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Murder victims remembered
Mom: Community can make difference
DJ Vigil4
A volunteer puts a finishing touch on the display. - photo by By Daisy Pleasant Jones
Walthourville resident Christine Smith was devastated by the brutal murder of her son nine years ago, but urged residents Tuesday to raise awareness and prevent drugs from taking the lives of other young people.
During the annual candlelight vigil  hosted at Mount Olive Church in Walthourville, Smith said the community can “make a difference.”
Smith’s son, Claude Leo Moore, 22, Wilbert Mathis, 23, and four Miami residents, Robert Russell, 40, Anthony White, 21, Shanetria Strickland, 22, and Dellarees Curry, 25, were found shot and stabbed in an apartment on Cato Lane in Walthourville on Jan. 30, 1998.
Although the pain was great, just a week after the deaths, people in the community came together to talk about doing something to save the children.
“We decided we would have a vigil and come together as a community. We do this service in order to keep the memory alive, and also to keep our focus on the drug problem,” Smith  said. “Six people died in that house. These deaths were a negative thing in our community, but there can be something positive that comes out of it. Everybody in that house wasn’t guilty. There was someone innocent who just made a bad choice at the time.”
One thing Smith wants to come out of it is a warning to other young people. “We want people to know that this is what will happen if you’re a drug dealer or are involved with drugs” she said. “
Smith’s message is simple. One that she and other residents have kept alive through
community involvement. “We decided to form a group that would be positive in the community. It was a negative thing that happened and we wanted something positive to come out of it,” Smith said.
The Conquerors Community Outreach Program organized the vigil and hosts three other major events throughout the year to educate, involved and “keep the red flag up,” she noted, saying, “We need to be more vigilant and more watchful.”
Smith said her son’s death is a constant reminder of the aggressive stand parents must take.
“My son was raised in the church. He graduated from high school and joined the Navy. But he decided to mingle with the wrong people and decided he would become a drug dealer.”
Smith said the murders prompted her to try and save children from a life of drug dealing. Parents should be concerned about the company their children keep.
“I knew he was involved with certain people,” she said. “If you are around people who are dealing in drugs and doing certain things, it won’t be long before you’re involved too.”
Although parents may be at wit’s end when it comes to finding solutions to help their children, Smith urges commitment and hope.
“Don’t let go. Don’t give up on them at all,” she said. “Let them know the consequences of what they’re doing.
“The thing is to engraft them back into the family net and talk to them.  You try to let them know this is not the thing to do and you love them. They may hurt you, may bring shame to the family, may go to jail, but keep on being diligent to bring them back,” Smith said.
Parents must take a more powerful role in their kids’ lives and bringing parents and children together is a key factor in preventing drug involvement, she said.
“Things don’t have to stay the way they are. Things can change. Just go and take them back off the streets. There has to be a counter reaction to the violence we see going on in Hinesville. There has to be a turn around. We have to be more vigilant,” Smith said.
She said taking a stand with her son did make a difference and he started to want to make a change.
“He was coming in,” she said. “What happened in the end I can’t explain it, but what he was in he was turning away from it. The beauty of it is that he was coming out of it. That is what gives me joy.”
The atmosphere at Tuesday’s vigil was one of hope and renewed commitment.
“This gives me a sense of peace to try to save one child. There were some innocent people in that house. I want to get a message out to parents to get more involved and young people: that it’s (drugs) not all what it is hyped up to be,” she said. “There is also hope. You don’t have to be a drug dealer.”

The Conquerors Community Outreach Group meets every 3rd Tuesday, at Mount Olive church in Walthourville

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