DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — Hundreds of Dayton residents gathered Monday night to honor 57 homicide victims of 2022 in Montgomery County’s Annual Homicide Victim Memorial Service.

Each family received an ornament to hang marking yet another year without their loved one. For seven years, Tammy and Randy Jenkins have lit a candle for their grandson 2-year-old Jacob Barker.

“We have several other grandkids at home and to watch this is bittersweet, we love our time with them but it’s always like something is missing,” said Tammy Jenkins.

In 2015, Jacob was brutally murdered by his mother’s boyfriend 27-year-old Justin Payne, who was found guilty for his death in 2016. Since then, Jacob’s family continues to fight for him.

In February, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 161, also known as Jacob’s Law.

The law would add individuals who have been convicted of crimes against children to the state’s violent offender registry. When Jacob was killed, Payne was previously convicted of endangering a child in 2011 after he fractured a baby’s skull and broke her ribs and ankles.

“As parents, grandparents, family members, it would give us a tool to know who these people are, if they’re going to be out in our community, and how to keep our kids safe and away from them,” said Tammy Jenkins.

Montgomery County Prosecutor Matt Heck says he hosts the memorial service because the holidays are extremely challenging for families of homicide victims.

“There is nothing, no preparation, no nothing,” said Heck. “One day the loved one is here and then bam they are gone, so now they have to live with that without saying goodbye but now live their lives without that loved one.”

Tammy and Randy say the vigil allows families to know they are never alone even when the holidays feel like the darkest time of the year.

“Hopefully we can all come together to make this world a better place, not only for kids but for everyone,” said Tammy Jenkins.
The county hosts support groups for the families of homicide victims– for that contact information, click here.