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Georgia agency helps compensate crime victims

Victims of crime a resource that can help defray their expenses

Kevin Tilley, a son of murder victim Raymond Tilley, holds a picture of his father. Kevin Tilley and his family were under great financial strain during the five months his father lived following a severe beating, but received some monetary assistance from the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program. (Staff photo)

Kevin Tilley, a son of murder victim Raymond Tilley, holds a picture of his father. Kevin Tilley and his family were under great financial strain during the five months his father lived following a severe beating, but received some monetary assistance from the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program. (Staff photo)

ALBANY — Raymond C. Tilley had just arrived at his job as an “opener” for Dinner Bell Catering on Clark Avenue — a part-time job the 68-year-old father and grandfather had done for more than 20 years — when everything changed for him and his family. Tilley was found unconscious by a Dinner Bell employee around 4:30 a.m., savagely beaten with what investigators would later call “a hard object, such as a pipe or pole.”

That was on Aug. 12, and Tilley clung stubbornly to life for almost five months, passing away on Jan. 2. Andrew Jamal Gadson, age 19 at the time, was arrested in connection with the incident and charged with aggravated assault, aggravated battery, parole violation, robbery and possession of a tool during the commission of a robbery. Since Tilley’s death, a charge of felony murder has been added by the Dougherty County grand jury.

That Tilley was a victim of a vicious attack is obvious, but others were affected and continue to suffer, especially Tilley’s wife, Mary Helen; his sons, Kevin and Ray, and their wives and children. In addition to the long-term emotional pall, there’s been a huge financial burden for the surviving victims.

Tilley’s income from his job at Dinner Bell, and from his full-time job as an electrician, disappeared after the incident, said Kevin Tilley, an Albany resident.

“It was a real financial burden,” Kevin Tilley said. “Medicare helps but it doesn’t pay for everyday living. Unless you’re faced with this type of situations, you can’t know what to expect.”

Compounding the increased financial demands was the time taken from his own work as a IT engineer at NCR corporation, Kevin Tilley said, to be with his father, and to take an active part in Gadson’s legal process.

To his surprise and relief, Kevin Tilley and other family members found some assistance in the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program, which offers financial support to innocent victims of violent crimes. The program also encourages greater victim participation in the criminal justice process. Crimes covered under the CVCP include homicide, sexual assault, commercial sexual exploitation of minors, domestic violence, assault/battery, vehicular homicide and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

CVCP officials say that qualified victims are eligible to receive up to $15,000 for medical/dental expenses, $3,000 for counseling, $10,000 for economic support, $3,000 for funeral expenses and $1,500 for crime scene clean-up. The maximum amount of money any one victim can receive is $25,000, officials say.

“That doesn’t really touch the actual expenses,” Kevin Tilley said, “but this is a great program, and I’m grateful for what they do.”

When he was told about the compensation program, Kevin Tilley went to the courthouse and filled out the necessary papers, he said. He and his family have already received around $15,000 from the CVCP and expect to receive the maximum $25,000, he said.

Jacqueline Bunn, executive director of the Criminal Justice Council, umbrella organization for the CVCP, said the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program came into existence with the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). Every state maintains similar victim compensation programs and receives some funding from VOCA grants, Bunn said, and the Georgia fund also benefits from a portion of parole fees, probation fees and DUI fines.

“We’re here to serve the victims,” Bunn said. “Over the years, the victims’ voice has gotten lost. We help to see their needs are not overlooked and they have an opportunity to be heard.”

According to Bunn, those voices should extend to the courtroom as well, with the formerly “silent” victims taking an active part in the legal process of the accused.

“We’ll be more successful in our prosecutions if we have the assistance of the victims,” Bunn said.

She needn’t tell Kevin Tilley that. He’s been a fixture at every courtroom event concerning his father’s accused killer “since day one,” he says. He’s angry for the loss of his father and for his loss in time and money, he says. Yet through it all he manages to keep himself composed.

“I still have a family, so I have to think about them,” Kevin Tilley said, “I can’t just come in here ranting and raving every day, being mad, because that’s just going to split my family up. I don’t want that to happen.”

Tilley is an advocate of the death penalty for convicted killers, he says, though he doesn’t think that would happen in Gadson’s case even if there’s a conviction. In light of the suffering his family and other victims have endured, he favors putting convicted criminals to work to pay back something to those victims.

“Put them out on the road and let them pick up paper,” Kevin Tilley said. “Bring the chain gang back. All they do sit in a building. Put them to work and let them pay for something.”

On Monday, the opening day of National Victims Rights Week, Kevin Tilley plans to attend a special ceremony in Forsyth. The event, sponsored by CVCP in collaboration with the Multi-State Agency Victim Services Partnership, will honor past crime victims and provide participants an opportunity meet with Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program staff and other partnership agencies, Kevin Tilley said.

For more information on the the Georgia Crime Victims Compensation Program, contact Gana Ahn at (404) 367-2759 or gahn@golinharris.com