KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, presented the Crystal Kipper & Ali Kemp Memorial Award today to Assistant Jackson County Prosecutor Alison Dunning for her work on behalf of protecting children.
Today’s award ceremony was part of an annual event hosted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and VictimNet, a coalition of victim service providers and others committed to meeting the needs of crime victims in Jackson County, in conjunction with the observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This year’s theme, “New Challenges, New Solutions,” celebrates the spirit that will advance the progress these heroes achieved. It also captures the spirit and highlights the need for us to assist and serve each and every victim in need of hope and help.
“I have been a prosecutor the majority of my legal career, and I have seen first-hand the devastating effect crime has on victims and the need to ensure the rights of victims are respected,” Dickinson said. “I applaud those who work every day to ensure that the voice of the victim is heard at every stage in the legal process, in the hospital, in the police station and in the courtroom.
“We can’t turn back the clock to erase the tragedy suffered by victims of crimes,” Dickinson said in presenting the Crystal Kipper & Ali Kemp Memorial Award to Dunning. “What we can do – what we are committed to doing – is to pursue justice on their behalf. This award is intended to be a small reminder of both the value of justice and the pain shared by victims of crime.”
Dunning has devoted most of her 15-year career as a prosecutor to seeking justice on behalf of child victims. Most recently, Dunning was responsible for the successful prosecution of Matthew Nelson, an elementary school teacher in Grain Valley, Mo., who was convicted of 16 felony counts of statutory sodomy and child molestation. On March 13, 2013, Nelson pleaded guilty to all charges involving 11 child victims. He is scheduled to be sentenced on April 25, 2013.
“I know first-hand the difficulty of investigating and prosecuting these types of cases,” Dickinson said. “It takes an enormous amount of courage and dedication to prosecute child victim cases. It is heart-breaking enough to deal with adult victims of crimes, but when it comes to the most vulnerable victims, our children, it becomes even more horrendous.”
The Crystal Kipper & Ali Kemp Memorial Award is presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office each year during the local observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week to recognize the outstanding work of an individual or organization in protecting children from exploitation. The award was presented to Dunning in memory of Crystal Kipper and Ali Kemp, two young women who were both fatal victims of tragic crimes. Anna Rhea, Kipper’s mother, participated in today’s presentation.
“By honoring these two young crime victims whose deaths profoundly touched us all,” Dickinson said, “we pay our respects to all victims of crime, as well as recognizing those who work diligently to prevent and bring justice to those who exploit children.
“Just as the Kipper and Kemp cases highlight the need to protect children from criminals who prowl our highways and neighborhoods,” she added, “Matthew Nelson’s case reminds us that child predators can be anywhere, even in our children’s schools.”
Today’s event at the KC Live Stage in the Power and Light District also featured comments from Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker and Nathan Ross, a child abuse survivor and child welfare system advocate.
The event showcased a variety of art created by youth who participate in the MyARTS program, which serves at-risk teens. The event also included a showcase of various local victim service providers and a victims’ memorial walk led by the Kansas City Mounted Patrol.
The Crime Victims’ Rights Act (CVRA), enacted in 2004, grants victims in federal criminal proceedings certain enforceable rights, including the right to be reasonably heard at public court proceedings and to receive full and timely restitution as provided by law. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has a dedicated Victim/Witness Unit that serves federal crime victims across the district’s 66 counties. Members of this unit notify victims of significant case events through the Department of Justice’s Victim Notification System (VNS). Such notice enables victims to participate in court proceedings and make their voices heard. Victim/Witness personnel accompany victims to court hearings and trials to ensure that victim participation in court proceedings is meaningful and to answer questions and explain the federal judicial process.
In addition to notification and court accompaniment, the U.S. Attorney’s Office Victim/Witness Unit provides essential services to victims, such as making referrals for counseling, securing temporary housing, assisting with access to victim compensation funds, and accompanying victims to court to provide support and guidance during the proceedings. These services provide tools victims need to reshape their futures.
Further information about National Crime Victims’ Rights Week is available at http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ncvrw/.
The Crystal Kipper & Ali Kemp Memorial Award
Crystal Kipper was an 18-year-old Gladstone, Mo., resident who was murdered after her car broke down on Interstate 29, just north of Platte City, on Feb. 24, 1997. Ali Kemp was a 19-year-old Blue Valley North High School graduate who was murdered on June 18, 2002, while she worked at the Foxborough neighborhood swimming pool in Leawood, Kan.