When someone has a family member killed or go missing, survivors say they have trouble explaining the depths of pain and emotions they feel.
Bambe Ealey, Crystal Baucom and Kim Fraley discovered they have a common, if unwanted, bond. Their personal tragedies led them to form a new support group for Gaston County: Survivors of Missing and Murder Victims (SOMMV).
The group plans to meet twice a month, starting May 1, but is still looking for a free location to hold meetings. They want to provide a safe space for community members who have had a loved one killed or had a loved one go missing, something all three have experienced themselves.
Two of Ealey’s children have been killed; the first in Michigan in September 1993 and the second in May 2016. In 1993, Ealey left her 4-month-old son with a family friend when he drowned in the bathtub. More recently, Ealey’s 19-year-old son, Skyler Riker died after a fight at a house party just across the Mecklenburg County line. Riker was stabbed in the leg by the person he was fighting and died at CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Mount Holly.
The Mecklenburg District Attorney ruled the death a case of self-defense, so no charges were filed against Dillon Barrett, the individual who stabbed Riker.
Bambe Ealey kept her son’s phone turned on after his death. This line will be the most direct way to get in touch with her for details regarding the group. The number is 980-329-0027. They also have an email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and a Facebook page.
Baucom’s sister, Jeanila Adams Weber, and her boyfriend, Donald Matthews, were shot and robbed at the Charlotte home in January 2015. A man has been charged with murder in that case, and awaiting a trial set to begin in July.
On April 9, Fraley will mourn the nine-year anniversary of the date her daughter, Jamie Fraley, went missing. Fraley still dedicates her time to trying to find her missing daughter, who disappeared in 2008 when she was 22-years-old.
These three women met by chance, or as Ealey put it, by fate. While Ealey and Baucom’s sons were friends growing up, they had never spoken to each other much until Baucom happened to post something on Facebook about her sister’s death. Ealey reached out then to provide support, and they ended up bonding over the emotions they were feeling.
“Then we realized, ‘Hey there are a lot of other people out there who probably go through these same emotions and feelings, and who do they have to share it with?’” Baucom said.
It was then that the idea for a support group started. The last piece came together when Ealey overheard a conversation Fraley was having in a local business about her daughter. Fraley liked the idea of a support group because when her daughter had gone missing she couldn’t find one for herself.
“This is going to be something I think is going to be really beneficial for a lot of people — to be in the same room with people who know what you’re talking about and how you feel,” Fraley said.
Support through understanding
While the group may be something new in the area for those with missing loved ones, Baucom and Ealey know there are homicide support groups in Charlotte. They’re offering something unique because their support group is more broad and mediated by people who have experienced the same types of tragedy.
Ealey explained while other support groups might have a professional mediating, they may have never had someone they love killed or taken from them. Speaking with people who know that kind of pain makes a difference.
Baucom said it’s also all about clicking with someone so you can reach a level of comfort that allows you to share those dark emotions.
The three women say listening to others’ pain while they’re still dealing with their own can be therapeutic.
“When I’m in service to others by helping them get through their grief, it helps me mentally and emotionally,” Ealey said. “It helps me tremendously.”
The three co-founders are still finalizing the details of their meeting place, but they already have pamphlets with information and T-shirts honoring their loved ones and plan to hold their first meeting on May 1.
Ealey said the group will be completely free, and they’re working with area-businesses to get snacks and coffee for the meeting dates. T-shirts will be available for sale to help offset some costs as well.
In the group, people will be able to speak about their loved one and share the range of emotions they’re feeling: from intense anger to overwhelming grief. It will be a confidential, judgment-free zone, Ealey. They will also help people find other resources like counseling. The group will be geared for people 18 and older.
In the future, they hope to expand the group. For example, Baucom mentioned eventually having speakers come in, like detectives or medical examiners who can explain more about the process; a step that isn’t always done for loved ones during an investigation.
They also want to be available to people in general times of need, like during a trial or throughout a late-night that’s especially difficult. Ealey stressed that she’s there to support anyone, 24/7.
In a tribute to her son, Ealey kept her son’s phone turned on after his death. This line will be the most direct way to get in touch with her or Baucom for details regarding the group, to ask for support or just to talk. The number is 980-329-0027. They also have an email, email@example.com, and a Facebook page.
Through all the pain, the co-founders of the group are hoping some good will come from what they’ve each been through.
“Nobody wants to have to meet for the reasons we have to meet, but there are so many people who are in this dark hole and they don’t know where to turn,” Fraley said. “We’re just trying to give people a place to turn to.”