Murder victims remembered as Orange County sees spike in homicide rate

Bereaved Survivors of Homicide hosted event for families

By Mark Lehman - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Community members and law enforcement officials came together Wednesday to honor victims of homicide in Orange County.

The service, which was part of the 13th annual National Day of Remembrance, allowed surviving families to meet other people who have experienced the same pain and loss. It was hosted by the Bereaved Survivors of Homicide, which is a support group for those who have lost a loved one to homicide.

"I think it's important that the victims' families know that we're here for them, and we're here to support them," Undersheriff Mark Canty said. "To see these victims go through it and lose a loved one and their families lose a loved one, it's just hard for us, as well." 

Sheila Irizarry was among the dozens of family members who gathered at the Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. Deputies said Irizarry's daughter, Kimberly Cuni, was killed in February by her boyfriend, who then took his own life.

"It's a tragedy in my family, that was my baby girl," Irizarry said. "It's like, my whole life got turned around. It just got trashed to the floor."

According to the Sheriff's Office, there have been 47 homicides in 2019. The number is an increase from 2018, which saw 36 homicides at the same point last year and 50 for the entire year.

Deputies said a significant number of the homicide cases are connected to drug- or gang-related activity, which has been a primary focus of investigators.

"Our units are out there trying to focus on those people that are doing violent crimes, so we're looking at the drug dealers, and we're looking at gang members," Canty said. "All the resources we have at the Sheriff's Office are put out there to make sure that we find the people responsible and bring them to justice."

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