'A place for contemplation and peace'

Orange County officials this week unveiled the winning design for a monument to crime victims planned for Mason Regional Park in Irvine.

On Saturday morning, dozens of victims or families of victims affected by violent or sexual crimes gathered at the site of the planned memorial.

"This monument will serve as a place of contemplation and peace for crime victims and their families," Irvine Mayor Steven Choi said.

The design reveal was the culmination of a year-long contest. Fifty-nine designers submitted their ideas of what the memorial should look like.

In November, that number was trimmed to five finalists, and eventually, judges settled on a schematic submitted from New York by a trio of designers.

In it, a pathway leads into a curved, circular wall nestled into a grassy berm.

A crowd gathered Saturday where that berm will eventually be to hear from survivors about the importance of the monument.

Paul Wilson's wife, Christy, died in October 2011 when a gunman walked into Salon Meritage in Seal Beach and killed eight people.

Wilson joined about a dozen others who'd been victimized by crimes as they each took turns releasing doves into the air.

"It represents the victims surviving and thriving," said Patricia Wenskunas, the founder of the Orange County-based Crime Survivors, Inc.

Later in the program, Wilson took to the podium.

"Christy was my wife, my best friend and really my world," he said.

More than two years after her death, trial for her alleged killer, Scott Dekraai, hasn't yet started, Wilson said, adding that he's ashamed that the justice system is built around fairness for the alleged shooter.

"Where are my rights as a victim survivor of this crime?" Wilson asked. "More importantly, where are the rights of my wife Christy and those seven other victims that day? Are we thinking of them?"

Wilson pledged to fight for his wife and the other victims' rights by speaking about them.

"Events like this allow me to heal," he said. "The people on this stage and everybody in attendance allow me to heal. This moment means so much to my family. It means we have a place to remember her and her true beauty. It means Christy will never be forgotten."

Advocates will soon start raising funds for the yet-to-be-determined cost of the project.

No taxpayer money will be used, said County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, who made the first donation by handing over a $25,000 check.

"It has to be successful," he said. "We have to make it happen."

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