This story was published in The Modesto Bee on April 22, 1998. >
Hundreds of white wooden coffins lined the west lawn of the Capitol on Tuesday, a stark reminder of murder victims from all over the state.
One of those coffins was for Darlene Paris, who was murdered in Salida in 1990 when she was 23 years old. Another was for Richard Ritchey, who was 25 when he died in the same massacre, which claimed a total of four people.
Five people were convicted in the murders; three are on death row and the other two are serving long prison sentences.
The coffins were the backdrop for the ninth annual Victims March on the Capitol sponsored by the California Correctional Peace Officers Association.
Among the hundreds attending the rally were people who traveled on three buses from the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The buses were coordinated by Paris' mother, Janice Keson of Ripon, who started the support group Victims Rights with her husband, Mark Keson.
Larry Madden of Modesto was at the rally, too, but there was no coffin representing his handsome son Michael.
Michael Madden, who was a student at Humboldt State University, has been missing since Aug. 13, 1996. His family believes he was fishing at Sand Bar Flats near Pinecrest in Tuolumne County when he disappeared.
Larry Madden said law enforcement officers have told him they believe his 22-year-old son was murdered. The Madden family has offered a $1,000 reward for information on Michael's whereabouts and the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for his disappearance.
Madden said he would like to see legislation adopted that would allow the Department of Justice to become involved when a local investigation bogs down.
Madden credited Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, for supporting the family in its attempt to keep the investigation active.
At a luncheon following the rally, Cardoza was presented a plaque by Jacque MacDonald, the mother of murder victim Deborah Ann Whitlock. Whitlock was killed in her north Modesto home in 1988. A preliminary hearing for her accused killer is set for September.
MacDonald said Cardoza has helped support her television show, "The Victim's Voice," on KBSV-TV Channel 23, by contributing his pay raise last year -- about $300 a month -- to the show.
"I think it's an important message to keep out there, so I decided that was the highest and the best use of those funds," Cardoza said.
The assemblyman said he is committed to helping crime victims in part because he saw the impact of a violent crime on family friends several years ago.
"I'm tolerant in a lot of ways, but I'm not tolerant of people victimizing other people," he said.
In the meantime, as victims' advocates gathered on the Capitol's west steps, the Senate Public Safety Committee was voting down a bill by Sen. Dick Monteith, R-Modesto, that would have made it easier for prosecutors to get a first-degree murder conviction in drive-by shootings.
Stanislaus County District Attorney Jim Brazelton sponsored the bill and members of his office testified for it.
The bill failed on a vote of four to three. All four no votes came from Democratic members of the committee. Monteith asked for and was granted reconsideration of the measure at a later date.