CINCINNATI - If you lost a child to gun violence, how would you go on with your life?
Hope Dudley's son, Daniel "Chaz" Dudley, was shot and killed shortly after leaving the Club Ritz in Roselawn in the early morning hours of Sept. 29, 2007. His murder has never been solved.
The site of the infamous club is just a deserted parking lot now, but Hope still puts up reward posters, hoping someone will call with a clue to help find her son's killer.
"He was funny. He was lovable," Chaz’s mother said. "Whatever he went through or whatever he did, he was mine. He was mine and I loved him."
What she wants is an answer to the question: Who killed my son?
"I came here a year after it happened because I wanted to know every step he took that night. So, a year to the date, I went everywhere he went that night, and when I came here, I was horrified to find people fighting in the parking lot. At 2 a.m., they came from other clubs and they were already drunk," she said.
After the murder of another young man, Dexter Burroughs , inside the club in 2010, and the protests of more grieving parents, Hope helped shut down the club with a petition drive.
Does the pain ever go away?
"No. No," the still grieving mother stated.
She channeled that pain and made it her mission to not only find Chaz's killer but also help other families whose children have been murdered.
Hope founded UCanSpeakForMe , an organization and website dedicated to helping spread information about unsolved murders in the Greater Cincinnati area. She makes posters and puts them up in communities, prisons, jails and anywhere someone might see them and call with a tip.
The organization plays a pivotal role in helping to solve numerous local murder cases. One such case is that a slain teen Africa Hope.
"We got a call about Africa Hope. We did 500 reward cards, within 12 hours we hit the street, and within 24 hours, her case was solved ," she said.
Hope and her organization have received praise from law enforcement agencies, community leaders and even the White House. UCanSpeakForMe Bookmarker, Inc. received a special proclamation from President Barack Obama commemorating its continued effort to bring hope to crime victims as they navigate the heartbreak of loosing a loved one to violence.
Five days after Terrence Womack was gunned down in Evanston, Hope and UCanSpeakForMe were mobilized and ready to act.
She has canvassed the community, spoken with area leaders and placed the posters her group designed inside local businesses to help find clues in Womack’s murder case. One such business is Elesha's Styles Unlimited, a barbershop in the neighborhood.
Joe Hopewell knew Terrence. He's glad to help.
"Yes, he's from the neighborhood. He comes in; he used to come in quite often with a cousin of mine," Hopewell said.
In addition to solving murders, Hope is trying to do something for the friends and family of murder victims that wasn’t given to her when Chaz died: provide them with support.
"Nobody ever called me, nobody. Nobody said nothing," she said.
Hope says she owes it to Chaz to live the best life possible and that means to make a difference.
"I'm quite sure now that people who knew what they did to my child know that I'm not gonna stop. I'm not gonna stop," Hope said.
Visit UCanSpeakForMe.org to aid Hope's effort.
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