State holds public meeting to help determine next Victim’s Advocate

MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH)–The state of Connecticut is looking for a new Victim’s Advocate to fight for the rights of victims of crime in the state, after Michelle Cruz, who previously held the position, was let go by Governor Malloy.

Cruz publicly criticized the Early Release Law, which Malloy supported, that allows violent criminals out of prison early.

A meeting was held Monday night in Meriden to ask the public for their input on who should get the job next.

Dr. William Petit, who survived the brutal 2007 Cheshire home invasion during which his wife and two daughters were murdered attending. He said he prefers the new victims advocate be a past victim or the loved one of someone who has been the victim of a crime although its not imperative, because he said the job will take a lot of passion.

“If you are advocating against something, the legislators pushing for you are going to take a lot of hits,” Petit said.

Dawn Luddy, whose sister Kathy Hardy was murdered in 2006, also gave input because she said that victims and their families are hurt not only by the people who have attacked them, they are also hurt by the system.

“When we were going to the process talking to the police I was actually yelled at, and told not to bring things up,” said Luddy. “I had to turn to the victims advocate to get answers.”

Prosecutors say Kathy Hardy’s accused killers set fire to her home, purposely trapping her inside. She died of smoke inhalation. The heart wrenching loss of Dawn Luddy’s sister was just the beginning of her pain. It took 8 years for police to catch her alleged killers.

Once people are behind bars, there is yet another battle to that victim advocates often have to fight to keep them there.

“I mean there could be a lot of years that go by,” said John Lahda. “There could be 15 or 20 years and all of a sudden that person comes up for parole.”

There will be another public meeting on Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Hartford in the Legislative Office Building. There will also be final meeting in Cheshire August 27th at 6 p.m., with that location still pending.

The Victim Advocate Advisor Committee will have until September 22 to narrow its choice down to 5-7 people and submit that list to Governor Malloy, who will make final decision.

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