Exemplary Witnesses to be Honored at Victims’ Rights Ceremony

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

WHO:             Virginia Beach Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office   


WHAT:           Crime Victims’ Rights Week Ceremony


WHEN:           Thursday, April 25, 2013, 7 p.m.


WHERE:         The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, 2200 Parks Avenue, Virginia Beach, VA 23451 


WHY:              To honor crime victims and the advocates of victims’ rights; to recognize the efforts of seven witnesses who made extraordinary efforts in the fight against crime  


BACKGROUND: Each year, communities throughout the nation honor victims of crimes through various events and ceremonies.  This year’s theme, “New Challenges, New Solutions,” reflects the increasingly complex mission of victim advocates today.  Organizations and programs such as the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office Victim-Witness Program must continue to find innovative ways to serve victims in need, whether it is emotionally, financially or otherwise.


Robert “Bobby” Mathieson, U.S. Marshal – Eastern District of Virginia, will serve as the ceremony’s guest speaker, following the presentation of the flags by the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office and remarks and reading of the proclamation by Mayor William D. Sessoms Jr. 


Seven exceptional witnesses will be honored for their contribution to the fight against crime.  These individuals are:

·         Detective Janine Hall—Without the efforts of Detective Hall, mother Julie Calahan would not have been brought from Arkansas to Virginia Beach to be held responsible for the death of her 11-month-old daughter and abuse of her 4-year-old son.  This case had previously been closed, and Detective Hall went to Arkansas twice to interview Julie Calahan.  Ultimately, Calahan confessed to the crimes.


·         Douglas Kennedy, Craig McMillan, and Michael Polhamus— These citizens chased down and apprehended Jordan Allen, who had just robbed a Best Buy while armed with a machete.  They detained Allen until the police arrived on scene. 


·         Rose Mary Thornton and Seth Biggs— Eleven-year-old Seth Biggs was at home babysitting his little sister when he heard people attempting to break into his home. He immediately called his mother, who worked nearby. The would-be burglars saw Seth through the window and ran from the scene. Both individuals were captured, arrested, and later convicted after testimony from Seth Biggs. 


Ms. Rose Mary Thornton, a senior citizen who lives across the street from the Biggs residence, noticed the two would-be burglars and knew that they did not live in the neighborhood. She watched them approach the Biggs home, look through the windows, and jump a privacy fence into the backyard. Ms. Thornton called the police to report what she had witnessed. Ms. Thornton also testified at multiple hearings, and brought Seth to court for one of the court dates because Seth’s mother had an appointment she could not reschedule.  Because of the fast and brave actions of these two witnesses, a burglary was thwarted and both suspects were quickly located and apprehended.  Biggs and Thornton are a prime example of citizens fighting crime from generation to generation.


·         May Tsai Hou— Ms. Hou was of tremendous help in a rape case in which the victim was a native of Taiwan.  Ms. Hou provided translation services, made calls to Taiwan to contact the victim, encouraged the victim to testify at a preliminary hearing, housed the victim temporarily, and finally drove to Washington D.C. to safely see the victim off to Taiwan.   


Other attendees of the ceremony include various City officials, members of the Parents of Murdered Children – Virginia Beach Chapter, and Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office staff.  Media and the public are welcome and encouraged to attend. Contact Macie Pridgen for further information.