Schenectady County

Families remember victims of homicide at Schenectady ceremony

It was important for Christine Rainey to attend Wednesday’s ceremony honoring homicide victims.

It was important for Christine Rainey to attend Wednesday’s ceremony honoring homicide victims.

Rainey was the mother of Hassan Rainey, the man gunned down last September at Craig Street and Duane Avenue. She attended with Hassan’s father and his two sons.

“We’ll be here to remember Hassan until we can’t remember anymore,” she said. “I loved him in life and I still love him in death.”

And with the help of a group that grows every year, Hassan and others killed through violence will be remembered.

They were remembered and honored at the annual Ceremony of Remembrance of Homicide Victims, held during National Crime Victims Week. The ceremony was held in Central Park’s Rose Garden, where many of the bushes are dedicated to homicide victims.

Rainey’s name was among the latest added to the list, which grew from 162 last year. Also added was Mary Jeoney, an Albany mother killed in Schenectady in January; her former boyfriend stands accused.

Expected to be added next year are the names of Schenectady resident Denise Hart, whose body was discovered earlier this month in Menands, and 27-year-old Anthony Brown, killed just Tuesday.

But there were too many names, even without Hart and Brown.

City Court Judge Vincent Versaci, who led Wednesday’s ceremonies, noted that 12 years earlier the list was read quickly.

Now it takes nearly six minutes to get through.

“It’s exhausting to do that,” Versaci said. “That’s very much intentional. It gives you the feeling of the overwhelming loss.”

Along with the names, family and friends were invited to address the crowd about their loved ones and the impact their deaths had. Several shared personal stories.

Michael Carey spoke on behalf of his son Jonathan. The 13-year-old autistic boy died at the hands of his state caretakers in February 2007. The family has made a personal goal of reforms in the state mental health system.

There was also Stephen Downey, whose daughter Hillary and grandson Romello Taylor were killed in January 2006 at the hands of a man with a lengthy misdemeanor record. Family members have helped lead the fight for repeat misdemeanor offender laws.

Downey talked about his surviving granddaughter, Alyssa, for whom he now has responsibility. She was 5 when her mother died.

“I tell Alyssa every day that I’m the luckiest grampy in the world because I have her,” Downey said, to which he said she sometimes responds “Grandpa, you’re not the lucky, your daughter died.”

“Having Alyssa keeps me going every day,” he said. “She’s really special.”

Martha Lasher Warner, whose daughter Liza was killed in 2004, told of her daughter’s Christmas cactus.

The cactus had been Liza’s, and it was blooming when she was killed. That’s when Martha took over care of the plant.

It didn’t bloom again until this past weekend.

“It gave me happy tears,” Warner said, referencing a song sung at the event by local group 2096. “I cried because I was so happy. I believe it was a sign from my daughter, knowing she was with me, especially this week.”

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