31st annual Tree of Angels honors those lost to violent crime

Christmas trees inside a Downtown Austin church were decorated with the names of victims of violent crimes as part of the 31st Annual Tree of Angels.

"It's important that they're part of our community and not isolated or feel so disconnected during the holidays," said Stacy Miles-Thorpe, victim witness counselor with the District Attorney's Office.

People Against Violent Crime held a special Christmas tree decorating celebration at the Central Christian Church in Downtown Austin Sunday.

Each angel on the tree has the name of a victim of a violent crime.

Betty Alcala and her family were a few of the dozens of people who put up a wooden angel ornament in honor of their loved one. One of those ornaments was for her nephew, Alejandro Martinez.

"Alejandro’s not going to be here with us this year and that breaks my heart. He was only 22 and it's very difficult for the family because he was such a beautiful person," said Betty Alcala.

Alejandro was murdered earlier this year. The family is currently awaiting a trial.

"He was stolen from us. This person that murdered him, stole him from us, stole all those memories," said Alcala.

Alcala says Alejandro was always smiling and loved chocolate. She says honoring him in this way gives her peace during this holiday.

"The holidays are a particularly painful time. You see so much in the world about family and joy and it can just feel like such a disconnect when you're deeply grieving somebody, so [this is a way] to be able to have a safe place to come and be part of the holidays," said Miles-Thorpe.

Dozens of families came in to hang their loved ones' names up with care to honor them and also spread awareness and put an end to violent crime..

"I think it's critical that we not forget the people that have been taken from us and from our community. That we're able to openly remember them," said Miles-Thorpe.

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