive another day,” he said. “I believe we owe it to them and each other to constantly remember what happened to them.”

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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