VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the General Assembly have already agreed to fund a $10-million Virginia Mass Victims Care Fund, but the families who traveled Wednesday to lobby legislators say that is not nearly enough.
Family members of four of the 12 killed on May 31, 2019, showed up in Richmond to be seen and heard.
10 On Your Side was with them as they walked into the Capitol, and they were there with their attorney, former Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax.
“We want to get these families support,” Fairfax said. “It’s been nearly four years and they have not been supported. Not in the ways they need to be supported.
“The Virginia Tech families have come out in support of the Virginia Beach families for that very reason. They know what it takes to get to a path of healing.”
The families took a seat in the Senate gallery. When announced and presented to the Senate by Virginia Beach state Sen. Bill DeSteph, they were given a loud standing ovation, which made Sarah Gayle Leonard emotional. She is the daughter of 5/31 victim Mary Louise Gayle.
“I have been paying out of pocket for psychiatric cares since May 31, 2019 that has never been reimbursed by the city,” Gayle Leonard said. “The only benefit reimbursed was therapy, and that was cut off right before the two-year anniversary of the tragedy.”
The $10-million Virginia Mass Victims Care Fund would be for all victims of all violent mass attacks in Virginia, and not just Virginia Beach.
Fairfax and the families want a fund just for 5/31 victims, just like the fund for victims of the Virginia Tech attack that killed 32. Fairfax repeatedly said how the Virginia Tech victims are supporting the Virginia Beach victims.
“They want $40 million, and that is what these families deserve,” Fairfax said.
DeSteph introduced the family members to the Virginia Senate. He supports the $10 million dollar fund to supplement existing funds.
“Yes, I feel very well where we stand right now,” DeSteph said. “There’s never enough money for something like this … and it will never bring that person back.”
5/31 victim Missy Langer’s sister Debbie Barato said she received some money, but it didn’t cover everything she needed.
“They gave me some traveling expenses,” Barato said. “I did get Virginia Victims Fund (money), about $3,500, which was ate up really quick within four months of therapy.”
5-31 victim Kate Nixon’s husband is Jason Nixon. It should be noted that from the start, only Nixon has been there to give comments and to explain where the families stand.
“I am optimistic they are going to do the right thing,” Jason Nixon said.
When we pointed out to Nixon the General Assembly and governor are not saying $40 million, they are saying $10 million and it’s for all victims not just Virginia Beach residents?
Well, they are not until I go to Congress and talk to them,” Nixon said.
The family members hope that before the General Assembly ends on Saturday, they get what they are asking for.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Nixon told us he and the others had a good meeting with Youngkin.
Where that meeting takes the discussion is unknown.