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Candlelight vigil remembers, honors victims of crime

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Residents listen while Rebecca Miller, victim assistance coordinator for the Shelby County Prosecutor’s Office, reads the names of those family members who were victims of crime.
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Shelbyville police officer Travis Conway sings with his son, Jacob, during Sunday’s vigil.
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Alva Catt, right, shares a hug with his daughter, Jocelynn, while speaking at the 20th annual National Crime Victims’ Rights vigil on Sunday. To the left is Alva’s wife, Amanda.

By ROSS FLINT - rflint@shelbynews.com

On May 14, 2013, Alva and Amanda Catt’s lives changed forever.

It was on that day that they were involved in an accident in which an 18-year old male, who was high on marijuana and amphetamines, ran a stop sign, causing an accident.

Both Alva and Amanda Catt were severely injured – Amanda was lifelined to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for life-threatening injuries and Alva sustained multiple internal injuries. He said he lost his left kidney and spleen, most of his pancreas and part of his intestines among other serious injuries.

Alva Catt shared his family’s experiences of the aftermath of the accident during the 20th annual National Crime Victims’ Rights vigil inside the Shelby County Courthouse on Sunday.

“When something like this happens, you don’t ever fully recover,” he said. “You’re not whole. You’re not the person you was, and you won’t ever be.”

Shelby County Prosecuting Attorney Brad Landwerlen said to around 50 residents who attended the vigil that the crime rate in the county is down, although it did have a murder last year. Charges are pending against Derick A. Nigh, 27, of St. Paul, for the murder of Jennifer Farquer.

In the last 20 years, there have been nine murder cases, he said. That includes cases in which more than one person was charged with murder or attempted murder for the same case.

“This program, while it doesn’t make a victim whole, it does, I’ve been told, it helps along the path of healing,” he said. “It also sends a loud and clear message that No. 1, loved ones we have lost are not forgotten. And No. 2, that you refuse to let one bad person brand you for life as a victim. You’re so much more than a victim.”

The prosecutor’s office and Shelby County Jail staff have teamed up to combat the drug problem, he said. The Vivitrol program has been in place since 2017. Vivitrol is a drug that blocks the body from being able to absorb any of the “so-called good” effects, he said, meaning the user is unable to get high. He compared it to shooting water.

Officials have also started a jail intervention program in which offenders are allowed to undergo an intense treatment program starting at the jail and continuing during home detention.

The Catt family still continues to struggle with the aftermath of the accident.

Alva Catt has had more than 30 surgeries and was in the hospital for two months, 24 days over the span of three years. His relationships with his wife and children are no longer what they used to be.

“We were so close before the crash,” he said while his daughter, Jocelynn, held onto him. “Now, it’s like it’s driven a wedge between us. I mean we’re still close, but nothing like it was.”

The male who caused the accident, meanwhile, was arrested and initially charged with a low-level felony because Alva and Amanda survived the accident. He served a year of house arrest and a year of probation.

“The problem with that was to all the people around us, he did kill us,” he said. “We weren’t near the people we were before.”

The felony was later reduced to a misdemeanor because of his age and the fact he didn’t have a record before the accident.

Catt said the law needs to be changed to better reflect the gravity of the incident.

“I think something should be done according to the amount of grief and sorrow that someone causes,” he said. “The law should fit what happens. I’m not saying I want to take this kid’s life away. But the punishment should fit the crime.”