GAINESVILLE - The case of two young Buford brothers killed in a boating collision in June 2012 was the focal point of this year's National Crime Victim's Rights Week commemoration in Gainesville.
A ceremony was held in Kenyon Plaza at 11 a.m. Tuesday to honor all crime victims, but the Hall County District Attorney's office and the Hall County Solicitor's office choice this year to focus on child victims, specifically Jake and Griffin Prince. The two brothers were killed the night of June 18, 2012 when the family's pontoon boat was struck by a drunk boater.
Amber Sowers, the Chief Assistant Solicitor for Hall County, was honored for her work on the case. She said after the ceremony she'll never forget working with the Prince family.
"Especially in dealing with Ryan, their oldest brother, who's now an only child," said Sowers. "I wish the very best for that family and hope that they can find peace in what I'm sure was a disappointing verdict."
The man accused in the case - Paul Bennett of Cumming - was sentenced to 30 months in jail on a drunk boating conviction. (See story linked below.
Also honored at the Tuesday morning ceremony was Department of Natural Resources Ranger Mark Stephens. Stephens was on the scene as the bodies of the two brothers were recovered. The search for Griffin Prince lasted for nine days before his body was recovered from the waters of Lake Lanier.
"June 18 won't ever be the same again for me," said Stephens.
Hall County Solicitor Stephanie Woodard applauded both Stephens and Sowers for their work on the case. She said while the ceremony was meant to honor their work, it also served another purpose.
"Part of this is recognizing folks who've done admirable work and part of it is public education, so that we can take [information] to our own families, our own sphere of influence to protect our children, our elderly, our disabled and each other," said Woodard.
In fact, Woodard said she's already thinking about next year's ceremony.
"We've had an increase in crimes against the elderly here - seniors are often prime [targets] for financial abuse," she said. And, Woodward said there's also the possibility of bringing attention to disabled adults who are often victims of crime.
National Crime Victims' Rights Week is April 6-12, 2014. A number of agencies across the region have commemorated the week with various activities and ceremonies.