January 1, 2013

Community voices grief over Biddeford slayings

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – More than 200 people turned out on New Year's Eve for a candlelight vigil to remember the two young victims of Saturday night's shootings at an apartment on Sokokis Road.

click image to enlarge

Hundreds attended a vigil at Rotary Park in Biddeford on New Year's Eve to remember Derek Thompson, 19, and his girlfriend Alivia Welch, 18, whow ere shot and killed by their landlord James Pak on Saturday. In the above photo, friends and family form a heart with their candles.

Derek Davis / Staff Photographer

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The parking lot at Rotary Park was filled Monday night as people of all ages stood in the cold, wept and held each other while family members talked about the void left by the deaths of 19-year-old Derrick Thompson and his girlfriend, 18-year-old Alivia Welch.

Monday's vigil was organized almost entirely on Facebook by Thompson's older sister, Kari Henderson, and a cousin, Katelyn Grant. The women were not surprised by the large turnout.

"It's nothing less than expected. They were both very well-known and loved," Grant said. "Everyone here has a connection with them."

Thompson and Welch were shot to death Saturday in their apartment on Sokokis Road, apparently during a dispute with their landlord over parking during a snowstorm. Thompson's mother, Susan Johnson, 44, was wounded.

The landlord, James Pak, is charged with two counts of murder.

Henderson said her brother was one of six siblings.

"Derrick was into so many things. His truck, his girlfriend. She was a great girl, a real sweetheart with a great head on her shoulders," Henderson said before the vigil started.

"He was very much into trucks and had his customized. He drove it anywhere he could burn rubber," Henderson said of her brother's black GMC truck.

The mood during the vigil was somber. People held candles and stood in silence for several minutes before planting candles in the snow-covered parking lot in the shape of a heart.

"I'll never get to experience life with Derrick," Thompson's father, Richard Thompson, told the crowd before he became too emotional to go on.

His best friend, Dana Lamson, also broke down.

"Derrick and I grew up together. We've known each other since we were 6 years old. He was the best friend I could have asked for," Lamson said.

Henderson said she had been dreading the vigil but then felt comforted by the show of community support.

"I feel some kind of peace now," she said.

Earlier in the day, Biddeford High School Principal Britton Wolfe pointed out that the city's youths are still recovering from the murders of 21-year-old Derek Greene and 19-year-old Gage Greene.

The brothers were shot to death by Rory Holland on South Street on June 30, 2009. Holland was convicted of their murders, and is serving a life sentence.

"This is a generation in this community that has been devastated by gun violence," Wolfe said. "There are kids I know who are not over Derek and Gage's murders yet, and I don't know if they ever will be.

"This generation of youth have just seen four of their friends killed by gun violence in the last three years," he said. "'Senseless tragedy' doesn't even begin to describe the reality of it. It's just crazy."

The Biddeford High School community may try to start a conversation about gun violence as students come to grips with the murders, Wolfe said. Those conversations may include the larger community.

For now, Wolfe said, he wants to focus on helping students -- including Thompson's younger siblings, who attend Biddeford schools -- deal with the tragedy.

"I just want to help them any way I can with ways to speak out about it," he said.

-- Staff Writer Gillian Graham contributed to this report.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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