Candlelight vigil focuses on domestic violence

More than 100 people lit candles in the rain Thursday evening at the steps of the Jackson County Justice Building in a show of support for domestic violence victims and their families.

The vigil was in response to the recent deaths of two women believed to have been murdered in domestic violence situations.

Kristy Huddleston and Liesa Werner each died from gunshot wounds over the weekend.

According to police, Werner, 53, of Eagle Point, was killed March 25 in a murder-suicide involving her estranged boyfriend.

Huddleston, 34, is believed to have been murdered by her husband at their home near Medford on March 23.

The gathering was organized by the Jackson County Council Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

The organization's coordinator, Gerry Sea, said the community has seen an increase in domestic violence cases in recent years.

"Unfortunately, the problem seems to be growing," she said. "We are so grateful to the community that so many people showed up tonight to honor these victims."

Ginger Hahn, Community Works president and chief executive officer, told the crowd that the worst possible action is to do nothing when you believe domestic violence is occurring around you.

"The first step is to report domestic violence," she said. "It's one of the best things you can do to help prevent more deaths."

Community Works has a 24-hour help line that can get the ball rolling on helping a victim escape a violent situation. The help line's number is 541-779-4357.

Werner's mother, Jan Meyer, asked the community to work together to stop domestic violence before it ends in more deaths.

"We need to tone down the violence in our lives," she said.

Meyer said her daughter's death was unexpected. She said the man suspected of killing her, who police identified as Eugene A. Koch, 55, had not shown violent tendencies before the shooting.

Huddleston's family could not make the trip, according to family friend Jamie Cobian. They remained in Klamath Falls preparing for her funeral, she said.

"The family is in shock," she said. "It was so unexpected to hear."

Cobian said Huddleston's 10-year-old son is safe with his maternal grandparents.

If Huddleston's husband is convicted of her death, it would bring the number of Jackson County domestic violence fatalities to 10 since March 2011. This number includes six women and four children.

Jeremy Hubbard, who has worked as a probation officer in domestic violence cases for seven years, said the issue needs to be discussed openly and include all levels of the community.

"This can't stay behind closed doors," he said. "This is not just a family or relationship problem. It affects us all."

Hubbard expressed grief over the tide of domestic violence deaths that has hit the county over the past two years. He said that he is growing weary of attending vigils in honor of domestic violence deaths.

"Unfortunately, I have had a lot of these to do lately," he told the crowd.

The vigil ended with everyone extending into a large circle and holding a moment of silence in honor of the victims.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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