SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The theme for the 2017 National Crime Victim's week is 'Strength, Resilience & Justice'.
The annual observance in Gulfport focused on the brutal killing of 5-year-old Janaya Thompson, along with the subsequent investigation which eventually brought her killer to justice.
"As we host this meeting today, there's a great sensitivity in our heart to those who are victims and those who have been in the line of fire if you will," said Pastor Jimmy Stewart, as he welcomed the crowd to the observance at First Baptist Church of Gulfport.
Law enforcement representatives from across South Mississippi attended the observance.
Traditionally, attendees light candles in honor of crime victims. But this year the sole focus was a brutal murder that rocked the Coast.
"Five-year-old Janaya Thompson. She had an infectious smile, and a personality that brought people together," said assistant district attorney, Crosby Parker. "It only seems appropriate that we focus today's ceremony on how Janaya and her family were able to bring a community together and help it heal."
In a time when police officers face such scrutiny and even scorn from society, the district attorney sang their praises.
"We can come together and we can shine a light on those who serve us. We can honor those who give of their time, who sacrifice not only their bodies, but also sacrifice their personal lives," said Joel Smith.
Detective Sammy Jewell of Gulfport was honored with the top law enforcement award. He was the lead investigator on the murder case.
"It was a lot of responsibility....Throughout the process, I was hoping that I hadn't made any mistakes or forgotten anything. So it was just in my mind and I was hoping that I did everything right so that we could get justice," said Jewell.
Radio station owner and community volunteer Rip Daniels was presented the top citizen's award.
He was recognized for creating a program for middle school students called 'Crime and Consequences'.
The keynote speaker was Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam.