POMC shares opinion of death penalty

By Rachael Renz
October 29, 2009

Five people stood behind a podium in Cabrini’s Mansion on Wednesday, Oct. 21 and shared their stories. Each of their experiences was different, but each was the same. These five people were parents of murdered children.

“Parents of Murdered Children” is an organization that helps families and friends of those who have died by violence. Barbara DiMario founded the Delaware County Chapter in 1993 after her daughter, Hope DiMario Popoleo, was murdered. The group of parents was asked to speak in the third seminar of a four-part lecture series focusing on the death penalty.

“I think the justice system is unfair and manipulative of its power. But, I believe that every person has a worth and that the death penalty is an issue of humanity,” Megan Wickenheiser, senior criminology and sociology major, said.

The series presented prosecutors and parents of murdered children, and on Nov. 4, a man who was on death row will be speaking.

Tom McPhee, Cabrini Public Safety Officer and member of the POMC, spoke alongside his wife, Jane McPhee and four other parents about his experience and loss.

“My daughter, Stephanie, was murdered on Sept. 10, 2001. It took five years for her case to go to trial and the murderer received two 15-year sentences. I believe that if you can take my daughter’s life then you deserve the death penalty and, to be frank, the justice system concerning my daughter sucked,” McPhee said.

Sharon Conroy, member of POMC, fought back tears as she told her story. Ever since Sharon turned on the news and learned that her son, Sean, was murdered she has been dealing with an ongoing battle with the justice system. On March 28, 2008, Sean was on his way back to Starbucks, where he worked, when he was attacked.

“The justice system for my son’s case was unsettling. People in the courtroom were laughing and the judge was rolling around in his chair, poppin’ peanuts in the air and catching them in his mouth. I guess he had somewhere to be,” Conroy said.

“My daughter, Chrissy, was 22 years old when she was stabbed 22 times. She was brutally murdered, but I didn’t want the death penalty for her attacker. I didn’t want another death associated with my daughter’s name,” Kay Meng, member of POMC, said.

The POMC owns the 40 Living Memorial Gardens, where each family can own a garden in memory of their loved one. Barbara DiMario was given 3.5 acres of land to commemorate people who have had their lives taken from them.

“Tom picked his garden and it helped immediately. He was very angry. In my book we did him good,” DiMario said.

Dr. William Geary, criminology professor and adviser to Alpha Psi Sigma, attended the seminar and was deeply moved by the parents.

“It impacted me as a parent and I think about something like this happening a lot since I worked for a police agency. My experience forces me to think. I think this was a phenomenal experience, and I appreciate that each parent was very open and honest with us. I feel as though it helps both of them to tell their stories and us to be educated,” Geary said.

Each of the five parents had their own story to tell and their own heartbreak to share. Grieving is a process that includes shock, sadness and anger, but for no one includes closure.

“The press throws around the word ‘closure,’ but there is no such thing. My daughter’s birthday still comes every year and so does Christmas and Easter and there is still the empty seat at the table,” Meng said.

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Rachael Renz

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