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Title: 'Now is the healing time for us'

Source: Florida Today, August 17th, 2000.

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Aug. 17, 2000

'Now is the healing time for us'

150 share grief, anger over slayings in Titusville
By Patricia Walsh and Norman Moody


TITUSVILLE, Fla. - They came to share their grief, they came to express their outrage and they came in search of healing.

About 150 people whose lives have been touched by Saturday's attack on a well-respected, religious Titusville family gathered Wednesday night at a civic center near the home where Ronald Friskey and his 10-year-old daughter, Virginia, were slain.

Ronald Friskey's wife, Haesun, was critically injured in the attack that police say was committed by family friend Randy Schoenwetter, 18. Their two older children, Teresa, 16, and Chad, 18, were not injured in the attack. Chad Friskey was in Pensacola when the attack occurred.

Law enforcement officials and government leaders urged residents to find strength in the community's unity as Titusville tries to surface from a sea of pain, sorrow and anger at such a horrific crime.

Titusville City Council member Cheryl Lawson-Young, a health educator, described the effect of the slayings as "a pain you cannot describe." She told those gathered at the Indian River Civic Center on Hopkins Avenue to "embrace each other" as they struggled to deal with their feelings, and their fears.

"We have to move forward. Now is the healing time for us. We have to embrace that family (the Friskeys)," she said. "Love is among us, and we're going to begin to heal."

Among the crowd was Ronald Friskey's sister, Marilyn Skinner, of Lakewood, Colo., and her daughter, Darcy, 17. Marilyn Skinner hugged Young and thanked her for her words.

"This is just so terrible for the whole community," Skinner said later, in an interview. "Ron and Haesun were just such wonderful people. They were just happy with each other, and it spilled over into everything they did. The kids are going to need so much help. It's nice to see all of the citizens of Titusville reaching out to my brother's family."

Ronald Friskey died after making his way to a neighbor's home to find help. Skinner said her brother, a former resident of Michigan and Colorado, had devoted much of his life to helping others.

"He was a good family man. At the youth center where he worked, every time one of the kids graduated, he'd go get them a $10 gift certificate," she said. "It's pretty shocking that he would come to an end that was so brutal."

Schoenwetter has confessed to breaking into the Friskey's Knox McRae Drive home and stabbing the adult Friskeys and Teresa, Titusville police Cmdr. Bobby Mutter said.

Teresa Friskey survived unharmed by locking herself in a closet on Saturday. Chad Friskey has returned home since the killings.

Schoenwetter remains in jail without bail on charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and burglary.

The community is coping with shock and disbelief and expressing some concerns about their own security, said Beth Rossman, director of Victim-Witness Services for the State Attorney's Office. They have also come together and shared their emotions.

"The neighbors are extremely supportive of each other," Rossman said. "Their biggest concern was making the Friskey family know how much they care."

Rossman told residents they need to continue to talk to about their emotions surrounding the crime to help them cope. For some it might mean writing their feelings in a journal.

"Their lives are changed forever," she said. But "eventually that rollercoaster of emotions is going to" diminish.

Titusville police offered to visit the homes of city residents who want advice about security measures to help prevent break-ins.

Rossman often counsels people in helping them cope with tragic situations, and she said each person handles tragedy differently.

"We've been able to learn, unfortunately, how a community reacts to something like this," she said. "It's an individual thing."

State Attorney Norm Wolfinger told the civic center crowd that the slayings investigation was "well in hand," and he thanked those present for all of the "prayers and support for the Friskey family." He hoped that the gathering would help Titusville "get this community back to a healing."

Police have said Schoenwetter did not disclose a motive for the crimes, only that he indicated that he armed himself with a knife inside the Friskey home and went to the youngest daughter's bedroom.

One of many parents at Wednesday's gathering was Leslie Maresca, a Titusville mother who volunteers at Coquina Elementary School, where Virginia had attended school with her 11-year-old daughter, Giulietta.

"He couldn't have picked a sweeter child (to kill). Virginia, she was so humble, she had such grace," Maresca said. "My little girl said, 'I don't feel sorry for Virginia, because she's in heaven. But I feel sorry for me, because I miss her. But mostly I feel mad.' "

Marilyn Skinner said she was appalled to learn that a teen-ager the Friskeys had befriended had confessed to the attack. "Why? Why a family that took you in, and treated you right?" she said.

Skinner said her nephew Chad told her that he and Schoenwetter, who were friends for many years, became less friendly after Schoenwetter became involved in the role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. Chad's mother objected to him playing the game.

"I heard that he was into Dungeons & Dragons. Chad said Randy tried to get him into the Dungeons & Dragons," she said.

The Friskeys and their daughters had been active volunteers at the New Life Christian Fellowship Church in Titusville, where a funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday for Ronald and Virginia Friskey.

Pastor Larry Linkous at the church, 4525 Apollo Road, said he is expecting a large crowd at the funeral because the Friskeys were so well-known and because the tragedy has affected so many people in the Titusville community, and beyond.

Titusville Mayor Larry Bartley said Wednesday he was proud that his city has responded with such care and concern to the Friskeys.

"When something like this happens, it does grip the community," he said, noting that people from all parts of the community have stepped forward to offer their help, or their condolences, to the family.

"I'm proud to be a part of a community that has a heart like that."

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