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Parole board visits Hall to hear stories from these and other victims
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Ashley Corwin, left, speaks with her adopted daughter, Violet Corwin, during the State Board of Pardons and Paroles at a Victims Visitors' Day on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville. - photo by Scott Rogers

Ashley Corwin knew Violet would have many questions ahead of her following an assault and a 2016 sentence of life in prison plus 20 years for the defendant.

Would she get her childhood back? Would she ever trust anyone again?

Corwin, a Hall County Sheriff’s Office investigator, adopted Violet in March.

“All of these questions are really hard to answer, but the one thing I do know is that the village of people that have surrounded her since then love her with all their heart,” Corwin said. “That’s for sure, and she knows that, too … We are going to do our very best to make sure she has the support that she needs and the tools that she needs for success.”

She and Violet, who is set to graduate high school this year, spoke at the Victims Visitors’ Day held Tuesday, Oct. 23, by the Northeastern Judicial Circuit Victim-Witness Assistance Program.

“Girl, you’re like the tallest tree growing up in a forest,” Hall County Chief Assistant District Attorney Wanda Vance said. “Honey, you’re amazing, and you’re going to be unbreakable. And it’s a huge privilege for me to know you and to know your mom, Ashley.”

Victims were allowed to meet with and make statements to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles at the event at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville.

Victim impact statements are part of the record considered by parole board members when deciding an offender’s potential parole.

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Terry Barnard, chairman of the State Board of Pardons and Paroles, speaks during the board's 30th Victims Visitors' Day on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville. It is the first time the event was conducted in Hall County. - photo by Scott Rogers

It was the first time the event was held in Hall County. It’s been held 30 times around the state since 2006.

Two members of the board, David Herring and James Mills, are from Hall County. All five members were in attendance Tuesday.

The board met with more than 135 crime victims and added information to 79 case files.

“It is the goal of the parole board to leave no victim in the dark, but to include the victims in every consideration where a victim wants to be considered,” said board chairman Terry Barnard.

Another story presented was that of Lisa Chester, who spoke about a recent court experience involving her son, who endured a sexual assault.

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Lisa Chester speaks during the State Board of Pardons and Paroles Victims Visitors' Day on Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, at Lakewood Baptist Church. The event is the Parole Board's 30th Victims Visitors' Day since 2006 and the first conducted in Hall County. - photo by Scott Rogers

She said she could feel in her son’s voice that something was wrong.

“I just remember this day being like the worst day of my life. It’s a phone call that you never, ever want to get from your child,” Chester said.

When the case headed to trial, the defendant was acquitted on most of the charges but convicted on misdemeanor sexual battery. Chester was forwarded a letter from a juror, who wrote that members of the jury had reservations about a conviction and feared making a mistake.

“I’m just going to continue to fight for my son, and I’m not going to give up,” Chester said.

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