Candlelight Ceremony Remembers Victims of Domestic Violence

DECATUR – The death of a child is almost too much to bear.

So more than 100 people gathered Thursday evening at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church to mourn 5-month-old Amarrius De’Shawn Rice, pronounced dead Sept. 18 from blunt-force trauma to his head and torso, and support his family.

His mother, 17-year-old Savannah Pickett, was charged Monday with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with his death.

Sobs were audible in the sanctuary as Vivian Reed, legal advocate supervisor at Dove Inc.’s domestic violence shelter, lit a candle in the baby’s memory.

“We express our deepest condolences to all the family members who are here this evening,” Teri Ducy, program director, said from the lectern.

Decatur’s annual candlelight service, also sponsored by the Growing Strong Sexual Assault Center and the Macon County Child Advocacy Center, is a time to remember the victims of domestic violence during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Yet it is also a time to celebrate the survivors and the people who work to put an end to domestic violence.

Ducy recognized Jean Harris for bringing snacks, decorations and other donations to the shelter and Brush College Animal Hospital for boarding pets belonging to families at the shelter. Also receiving awards were Associate Circuit Court Judge Thomas Little, attorney James Jankowicz and Decatur police officer Craig Lundy.

Sue Simcox, who directed the domestic violence program after the shelter opened in 1980 and helped start the agency itself 10 years earlier, had the honor of lighting a candle for Dove’s 40th anniversary.

Also new this year was a candlelight walk after the service to the Dove Inc./Anna B. Millikin Home, for refreshments.

Savannah Pickett’s mother, Betty Pickett, was among the participants. So were her 13-year-old son, 11-year-old daughter, her father and one of the baby’s aunts on his father’s side.

“This was beautiful, much more than I expected,” she said as she struggled to hold back tears. “I thank the people who came.”