Mom of slain ECSU student determined not to let daughter's death be in vain
On a beautiful sunny day in May on the campus of Eastern Connecticut State University, Corrinna Martin mustered all the strength she had and begged the public for any information that would lead to the safe return of her daughter, 20-year-old Alyssiah Marie Wiley.
What the public didn't know is that Martin knew that her daughter, a sophomore at the university, was in grave danger and believed that her boyfriend was behind it.
"I always held out hope," said Martin. "I knew my daughter wouldn't leave a bright future behind. She had a full scholarship. I wanted to impress upon him when I spoke at the press conference that you didn't take a woman who wasn't loved. You have a woman with a brilliant future."
Sadly, a little more than two weeks after the press conference, Martin learned that the dismembered remains found in a wooded area in Trumbull were those of her daughter and that the man she suspected, 30-year-old Jermaine Richards, was being charged with Wiley's murder.
Martin, facing the horrific circumstances around her daughter's death, said she had one of two choices: She could either let her hate for Richards consume her or she could use Wiley's death to prevent future tragedies. She chose the latter.
"I'll tell you from the onset it has been through the grace of God that I have been able to move or talk," said Martin. "I have always shied away from the spotlight. I'm more of a paper pusher, but unfortunately it took the murder of my child to give me strength and courage to start speaking out against domestic violence. Such a beautiful life had to be remembered. I wondered, 'How could her death benefit others?'"
So, weeks after officials confirmed Wiley's death, Martin launched Mothers of Victim's Equality or M.O.V.E., a New Haven-based domestic violence group.
Martin said after her daughter went missing she learned from a relative that Richards had strangled Wiley once before. During that time, she also started researching information about domestic violence, how the judicial system and media treat victims of those crimes, and for the most part, she didn't like what she found.
She said the media tends to mishandle how it reports about victims of domestic violence and that the judicial system often seems more concerned about the needs of the defendants rather than focusing on the victims.
"What I'm trying to do with M.O.V.E is to send a message that enough is enough and that we need to speak up," said Martin. "If you know someone who is a victim or if you are a victim, you need to say something and break the cycle of silence ... because all too often these situations have tragic, tragic consequences."
According to the Connecticut Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee, a statewide coalition whose members consist of domestic violence advocates, law enforcment, the chief's state's attorney, the Office of Victim of Services, Survivors of Homicide, Office of the Child Advocate and Department of Correction, found that 14 women were killed by a current or former boyfriend or husband in 2011. There were 18 deaths in 2010.
Martin said she would have intervened had she known that Wiley was being abused or if she had known that Richards was 10 years older than her daughter. She said after her daughter's death she discovered that Richards had lied about many things, including his age, but said she cannot go into detail because of the pending criminal case.
Richards' case is still in the pre-trial phase in the Fairfield Judicial District.
The M.O.V.E. organization has started a support group that meets every Tuesday and Thursday night at the Wexler-Grant School in New Haven, so that people can speak about whatever is on their minds.
"We have people come and share what's bothering them," said Martin. "If you're angry, that's OK. What's wrong with being angry? It's how you deal with that anger that's important. God has given us many emotions, and he wouldn't give us anything that was intended for evil. All of our emotions are intended to round us out and be the good individuals that we are meant to be."
Martin said the group has done numerous fundraising events to support M.O.V.E. and hopes to open a safe house, where victims of domestic violence can remove themselves from unsafe situations.
Martin said that Wiley was the third of four daughters. She was majoring in psychology and minoring in biology and wanted to get her doctorate in psychology.
"She wanted to help people ... and that bright future was taken away," said Martin.
The medical examiner recently released Wiley's remains to her. Not all of Wiley's remains were found, she said, making the death even harder for her to grapple with. The family held a memorial service Saturday at the Varick Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church in New Haven.
Martin says she still must find a way to forgive Richards.
"I hate what he did," said Martin. "I hate that he took away my baby. I hate that, but as a Christian I have to love him. God is love and the only way I can have peace in my mind is to not display the hatred he has. This is now bigger than me. It's about saving lives."
For more information on upcoming events sponsored by M.O.V.E, go to www.move-inc.com.
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