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Victims of crimes honored at annual event
A butterfly lands on Kaal Huggins’ shoulder at the Friday morning Victims’ Rights Week ceremony outside the Hall County Courthouse. Butterflies were released and a bell was rung in memory of crime victims in Hall.

For those working in the Hall County court system, some cases really can stick with them, especially those involving young victims.

That was true for Lindsay Burton, chief assistant district attorney. Her work on the 2011 murder case of 18-month-old Kaylee Kipp stayed with her day and night.

“There are some cases that you just don’t leave at the door when you walk out of the office, and this was one of those cases,” Burton told a crowd gathered Friday morning outside the courthouse.

The gathering was to honor victims of crimes as part of Victims’ Rights Week and was put on by the district attorney’s office and the victim witness program in the solicitor’s office.

Those gathered remembered victims like Kipp and Austin Sparks with a moment of silence, a song and a butterfly release. Sparks was 17 months old when he was found dead 15 years ago, with old and new injuries and suffering from malnutrition.

Solicitor General Stephanie Woodard said Sparks’ case spawned the Edmundson-Telford Center for Children, a resource that many counties don’t have.

“(Having this child advocacy center is) truly an indication of the commitment of our community to try and protect children,” Woodard said. “Obviously, 15 years later with the Kipp case, it still happens. We can’t totally prevent it, but with education ... as well as just awareness, we can help do something about it.”

Burton, along with Nicole Bailes of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office, were honored at the event for their work on the Kipp case. Bailes investigated the case while she was working with the Gainesville Police Department.

Deanna Kipp was found guilty of felony murder in the case in November and her boyfriend, Stephen West, was found guilty of malice and felony murder in August.

Woodard noted at the event that the court system was designed to protect defendants’ rights, but it wasn’t until more recently that victims were given rights, such as being allowed to be present in court and being told when a suspect is arrested and when he or she is released from custody.

Kaal Huggins, director of the victim witness program, said Friday’s event was a time to take a moment to think about victims of any crime and any age.

“That is our hope, to just let them know that we care and we’re there to help them through each stage of the process to heal,” Huggins said. “And it is a real challenge and it is a real gift to be able to do this because we meet people in all walks of life and all ages. And it is a hard job, and it is an emotional job, but we have to be there for them.”

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