August 1, 2014

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Vigil for victims of Lorain shooting draws attention to domestic violence

LORAIN — A young girl clings to her grandmother with tears in her eyes. Her brother looks on, likely too young to understand what happened to his parents.

Trina Smith, who’s left with the task of raising the children, told a small crowd Wednesday that she’ll make sure the memory of her daughter lives on through the children, ages 1 and 7.

“We have two children to raise, and they will never go a day without knowing their parents,” she said.

On Sunday, their mother, 29-year-old Halyna Whitney, was killed in what police say was a double-homicide and suicide. Police said Whitney’s estranged husband, Shone Whitney, shot Halyna and her boyfriend, William Everett Jr., 33, in the bedroom of the home. He then turned the gun on himself.

Friends and family members gathered at Oakwood Park for a candlelight vigil for Halyna Whitney and Everett on Wednesday night.

Bishop David Pratt, of the West 58th Street Church of God in Cleveland, the church Halyna Whitney attended as a child, led the ceremony.

“I wish I had words to tell you why this happened, but I don’t,” he said to the group as they held their lit candles.
Halyna Whitney’s father, Hal Smith, thanked the group for coming out to show support before he collapsed into tears.

“I know Halyna meant a lot to all of you,” he said.

Jennifer Novak, a friend of Whitney’s for 14 years, said she attended Rhodes High School in Cleveland with Whitney. She said Whitney was opinionated, well-liked and loved to dance and hang out with friends.

Novak laughed about “dress up parties” the two used to have, even after high school.

Whitney would come over bringing dresses and other outfits, and the two would try on clothes and take pictures together.

“It was kind of like a tradition,” she said, laughing.

Novak was somber while talking about Halyna Whitney’s relationship with her husband, whom she said Halyna Whitney met as a child. She said the two were “off and on” since age 12, but Shone Whitney was jealous and controlling.

She said, despite her advice, Halyna Whitney continued seeing him.

“During the good times, they were good,” she said. “She tried working things out with him too many times.”

Lorain police reports show that the couple had a volatile relationship. Shone Whitney had been violent with Halyna Whitney in the past, according to police, but Halyna refused to press charges, and she bailed him out of jail during his last arrest for domestic violence.

Geri Cahill-Miller, founder and president of the Purple Lotus Project, said women like Whitney are why she’s founded the organization to help victims of domestic violence.

Cahill-Miller, once a victim of domestic violence, helped to organize Wednesday’s vigil in the hopes of reaching out to others.

“Since Sunday, we worked together to save two lives. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to save this one. Halyna will always be an inspiration for us to save others,” she said.

In its infancy, the Purple Lotus Project provides education, transition and safety resources to men, women, children and their companion animals affected by domestic violence and abuse.

The group now offers court escorts for victims, support groups and a hotline for those affected by domestic violence. The organization is working to provide shelter to victims in the future.

“(Domestic violence) has got to stop, and it’s got to stop being a secret that we’re ashamed of,” Cahill-Miller said to the group Wednesday.

Trina Smith, who did not address her daughter’s relationship with Shone Whitney, said she appreciated the support she’s received from friends.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with all the love and kindness we’ve been shown,” she said. “I don’t wish this on anyone, and I pray that you don’t forget her and remember us in your prayers.”

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com.