Fund brings Tucsonans together to aid shooting tragedy's survivors

2012-11-04T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T17:08:41Z Fund brings Tucsonans together to aid shooting tragedy's survivorsTim Steller Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 04, 2012 12:00 am  • 

When Jared Lee Loughner is sentenced Thursday, one of his victims, Mavanell "Mavy" Stoddard, will have out-of-state family members around her thanks in part to the generosity of Tucsonans.

The Tucson Together Fund is covering travel expenses for Stoddard's daughter, who lives in Eugene, Ore., and for the family of Stoddard's granddaughter to drive here from Colorado Springs. Mavy Stoddard was shot three times in Loughner's Jan. 8, 2011, rampage, leaving five bullet wounds. Her husband, Dorwan "Dory" Stoddard, 76, died trying to shield her from the bullets.

The fund is a combination of three fundraising efforts for victims formed in the weeks following the tragedy that killed six and injured 13. The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona took over day-to-day management of the fund along with the Victims' Services Division of the Pima County Attorney's Office, and Homicide Survivors.

"It's been wonderful," Stoddard said. "It's helped us all tremendously."

So far, the fund has received $516,235 in donations and paid out a little less than half of that, $252,266, said Kent Burbank, who directs the victim services division.

Two lump-sum payouts have accounted for much of the spending. Each victim's family received a $5,000 payment in the months after the shooting, and another $5,000 around the anniversary on Jan. 8, 2012. For other expenses, victims submit an application through the victim services office.

That office determines whether money is available for the requested purpose through county or federal funds, or whether the Tucson Together Fund should be used, Burbank said. The county's funds, which come from fines and fees paid by convicted criminals, is for five specific purposes:

• Medical expenses

• Counseling or mental-health expenses

• Loss of wages

• Funeral expenses

• Crime-scene cleanup

An individual victim's compensation from county funds is capped at $20,000, Burbank said. Often, since victims apply for a payment through the victim services division, they aren't sure which source of money is covering their expenses.

There's no cap for payouts from the Tucson Together Fund, but the fund has tried to create an accountable system, with an independent board and oversight from the victim services division. The surprise has been that the federal criminal case is ending, and it's unclear whether there will be any state criminal case against Loughner.

In August Loughner pleaded guilty to nine murder and attempted-murder counts in exchange for federal prosecutors dropping 30 other counts and forgoing their plan to seek the death penalty. He is to be sentenced to seven consecutive no-parole life terms.

"The fund is intended to be around for the long term," Burbank said. "We did not anticipate that there would be resolution to the federal case this quickly. We also assumed that there would be a state case as well."

Other victim funds, such as the one for victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, had to be available for a decade of court procedures, he noted.

The fund has helped Eric Fuller meet his basic financial obligations, such as keeping up to date on his house payment.

"I wouldn't have made it," said Fuller, who was shot and wounded that day. "I lost too much work because of the shooting."

Pam Simon, a Gabrielle Giffords staffer wounded in the attack along with the congresswoman, said she's used the money to cover the cost of a counselor who was not in her health insurance network. Another Giffords staffer, U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, said he's also received help paying for counseling for his children and grandchildren.

Barber and others congratulated Burbank and his colleagues on their management of the money.

"They've been the most flexible, least bureaucratic entity I've ever dealt with in terms of helping people," said Barber, who spent three decades in the state's social services agencies.

Several victims said they didn't have much need for the money, but took organizers' advice and used it to help the community that reached out to them after the shooting.

Jim Tucker said he used a small amount to replace his clothes that were destroyed that day. He gave the rest to causes that matter to him, like the Ronald McDonald House and the University of Arizona Trauma Center, which treated most of the victims on Jan. 8.

But even if victims haven't taken significant advantage of the fund, that doesn't mean it's not helping them.

Suzi Hileman said she used her lump sum to form Grandparents In Residence, an intergenerational mentoring program. She hasn't made other use of it, but she said it's comforting the fund exists.

"It really does help just to know it's there," she said, "even if I never touch it."

Contact reporter Tim Steller at 807-8427 tsteller@azstarnet.com

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