Vigil for twins illuminates Hanover’s grief

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – Tuesday night they came, side by side, hand in hand, more than 100 strong, to remember twin little girls, 3-year-old Caroline and Madison King, killed Saturday by their own father, who then killed himself in their Mechanicsville home.

It was an eerie scene for a vigil. The home’s windows were boarded up because firefighters had to smash them  out because of all the carbon monoxide in the home. And the family van remained parked close by the side door, where Robert King, a sheet metal mechanic, had rigged piping from the car’s exhaust to gas his own home.

It was a somber gathering. No singing. Just prayers and heartfelt remembrances and hugs and tears.

This is not an area used to hosting homicide vigils. It’s not unusual for Hanover County to go a whole year without having a single slaying.

But in the space of less than two months, Hanover has had five homicides. Four in January alone.

So far this year, Hanover County has had more slayings than Richmond, Henrico and Chesterfield – put together.

As one area resident points out, there haven’t been this many murders in Hanover since the Civil War.

Residents in the Beaverdam District of western Hanover are reeling from a murder discovered there Monday – the first in more than 30 years.

“It’s very unusual to have anything in this area like homicide – we don’t even know how to spell the word in western Hanover,” said Aubrey “Bucky” Stanley, the longtime Board of Supervisors member representing that district.

Sarajane Hakopian, 42, was found dead in her home on Beaverdam Road Monday, apparently strangled to death. Known for helping others, she had taken in 42-year-old Brian Mallory, who had been recently released from prison after being convicted on multiple counts of robbery and abduction.  Hakopian’s van was found in Jacksonville Tuesday. Mallory was captured there as well.

On January 21, 16-year-old Brett Wells was shot to death in his family’s home in the 7300 block of Verdi Lane, off Bell Creek Road in Mechanicsville. Police say the shooting came in the midst of a botched marijuana deal. Three teens have been charged.

An on December 17, 17-year-old Jyreffe Patrick Clark was shot to near Lee-Davis High School. Three teens are in custody, one of them charged with 1st degree murder.

These are common enough crimes, domestic, drug-related or youths making bad decisions with guns. But they just don’t happen in Hanover County. Not like this.

At the vigil, many of us reflected on the reality of shattered lives, how anyone could do that to their own children.

Meridith Reid works with the twin’s mother and babysat them at times. Like so many at the vigil, she couldn’t voice how she felt. It’s all so foreign – so painful, so not Hanover.

It hurts “very much,” she said. “Just to know I won’t be able to see them again.”

Folks all over Hanover are saying the same things, about the twins, about Sarajane Hakopian, about Brett Wells and about Jyreffe Clark.

But this is a neighborly county built on traditional values. Residents will hold onto one another, even as they let go of those they will never see again.

No one can say why all this has happened, why really bad things happen in weird clusters like this. Not one of the crimes are even remotely related. It’s very likely Hanover will go long months, maybe even years, without another homicide.

But for now, it’s enough to make you realize this kind of senseless tragedy knows no boundaries.

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