For Immediate Release - April 08, 2014

Virginia Marcheterre Receives Victim Service "Public Policy Advocacy" Award at State House

BOSTON – During Victim Rights Month in April, Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Victim Witness Assistance Board, and the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA) recognize individuals and organizations that have made notable advancements in victim rights and services in the state. Virginia Marcheterre received this year’s “Public Policy Advocacy” award for her efforts to inform and advocate for domestic violence law reform in the state.

In 2010, Heather Allenye, Ms. Marcheterre’s daughter, was killed in a domestic violence homicide committed by her husband. In the aftermath of having lost her daughter and while planning funeral arrangements, Marcheterre received another devastating blow from the coroner who informed Marcheterre that Heather’s husband had legal rights to her remains as “next of kin” despite being charged with her murder. Dumbfounded there were no current laws or regulations that dealt with this situation, Marcheterre took her case to court.

With the assistance of her attorney, Marcheterre argued in family and probate court and eventually superior court for custody of Heather’s remains. After several weeks and many court appearances later, the court agreed with Marcheterre that given the circumstances of Heather’s death her family should be awarded custody of her remains. Long after Heather’s funeral, Heather was finally able to receive the proper burial she and her family deserved.

To ensure this never happened again, Marcheterre joined forces with Senator Karen Spilka and Representative Kate Hogan to establish law that would deny a person charged or convicted of the death of their spouse their legal right to the body. The bill moved through the legislative process and was signed into law by Governor Patrick in January of this year.

“Victim Rights Month serves as an opportunity to recognize those who have one of the most important and lasting impacts on their communities,” AG Coakley said. “Each of the award recipients have demonstrated a long history of selflessly caring for others and we’re lucky to have each of them serving our fellow residents when they are most vulnerable and in need of compassion and honesty.”

“What Ginny and her family had to go through - all while grieving Heather’s tragic death - is almost inconceivable,” said Liam Lowney, MOVA’s Executive Director. “Despite the unbelievable challenges they endured, their strength and conviction influenced statutory change and it is a true pleasure to honor Ginny for these efforts and, more importantly, Heather’s memory which lead to this progressive policy change.”

For further information on Victim Rights Month activities or this year’s award recipients, please visit MOVA’s website www.mass.gov/mova or call (617) 586-1340.