Candlelight vigil brings Rhinelander community together
Domestic violence advocates organized a candlelight vigil Thursday night in front of the Oneida County Courthouse. Shellie Holmes, Executive Director of Tri-County Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault welcomed the crowd of about 50 by thanking them for their attendance and saying that coming together as a community is a way of making sense of tragedy.
“We’re here tonight, not only to honor the homicide victims, but the loss of a family,” Holmes said. “The simple act of coming together and lighting a candle will help us calm our souls and ease our sadness and loss because it is a loss to our community whether we personally knew the victims or not.”
March 8 the bodies of two Oneida County residents were discovered in their home along with three young girls who were not harmed. Seventeen-year old Ashlee Martinson is charged with the murder of her mother, 40-year old Jennifer Ayers, and step-father, 37-year old Thomas Ayers. The three young girls are in the custody and care of Oneida County social services.
Several members of the religious community also spoke, including Jill Kusek, a lay minister at Immanuel Lutheran Church. She told the crowd that it has been a difficult week for the entire community.
“You and I find peace when we can put all of the information together to come to a place of understanding. It’s very hard to do that when there are so many unanswered questions,” Kusek said. “A young woman has been accused of doing something that is inconceivable to us. A mother and father are dead and there are three little girls without their parents or big sister tonight. Let’s not forget the parents of Thomas and Jennifer. We’re here to recognize the effect of domestic violence on our lives.”
Tri-County Council is working with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department to accept cash donations for the surviving girls, and some gifts such as books and toys for girls ages 2 to 10. Contact Shellie Holmes at Tri-County with questions or donations.