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District Attorney holds gift-giving party for families of victims

December 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
They are the sometimes-forgotten victims of deadly crimes: the families and children left behind. Tuesday, the same prosecutors who put killers behind bars put holiday cheer into the lives of those children.

Samantha Diane tore into her gift-wrapped package and gushed over her gifts.

With Santa standing next to a Christmas tree, there is a sense of normalcy at this party, and that's the whole point.

"For many, the holiday season is a time to be together and to celebrate. But this time of the year can be very emotional for families who have lost a loved one to violent crime," said L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley.

The District Attorney's Office gave dozens of presents Tuesday to the families of five murder victims from the county. It was part of the D.A.'s holiday giving drive.

About 200 families received more than $20,000 in gift baskets, items donated primarily by the D.A.'s staff.

Denise Sawyers attended because her son, Andrew Williams, was murdered in Compton in 2009.

Andrew's three children were among those chosen to participate in Tuesday's celebration.

"They needed something kind of to boost them for Christmas," said Sawyers. "This is the part of the D.A.'s office that people really don't know about."

For the men and women who work alongside victims of violent crime as their cases make their way through the legal system, they said Tuesday was very much about the youngest victims

"Today, for the few moments that they were opening presents, they were children again," said prosecutor Teresa Magno.

Magno was the prosecutor that helped convict the men responsible for killing Andrew Williams.

"Things will never be the same for them again, but at least we were part of something that made them feel like children again, and you know what? They're kids. They should feel like children," said Magno.

The holiday giving drive is celebrating its 27th year, providing a moment of joy for families still coping with the aftermath of violent crime.

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