Murder victim’s mother reaches out to families

A mother, still grieving over the murder of her son and his girlfriend earlier this year, said she realized that there are undoubtedly many others in the area now grieving for lost loved ones after last week’s terrorist attacks.

She wants to reach out to these families and let them know there are organizations out there, such as Parents of Murdered Children, where they can receive help.

“I want them to know that they are not alone. They are not the only ones,” said Louise Finch, mother of Robert Alan Finch. “And I want them to know that there is help.”

Robert Finch, 30, and his girlfriend, Dana Lee Thrall, 25, were shot multiple times in their Rollingwood Village town house Jan. 2. When police arrived, Robert Finch was already dead. Thrall died in a hospital the following day.

Since the slayings of her son and Thrall, Finch and her husband, Clayton, have joined the national organization Parents of Murdered Children.

Louise Finch said that as she watched the coverage of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City and at the Pentagon and learned of the many victims, she also realized that — like her son and Thrall — these people had also been murdered.

She also realized that there are many living in the Prince William area who grieve for these victims.

“These are somebody’s children, too,” Finch said.

The Parents of Murdered Children had already planned their third annual observance of National Day of Remembrance for Murdered Victims for Tuesday, long before last week’s attacks.

The closest local chapter of Parents of Murdered Children, the Shenandoah Valley Chapter, plans a “Celebration of Life” program for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the James Wood Middle School in Winchester.

Louise Finch wanted to spread the word of the observance so that any family member in the area, not just parents, who had lost someone in the attacks would know about the remembrance event and feel invited to attend.

“I wanted to try to do something to help [the victims’ families],” Louise Finch said. “I feel it is important that people … know about the [Day of Remembrance] after what happened Sept. 11.”

She also said that she feels these new victims’ families should try to learn more about the Parents of Murdered Children organization.

“For survivors, having their loved ones remembered is vital,” said Jean Lewis, the organization’s past president, in a written statement.

“Though survivors may individually and formally ‘remember them’ on their own anniversary dates or on other special occasions, it is felt that it would be appropriate and beneficial for all survivors to have a special day to remember together,” Lewis wrote.

Over the past eight months, the Finch family has found both private and public ways to remember their murdered loved ones. They intend to go to the “Celebration of Life” program.

Louise Finch also has been wearing a pin displaying a picture of her son every day for several months now. She intends to wear it until the conclusion of the trial of the man charged with the murders.

Larry Bill Elliott, 51, of Hanover, Md., is scheduled to be tried for murder in February.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t think of [Robert],” Louise Finch said. She remembers his love of life, of his children, of Thrall and of all the fun they shared.

Because of last week’s tragedies, Louise Finch has taken to wearing additional memorials.

Beside the picture of her son, she now wears a red, white and blue ribbon held to her clothing with an angel pin.

For those with loved ones still missing as a result of the attacks, Louise Finch said “I keep praying for a miracle. You just never know.”

She learned this week that one of her cousins is among the missing at the World Trade Center.

She said she is comforted in knowing her son and Thrall “are in a better place.”

However, she said, “To me, it’s still a shock, and it happened in January.

“I keep thinking that they will come home soon,” she said.

That is undoubtedly a feeling many of the terrorist victims’ families continue to experience.

More information on Parents of Murdered Children can be found on the organization’s Web site, For information about the Shenandoah Valley Chapter’s “Celebration of Life” program, call its chapter leader Betty Loy at (540) 869-1036.

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