Published: Sunday, September 2, 2007
Grief is motivation to help others
People are helping children hurt by violence.
GIRARD The happy children were noisy excited about getting new book bags, pencils and pencil boxes while dining on hot dogs at a pavilion in Tod Park.
But amid the many balloons, face painting and fun was an undercurrent of sadness.
Near the flowing punch fountain, a small table held several candles and a framed poem that ends,
"Since you'll never be forgotten,
We pledge to you today,
A hallowed place within our hearts,
Is where you'll always stay."
Inside the frame are pictures of Lena Cross, 22, who was murdered with her two children, Mason Cross, 5, and Christian Pizzulo, 2, on Sept. 12, 2005. Cross died of multiple stab wounds, and her two children died of smoke inhalation after their apartment was set on fire.
Cindy Michael of Warren, whose son, Joe Pizzulo, was Lena's fiancé, said she often talks to the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office about the case.
She said she's been told, "There's not enough evidence to take it to trial."
Cross' mother, Karen Booth, and her family have hired private investigators.
While local authorities continue to investigate, Michael created the Lena, Mason and Christian Fund, a tax-exempt charity.
"I did it to help others," Michael said.
Funds for helping
Through a Christmas fund-raising event, she helped pay for the burials and people living at the Warren Family Mission, and now is helping young children with their school supplies.
"Other children in the community are getting murdered, and we have to stand together. This has to stop," Michael said.
She added, "You could let it go, and it will become commonplace."
Her brother, Jesse Michael of Girard, was cooking hot dogs on the grill. He estimated that upward of 450 people attended the event.
"As you can see, the community stands together pretty well," he said.
Debra Chapman, who works with the Trumbull County Department of Job and Family Services, said she was at the event with children just recently exposed to the violence in the community.
She was there with the family of Helen Moore, 29, of Youngstown, who was fatally shot along with her son, Ceonei, 8, on July 31. Her unborn child also died. Her ex-boyfriend and father of the unborn baby, Curtis Young, 24, faces three counts of aggravated murder.
Moore had three other children, two of whom were present during the shooting.
Chapman said people were trying to get a house for the family members and had received donations of furniture and other items.
The event at the park gave the children a chance to go out and be among kids while also "being with other people who have lost a family member to murder," Chapman said.
Miriam Fife, a victim's advocate with the prosecutor's office, was among the adults at the event.
"It's great for anyone who has a tragedy and can make something good," Fife said.
Fife should know. Her 12-year-old son was brutalized and murdered many years ago.
"It's sad when babies have to die," Fife said. "They don't have a chance to make their mark on the world."
For more information, visit www.lenamasonchristian.org