Families united in tragedy.
People who lost loved ones to crime gathered for a candlelight vigil in Punta Gorda Friday evening.
“It was like watching a movie, because you’re watching TV and there’s helicopters and there are white sheets, it’s like, that’s us? That’s our family out there,” said Connie Ankney.
Her son Greg, his wife Kimberly and their daughter Maranda never made it home for dinner.
“They went fishing and no one could ever find them. No phone calls. They were found at noon the next day, brutally, brutally murdered,” said Ankney.
Somehow, her granddaughter survived.
“She was out there for 24 hours, all by herself,” she said. “The truck doors were open and her dead parents were there.”
In 1997, Ankney says there wasn’t much help available to cope with loved ones suddenly gone because of a crime.
“You see all [the] people around you. They’re living and they’re happy and you look back at yourself and you think, I use to be like that,” she said.
Her grief stretched further by a long walk through the justice system. Her son’s killer: still on death row.
“Every time he has an appeal. They put in all the paperwork and it just brings it all back up like it was the same day,” she said.
Eventually, Ankney found Parents of Murdered Children Southwest Florida.
“They understand your pain,” she said. “They understand your anger, they don’t judge.”
They support, giving survivors of homicide victims counseling.
“She would have been a wonderful mother, had she lived,” said Ankney.
And space to keep their loved ones’ spirit alive.
“Don’t isolate yourself, because they wouldn’t want you to suffer like that. I’ve always been a fighter, so I’ve got to fight for my kids, whether they’re living or dying,” she said.