Robert Garcia will never forget the call he received on Sept. 13, 2011. His niece was on the other end, and he could hear his mother sobbing. And he just knew - his brother, Rogelio Garcia, was dead. After dealing with some marital problems, Rogelio was shot by his wife Brenda Garcia, in a murder-suicide at their Harlingen home. Brenda, who suffered from mental health issues, had been out on bond for shooting her sister in San Antonio earlier that year.
While the loss of any loved one is difficult, for those who have lost friends or family to a violent crime, the pain is especially poignant. Intertwined with grief is the shock of the person’s premature death, and the desire for them to receive justice. As Robert puts it, a “second victim” is left behind.
Having no local resources for support after his brother’s death, Robert was prompted to change that. Through research, he found the National Parents of Murdered Children organization and submitted a request to establish a chapter in the Valley. In 2014, the Rio Grande Valley Families & Friends of Murdered Children, Inc. officially became connected with the national group.
The nonprofit, whose board consists entirely of homicide survivors, aims to help and empower those mourning the death of their murdered loved one. They inform survivors of their rights in the criminal justice system and provide court assistance and, even, accompaniment. Members also hold a weekly support group to share their stories and discuss different topics. Whatever the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death, or the however far back it may have occurred, all survivors are welcome.
Since its founding, the RGV-FFMOC has reached 172 families, and for better or worse, the organization continues to grow. Community outreach events are planned throughout the year to raise awareness and provide a space for people to remember and memorialize the victims of these violent crimes. At their events, members usually wear shirts in their loved one’s favorite color, adorned with pictures and mementos. Their message is that of love, loss, hope and justice.
The RGV-FFMOC’s Walk for Crime Victims & Survivors will be their next community outreach event. It will kick off National Crime Victims’ Week on Sunday, April 2 from 2-7 p.m. at the Hidalgo County Courthouse. For more information about the walk or the RGV-FFMOC, call 956-566-2036.