Date: April 11, 2018
OCDA KICKED OFF VICTIMS’ RIGHTS WEEK WITH 10TH ANNUAL VICTIMS’ RIGHTS RALLY
SANTA ANA, Calif. – Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) Tony Rackauckas hosted the 10th Annual Victims’ Rights Rally on Monday in remembrance of murdered loved ones, in celebration of survivors of crime, and in honor of victims’ rights. The Rally is hosted every year during Victims’ Rights Week and serves as an empowering platform for victims' voices. Hundreds of victims, family, friends, law enforcement, and community leaders congregated at the Delhi Center in Santa Ana.
The Orange County Victims’ Rights event was established in 2009 and has since become a meaningful milestone for all victims of crime. Orange County is and always has been the place where reform begins, and the OCDA has fought actively for victims’ rights over several decades. OCDA Rackauckas fought diligently to pass the Crime Victims Justice Reform Act Proposition 115, Gang reform Proposition 21, DNA reform Proposition 69, Megan’s Law, Jessica’s Law, and Marsy’s Law. Most recently in 2016, he worked tirelessly to fight against the abolition of the Three Strikes Law and the death penalty by opposing Proposition 62 and enacting Proposition 66.
“Together our voices are louder than those who are constantly tearing down crime victims and law enforcement,” stated OCDA Rackauckas in a call to action to the crowd. “We are here today to remember those we have lost, honor those who have survived, and celebrate the tenacity and strength of the people who carry on the fight for justice for the people.”
This year’s event was held at the Delhi Center and was sponsored by Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III of Marsy’s Law For All, an organization dedicated to giving crime victims enforceable, equal constitutional rights to the accused and convicted, and campaigning for the passage of Marsy’s Law, a constitutional amendment granting crime victims a bill of rights. Dr. Nicholas formed Marsy’s Law For All after his sister Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas was murdered in 1983.
At the Rally, crime survivors were welcome to come together in a respectful setting for a reception where they could share their experiences with other victims and community leaders before the ceremony. The event included an Invocation by OCDA Chaplain Lance Emma, Presentation of the Colors by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Color Guard, Pledge of Allegiance by Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, National Anthem by Deputy District Attorney Charlyn Bender, a Board resolution by Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairman Andrew Do, Supervisor Michelle Steel, and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett, and an introduction of Marsy’s Law by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.
Former speakers Donna Bjoin, Ryan Hawks, Tina Mora, and Janelle Weinberg were in attendance, and a message from former speaker and The Joyful Child Foundation Founder Erin Runnion was played. The keynote speakers were Anna Neal-Negrete, the mother of 2007 murder victim Yacshicka W., and Collene Campbell, who has fought alongside the OCDA after the murders of her son, brother, and sister-in-law. At the 10th Annual Victims’ Rights Rally, Campbell was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her unwavering dedication and significant contributions to the victims’ rights movement.
Anna Neal-Negrete is the mother of Yacshicka W., a mother of three who was murdered on Oct. 20, 2007. Her killer, Jose Zuniga, was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison on Oct. 6, 2017.
Yacshicka’s killer strangled the victim and left her body outside in the parking lot of a commercial business center in Santa Ana. Hours later, transients discovered the victim’s body and contacted Santa Ana Police Department, who investigated this case. Orange County Crime Lab investigators collected DNA evidence from the victim’s body and stored it in the state database. In 2013, a DNA hit matched the defendant after an unrelated arrest in Santa Ana. The Orange County Cold Case Homicide Task Force reopened the investigation and Zuniga was charged with murder after sufficient evidence was gathered, including additional witness interviews
Neal-Negrete is devoted to keeping her daughter’s memory alive by speaking about her life and working to ensure all crime victims have a voice in the courtroom.At the rally on Monday, she stated in part, “To you detectives and other law enforcement personnel, we appreciate you more than you can possibly know. We know that you are our unsung heroes. And we so, so appreciate you.” Neal-Negrete also expressed gratitude to her victim advocate Esmerelda Gomez and OCDA prosecutor Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Walker, stating, “I want you to know that you can never come up with the words to really express your heart during a time of trial and all of this resolution that we were given. I just want you to know that these people, these people blessed me. They blessed my family. And now they are honorary members of my family.”
Collene Campbell not only lost her son to murder, but also her brother and sister-in-law, who were she and her late husband Gary’s best friends. Instead of shrinking after her great personal suffering, she became one of the worst nightmares of criminals. Her son’s killers were sentenced to life in prison nearly 30 years ago after brutally murdering and throwing then-27-year-old Scott Campbell out of a plane into the ocean for money and to steal his sports car. Collene continues to fight alongside the OCDA to oppose the inmates’ parole.
For almost two decades, Campbell pushed for the prosecution of Michael Goodwin, the mastermind behind her brother and sister-in-law’s murder, until the defendant was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life in prison without parole. After Goodwin was convicted, Collene immediately faced the press waving her checkered flag, which was the symbol of her advocacy, and requested the public’s help in capturing the gunman Goodwin hired.
Campbell has been honored for her courage and fight for justice by many national leaders, from the Rose Garden at the White House to her State Capitol in Sacramento, CA: both President George H. W. Bush and U.S. Attorney General William Barr honored her for outstanding accomplishments in the fight against crime; two Governors of the State of California, Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger; California’s Attorney General Dan Lungren; the California State Legislature and the California District Attorneys Association have all honored Collene.
During her speech, Campbell recalled the many trials she endured and how she was able to turn her tragic experiences into a positive force by advocating for victims’ rights. She addressed the crowd of law enforcement personnel, prosecutors, victim advocates, survivors of crime, and supporters, stating, “During this whole period of time, it’s you out there, so many of you that have made the difference. [You] got these killers and put them behind bars. And I am so grateful.” Neal-Negrete also credited OCDA Rackauckas for being a principal catalyst for getting justice and convictions for the murders of three immediate family members.
Afterwards, OCDA Tony Rackauckas presented Campbell with a Lifetime Achievement Award to commemorate all the work she has done for victims of crime. Despite being devastated by her husband Gary’s death in November 2017, Campbell plans to continue her fight against crime and efforts to improve the justice system.
Co-Sponsors and Donors
The OCDA would like to extend special thanks to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) and SAPD for their time, service, and support at the 2018 Victims’ Rights Rally.
For their contributions, the OCDA would also like to thank OCSD, SAPD, the Association of Orange County Deputy District Attorneys – Civic Action Committee, Orange County District Attorney Investigators Association, Waymakers, Marsy’s Law For All, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Henry T. Nicholas III, Michael Schroeder, and Susan Kang Schroeder.