Despite the chill and slight rain, many came to honor loved ones lost at the Victims Memorial Garden Brick Dedication at Phelps Grove Park April 25, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

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Eight new commemorative bricks were dedicated at the Victims Memorial Garden at Phelps Grove Park on April 25.

Though the rain held off for the ceremony, inclement weather throughout the day caused organizers to hold the event under the park’s pavilion, and the bricks will be placed in the garden at a later time.

About 100 people attended the annual brick-laying ceremony, which is part of National Crime Victims' Rights Week in Springfield.

Representatives from the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Victim Center and Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott asked crime victims' family members to stand alongside them as they spoke about the people being memorialized with the bricks.

First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Emily Shook asked Chrystal Dye’s daughter, Chassity, to come up while Shook explained why Dye was chosen. Dye was strangled to death in 2023.

Crystal Dye's daughter Chassity (left) and Greene County First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Emily Shook (right) at the Victims Memorial Garden Brick Dedication held at Phelps Grove Park on April 25, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Shook spoke about getting to know Chassity, learning about her hopes for her mother, and about Dye’s life and struggles. At the time of her death, Dye had been unsheltered for several years. The man convicted of killing her was sentenced to life in prison.

“We wanted to dedicate this brick in her honor and memory,” Shook said, “but also to really represent all of the other people in our community who often go unseen, people who are struggling with mental illness or addiction issues, people who are experiencing homelessness or for any reason maybe are not as prominent or visible in our community — but are just as deserving as protection.”

The physical bricks were not at the Victims Memorial Garden Brick Dedication, but these are photo representations of what they will look like. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Shook explained a special inscription on Dye’s brick that reads, “Never give up.”

“That was something Chassity shared with me that she remembered her mom saying,” Shook said. “I think that is an important message for Chassity and for all the rest of us.”

The Victims Memorial Garden was established in 1991 as a place to remember victims of violent crimes, their families, and to honor those who serve them in the Springfield community. The intent is to create hope for crime survivors and serve as a call-to-action to create safe environments for crime victims to share what happened to them.

Babies who died at day cares honored

Two children who died in unrelated incidents — both at unlicensed day cares in Greene County — were also honored with bricks.

Special Victims First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Elizabeth Fax, standing alongside the family of Cole Shirley, spoke about why baby Cole was among those honored with a brick. Cole was asphyxiated when his unlicensed day care provider strapped him and several other babies into car seats and then left them unattended.

*Jackie can you double check this set of names?
Rachel and Rob Shirley with their son Jaxson honor their late son, Cole, who died at an in home day care in March of 2022. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

“Cole was taken from us by someone who was supposed to keep him safe when he was 8 months old,” Fax said. “But today is not about that. The brick is not about what happened to him. It’s about baby Cole.

“Baby Cole was love and joy,” Fax continued. “He was especially love and joy to his big brother and to his parents.”

Sheriff Arnott stood alongside the family of Brynlee Jones, who also died at an unlicensed day care, and spoke about why four-month-old Jones was chosen to be honored with a brick.

“She died because of neglect of a babysitter who was supposed to take care of her,” Arnott said. “Our community surrounds the victims of crime, and that is one thing we do very well — we try to bring peace and togetherness.”

Sheriff honors child whose death remains under investigation

Arnott also dedicated a brick to Georgia Ruggles. Arnott called Ruggles’ death “another really sad case that is pending right now.”

“I just want to surround this family also with prayers,” Arnott said, adding that detectives have gotten to know the family and are close with them.

Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott introduces family of the late Georgia Ruggles at the Victims Memorial Garden Brick Dedication at Phelps Grove Park on April 25, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

A tearful Cory Ruggles spoke on behalf of the late Georgia Ruggles. Cory Ruggles explained that despite sharing a last name, he was not Georgia Ruggles’ biological father. He said he was the biological father of Georgia’s four siblings and loved the child very much.

“Georgia was taken from the family far too soon. In her short time, Georgia brought so much love and joy to my children,” Cory Ruggles said. “I have come to the realization that one can never truly quit grieving the loss of someone so special.”

Victims of 2023 gun violence honored

Janell Westbrook called on the families and friends of Chaviz Nguyen and Haley Frillman to join her as she spoke about what happened to Nguyen and Frillman.

Three teenagers have been charged with shooting Nguyen to death in 2023. Frillman, Nguyen’s fiancée, was also shot. Frillman survived and attended the brick-dedication ceremony. She was pregnant with Nguyen’s son at the time of the deadly shooting in downtown Springfield.

Janell Westbrook (middle) made a personal dedication to the families of gun violence victims Haley Frillman and the late Chaviz Nguyen at the Victims Memorial Garden Brick Dedication. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

“This group of people lost a pretty special guy this past year,” Westbrook said. “When death comes from a violent act, it doesn’t just take victims. It leaves victims.

“On Nov. 14, 2023 three teenagers set out to harm that night. Their actions cause an assault, a death and three murder charges,” Westbrook continued. “This one act of violence created a stream of victims. Chaviz was a son, a big brother, an uncle, a cousin, a friend, a leader and most importantly, a father.”

Westbrook said Nguyen had one young son and was expecting a second child at the time of his death. This second child “will only know his father in pictures and stories told about him,” Westbrook said.

Greene County Sheriff Deputies at the Victims Memorial Garden Brick Dedication held at Phelps Grove Park on April 25, 2024. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

“Chaviz wasn’t the only one shot that night. His fiance Haley survived the attack as did her unborn baby,” Westbrook said. “Chaviz and Haley had so much love between them, so many hopes and dreams and promises for tomorrow. They were looking forward to becoming parents and made plans. And in a second, everything changed by that random act of violence.”

The Victim Center honors two special people

Anne Crites, executive director of The Victim Center, was joined by the family of Isaac Carrier, a young man who was murdered in Montana in 2023. Carrier was from Greene County. His family lives here and have sought services at the Victim Center in Springfield.

Isaac’s mom, Jackie Carrier, described her son as a “young cowboy that loved the wide open skies of Montana and working with cattle.

“But most of all he loved his son, Stetson. He loved teaching him the cowboy way, riding horses and going fishing,” Jackie Carrier said. “On January 23, 2023, Isaac’s life was taken too soon at the young age of 30. Isaac was in an intense custody battle with his ex wife over Stetson. Isaac was killed two days prior to going to court to get Stetson back. He was murdered in his sleep by gunshot, and then his apartment set on fire to cover up the crime.”

Jackie Carrier thanked the Victim Center for supporting her family and for sponsoring Isaac’s brick.

“We want others to know that Isaac loved his son Stetson with all his heart,” she said. “We miss him with all our hearts and grieve losing him every day. We are continuing the journey to seek justice.”

The Victim Center also sponsored a memorial brick for the late Laura Lane, who was an employee of the center and died suddenly last September.

“She used to say she was not a people person, which is true,” Crites said. “Yet so much of what she did every day was for other people. I know that every time she stayed late and especially the times when she forced herself to get up early, she did it because she could see it would help our clients in some way. She cared so deeply about our mission and our clients.”


About the Victims Memorial Garden

The Victims Memorial Garden is a collaborative effort of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office, Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Christian County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Springfield Police Department, Greene County Juvenile Office, Ozark Mountain Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Missouri Probation and Parole, Springfield-Greene County Park Board, The Victim Center, The Child Advocacy Center and Harmony House.

Jackie Rehwald

Jackie Rehwald is a reporter at the Hauxeda. She covers public safety, the courts, homelessness, domestic violence and other social issues. Her office line is 417-837-3659. More by Jackie Rehwald