Longtime victims’ rights advocate’s death ‘great loss for the community’ -- Gazette.Net



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After being kept from witnessing the murder trial for his then-22-year-old daughter who was kidnapped and raped before being slain in 1982, an Upper Marlboro man dedicated his life to advocating for victims’ rights up to the day he died, say those close to him.

Longtime crime victims’ rights advocate Vincent Roper, 79, experienced breathing troubles and died at an area hospital April 4.

Stephanie Roper, a senior at Frostburg State University, was kidnapped and raped before being killed April 3, 1982, and Vincent Roper and his wife, Roberta Roper, formed the Stephanie Roper Committee and Foundation, which in 2002 became the Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, based in Upper Marlboro.

The Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center is a state-wide nonprofit that advocates for victims’ rights and provides services to crime victims through criminal justice education, court accompaniment, therapeutic counseling and other forms of support, according to its website.

Colleagues and friends said Vincent Roper’s legacy will continue on in places such as the courtroom each time the victim of a crime reads an impact statement prior to a sentencing as he lobbied to make that a victims’ right.

“Vince was the foundation, the rock of the organization’s existence,” MCVRC executive director Russell Butler said. “He was very influential from the start up until his death.”

He died just hours after being handed a proclamation from Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) crediting his work and declaring April 3 as Crime Victims and Advocates Commemorative Day.

“Along with his wife, Roberta, Vince Roper worked tirelessly to see that victims of crime were treated with dignity and respect and given all the rights due under law,” O’Malley said. “When the laws were proven to be inadequate, they worked to get old laws changed or new laws passed. Countless Marylanders have benefitted from their dedicated service, and thousands of lives are better because of their work.”

The commemoration day proclamation was chosen for April 3 to mark the same day as Stephanie Roper’s death, Butler said.

“It was intentionally put on the day Stephanie was murdered to try and make something good out of a horrible situation,” said Butler, who became the executive director of MCVRC in 2002 but has known the Ropers since 1984 when he became their attorney and lobbyist.

He said the entire premise for Vincent Roper’s work and the center’s mission is built around making a difference for crime victims in light of tragic situations.

Roper served as MCVRC’s treasurer and the chairman of the center’s governance committee until his death.

Attempts to reach Roberta Roper or other family members were unsuccessful.

The Rev. Wayne Rice, Sr. of Landover said when his son was murdered in 2002, he joined a victims’ support group the Ropers led.

Rise said apart from his son’s death, his granddaughter was killed in a car crash, and the couple helped support him and attend services.

“I have experienced quite a bit of loss and tragedy and have always looked up and admired Vince and his kind spirit,” he said.

Now Rise runs his own victim advocacy nonprofit in Landover called The Center for True Justice and Healing.

“I’m going to miss working with him,” he said. “It’s a great loss in the community for victims and support, but the work will go on because that is no doubt what Vince would have wanted.”

Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Saint Joseph’s Center, 11704 Duley Station Road, Upper Marlboro. Visitation is from 9:30 to 11 a.m.

Butler said Roberta Roper has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to MCVRC or the Stephanie Roper Scholarship at Frostburg.

Donations for either can be sent to MCVRC at 1001 Prince George’s Blvd., Suite 750, Upper Marlboro, MD 20774.

Staff writer Peggy McEwan contributed to this article.

djgross@gazette.net