Vigil

April Hall-Atwater and her husband, Gerald Atwater, stand for a portrait with a photo of April’s slain sister, Constance Hall, at Vigils for Healing’s Memorial Walk to Remember at Miller Park on Saturday in Winston-Salem.

Nearly eight full years have passed since Constance “Connie” Hall’s lifeless body was found in a trash can on Manly Street in November of 2011, a fatal stab wound in her chest.

For nearly eight years, her little sister, April Hall-Atwater, has grieved.

Standing next to her husband, Gerald Atwater, in Miller Park Saturday morning, April’s shirt has a picture of Connie on it, along with the year she was born and the year she died. She was 47.

“A lot of times, people don’t understand the things other people go through,” Hall-Atwater says.

She and her husband are here as part of a larger event, Vigils for Healing’s inaugural Memorial Walk to Remember. The nonprofit formed in 2006 to bring people together and provide community support for anyone who needs it after losing someone unexpectedly or in a violent manner, Vigils for Healing Co-Director Tracey Maxwell said.

The group held a vigil for Connie Hall in 2012, and April Hall-Atwater has been involved with them ever since. Her voice is heavy with sadness, and her eyes are cast low to the ground, but Hall-Atwater said she’s thankful for these events. Thankful because it allows her to keep the dead among the living.

“It honors them,” Hall-Atwater said. “It keeps (Connie) alive.”

In 2015, police arrested Cornelius Tucker Jr. on murder charges in Hall’s death. He is yet to be convicted, something Gerald Atwater said makes it hard for his wife.

“People die all the time, but it’s different when people take a life,” Gerald Atwater said. “She gets very emotional at times. It’s her big sister, you know?”

In 2017, a Forysth County Superior Court Judge found Tucker to be incompetent to stand trial, and had him involuntarily committed to a mental hospital until his capacity to stand trial was restored. It’s unclear when, or if, he will stand trial.

Maxwell said it’s important for people to take notice when people are lost to violence.

“If everyone doesn’t take note, doesn’t take a stand, then we all become complicit in a way,” Maxwell said.

There are others here who are less sure about what happened to the people they’re mourning.

Betsy Watkins’ voice shakes when she talks about her friend’s son, Jeff Rutledge, whose picture she is wearing around her neck. She’s here walking today because Rutledge’s mother can’t.

“He drowned in a bathtub. A 29-year-old man drowned in a bathtub …” Watkins said before her voice trailed off. “That’s what they said the official cause of death is.”

Watkins has another loss to mourn. Her son, Nick, died when he was 6-years-old.

She doesn’t want to talk about it.

At the same time, Watkins, who is a Vigils for Healing board member, said you might as well share your pain with others because you’re going to feel it anyway.

“You’re going to cry anyways. You’re going to have tears anyways,” Watkins said. “This way it’s a release. You feel a little better after you leave.”

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lsanderlin@wsjournal.com

336-727-7339

@LeeOSanderlin

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