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Parents, Siblings Of Murdered Children Prepare For Gloomy Christmas

December 12, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ The men and women closed their eyes and clasped hands, and after a minute Paul Rober, whose paraplegic son was tortured for eight hours before being murdered, broke the silence.

″I’d like to see him dead, and I’d like to do it myself,″ he said of his son’s killer, to sounds of approval from the others.

A gray-haired woman to his left was next to speak. She clutched a picture of a younger woman.

″Our daughter was murdered three years ago,″ she said quietly. ″The victim of a serial killer with eight victims.″

Next was the mother of a hit-and-run fatality. ″He was hit from behind, and the killer was never found,″ she said.

Others chimed in.

″Our daughter was stabbed 68 times,″ said one.

″My daughter was killed a year ago Oct. 1,″ said another. ″Her body was found seven weeks later.″

Parents of Murdered Children is no ordinary club. Its members have paid a terrible initiation fee.

Founded by the Rev. Robert Hullinger and his wife Charlotte after their 19- year-old daughter Lisa was bludgeoned to death, the organization has grown to 60 chapters since 1978.

Its national newsletter reaches more than 4,000 people, executive secretary Dorothy Lobes said by telephone from headquarters in Cincinnati.

The chapters convene regular meetings to help members deal with the pain. Beside providing support and contact to similarly bereaved people, the groups often invite criminal justice and mental health professionals to meetings.

Some say those who killed their loved ones were never punished. Others believe the penalties were too light.

Roberta J. Wright, whose son was stabbed to death June 15, 1985, divides the frustration into three stages.

″The worst is stage one, nobody apprehended at all,″ she said. ″Two, the murderer caught but not in jail, and three, in jail, but not for long, or let go because of technicalities.

″Each family suffers unbelievable grief and frustration. I am still in the first stage.″

Participants at a recent meeting talked about how to lobby against prison furloughs for convicted murderers, and watched a videotaped talk show featuring three victims of violent crime and two first-degree murderers defending the furlough system. Cries of outrage met the convicts’ comments.

Whether angry or just hurting, all dread the coming of the holidays.

″Christmas last year, I had no idea of,″ Sandra King, whose 20-year-old son Christopher was a victim of a random shooting, said in a recent interview. ″The whole month of December is just a blank memory.

″This year, I’m trying desperately to say that if Chris could speak to me, he would tell me to try and have a nice Christmas,″ she said, sobbing.

Rober, whose loss came 14 months ago, agreed that this was the hardest time of year.

″When I bought a wreath for the front door, I bought one for the grave,″ he said. ″You don’t know what it does to somebody, buying a present for a piece of granite.″

The Boston group plans a Christmas party. Other chapters also are trying to help members over the holidays.

″The chapter in Cincinnati has produced special Christmas cards, because the usual up-beat kind of Christmas card seems to hurt people,″ said Mrs. Lobes.

″Happy times, sad times, and our loved ones,″ she said, reading one of the cards. ″Dedicated to the memory of all murder victims.″