Every year for the past 23 years, Monterey County prosecutors have invited family members and friends of victims of crime to memorialize their loved ones during National Crime Victims' Rights Week. Every year, a ceremony capping the week of outreach and awareness and memorials ends with the release of doves.
A ceremony tomorrow, April 29, will include the customary release of doves, as well as invite participants to share the names of those they have lost to crime. Monica Vasquez and Humberto Pena, whose son was murdered in 2014, will give remarks.
Afterwards, there will be a more permanent way of symbolizing what the event is about: District Attorney Jeannine Pacioni will dedicate a new sculpture commissioned to honor victims of crime. The memorial sculpture has been installed outside of the Monterey County Superior Courthouse in Salinas, and will be unveiled during Friday's event.
The sculpture was designed by Hector A. Mendoza, an associate professor of sculpture and installation at CSU Monterey Bay. The County Board of Supervisors approved a $25,000 contract with Mendoza for the design, fabrication and installation of the memorial.
Mendoza worked with the Monterey County Victims of Violent Crimes Memorial Committee to settle on a design concept. The turquoise steel piece, about 8 feet tall and 2-and-a-half feet wide, features an image of a person releasing a dove—a representation of the same gesture participants use to memorialize victims annually at this event.
"This memorial is for the victims of crime in our community, providing support to family members, residents and visitors to the [courthouse] campus, where they can take a moment to reflect on the losses of those who were taken too early," according to a March 10 report the DA's Office to the Board of Supervisors.
Pamela Patterson, victim witness program manager for the DA's Office, says the idea originated with a wish to create something permanent that would extend beyond one week a year. Starting in June 2021, she set out to find ideas for memorials—some of her Google searches revealed a lot of big, costly concepts $1 million and up.
"We didn’t have that kind of money, nor did we want to take years to go out and fundraise," Patterson says.
She reached out to the Arts Council for Monterey County looking for ideas of local artists who may be able to work on a budget, and with an existing, lit space outside of the DA's office.
Patterson brought survivors into the fold to talk through design concepts and symbols that would provide the right mix of beauty and solemnity in honoring crime victims before they settled on the dove release image.
In her 42 years working with victims of crime and family members, Patterson says there's a lot that goes unsaid, and this memorial should provide a permanent way of acknowledging that. "They say, we can’t share the gory details, the viciousness of what people have done to [our] loved ones. Here, just this one hour, they feel that they are being recognized." Patterson's hope is that now, they will have a space to feel recognized all the time.
The ceremony takes place from 12-1pm on Friday, April 29; memorial sculpture dedication happens at 1pm. Outside of Monterey County Superior Court, 240 Church St., Salinas.