Building Understanding in Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice

UNC's victims studies class, a mandatory course for students majoring or minoring in Criminal Justice, hears from people directly affected by crime. Graphic courtesy of stock.xchng.

UNC's Criminal Justice program has formed a unique relationship with a unique group of people. The common goal: educating students about the justice system by putting faces on victims of a murderous crime.

Sheila and Ron Kimmell, who set up a scholarship at UNC in memory of their daughter Lisa Marie Kimmell, join Judy Mason in visiting UNC's victim studies class to share their story each semester.

The three were on campus this week to speak to the class about Lisa's murder in 1988 at the hands of Mason's brother Dale Eaton. Sheila has since written a book about the events of the murder, recounting the families' experience with the justice system in "The Murder of Lil Miss."

They have used the terms "ultimate victim," "secondary victim," and "victim in the third degree," to describe the different levels of victims. Lisa is considered the ultimate victim, the Kimmells are secondary victims and Mason is the victim in the third degree,'' a person who is related to the criminal.

In Assistant Professor Mary West-Smith's introduction to victim studies class, the students get to read Sheila's book. While most victim studies courses are electives for those studying criminal justice, West-Smith said, UNC's is mandatory for students majoring and minoring in the program.

"We feel really strongly here that the law enforcement, the courts, people who are going to work in these systems, need to understand how crime affects victims," West-Smith said.

Although the Kimmells haven't forgiven Eaton, they have become friends with Mason because they understand that she too is a victim. According to West-Smtih, this relationship and their travails with the justice system provide a presentation that students can learn from.

And they do.

Two years ago, Jared Palma, a senior criminal justice major seeking a career in law enforcement and a 2008-2009 recipient of the Lisa Marie Kimmell Scholarship, read Sheila's book and said it is eye opening about the flaws in America's justice system.

"After reading the book, I have become more aware of some the emotions that victims go through, and the process that they must go through to achieve justice," Palma said. "I will keep this in mind as I begin my career in law enforcement."

About the Scholarship

The Lisa Marie Kimmell Scholarship was started three years ago and is funded by the Southern Institute for Forensic Science, a private consortium that provides a variety of courses that are offered for college credit at sponsoring institutions, including UNC.

Students who are active members in the criminal justice program and maintain a 2.5 grade point average are applicable for the scholarship. In the spring, two students with either junior or senior status are awarded $500 each with the scholarship.

Al Price, UNC Criminal Justice faculty member and the program director at the SIFS, with the help of Colleen Fitzpatrick, the program director and a professor of criminal justice, introduced the Kimmells to UNC. Price and Fitzpatrick met the Kimmells at an SIFS Major Case Management for Violent Crimes seminar in which Sheila gave a compelling discussion about her experiences from Lisa's death.

"We have instituted this scholarship in Lisa Marie Kimmell's memory on behalf of the family's wishes to promote education in the criminal justice system," Price said.

- Story by Christina Romero