Gregg shares story of her son during National Crime Victims' Rights Week Kickoff

Apr. 22—THOMASVILLE- National Crime Victims' Rights Week kicked off on Friday morning at Trinity Anglican Church, where officers, advocates, and community partners came together to hear the story of Brandy Gregg, whose son was senselessly murdered in 2021.

Thomas County Sheriff's Office Captain Tim Watkins and Thomasville Police Department Captain Kim Dyke explained Gregg's story was only one of many, as most people do not realize the real victims in crimes are those left to pick up the pieces of their lives afterward.

Watkins shared an analogy of what it was like to be a crime victim.

"You're in the army, you have an echelon of soldiers in front of you, you have an echelon of soldiers behind you," he said. "You're looking back, you're facing forward, and then the guy in front of you, his head explodes, but are you wounded?"

Watkins explained that many times victims' scars are not visible to responding officers or the community as a whole, but they are still very real. Watkins said it is imperative to get the necessary information for the crime report, but as an officer, they also must get the entire story and what led to the events.

"If we have a 12-year-old runaway, we need to find out why she ran away," Watkins said.

Watkins shared that he had worked a case on a runaway, where he took the time to find out that the young girl ran away because her father had been sexually abusing her since she was 6 years old.

"We need to take the time to find out," he said. "We must do our jobs and turn in our case files in 90 days to get these victims the justice they deserve."

Watkins then became emotional as he shared the story that changed his life and the landscape of crimes against children in Thomas County.

Watkins had been called to a home, where it was rumored a 7-year-old was being molested by a resident in the home.

After a visit to the Emergency Room, Watkins was notified the 7-year-old's parents had been trading her out for drugs.

Watkins went on to provide Christmas for this young girl for two years, before he, the Thomas County Drug Squad, and the Thomasville Criminal Investigation Department decided to cook a Pilau Dinner to provide for more children just like the one in this case.

Her case began the annual Operation Goodwill Project and more than that was the beginning of Treehouse Advocacy Center.

"That is the case that started the Treehouse Advocacy Center here in Thomas County," said Jacka Lawson of TAC. "We have been in existence for 12 years now, where we now have resources for cases specifically like this one."

Through the help of TAC, children can be shielded from the additional trauma of a system response. None of these things would've been possible if it weren't for the memory of the victims in the cases worked.

Dyke agreed, sharing she had been the victim of a crime while attending college, but often wondered what ever became of it, as she was never informed.

In 1994, Dyke was working at Sally's Beauty Supply when a male walked in to look at hair dye. Dyke recalled walking over to ask if there was anything she could help him with when he pulled a knife and held it to her throat. He commanded her to take him to the register and give him the money.

"I'll never forget the response of the Tallahassee Police Department," she said. "I wasn't treated like a victim and after that night, I never heard one word. For me, that was traumatic. I never heard if they found him, and I lost faith."

Dyke's personal experience has led her to always put the victim first, no matter the situation.

Gregg is one of those victims.

In March 2021, Gregg received a phone call her son Evan Williamson had been killed.

"My morning started off like any other until I received a phone call that no one could find Evan," Gregg recalled. "That in and of itself was strange because he was always with someone."

Gregg said she tried calling him because Evan knew how she worried, but he never returned her call. She then received a call that Evan's license and key fob had been found and believed her son to be in trouble.

"I made more phone calls and found out that he was last in Barwick," she said. "I immediately think someone has hurt him and left him somewhere. Never did I think I would see my son again."

Gregg sent her husband and daughter to search for Evan in Barwick, but his body was later found in a wooded area. His belongings were gone, with his Dodge Challenger burned.

"All of this was done by a 14-year-old," Gregg said. "It sounds like a movie, but it wasn't; this was really happening to us, to me."

Gregg later met with GBI Agent Zack Johnson, who would assist in helping the Greggs find out what had happened to their son.

The Greggs opted to not have a trial, as the pain was too much to bear. Gregg said this did leave many unanswered questions, but some things were better left unknown.

"Losing a child is not like losing any other family member," she said. "The pain of losing a child is almost unbearable and I don't think you ever get over that, no matter how much time passes."

While Evan was the one whose life was tragically taken, Gregg said it is the family who has suffered most, picking up the pieces and knowing they are missing out on time and special moments Evan would've been here for.

"We feel like we are moving on without him," she said. "Trauma and recovery are a hard thing. I feel like I've been on autopilot since 2021 and not living my life."

Gregg said while a long process, the last six months have been the most healing and Friday's ceremony was another step closer to coming to terms with the situation.

Gregg was then invited to light a candle on Evan's behalf as those in attendance remembered him and the light he offered the world during his young life.

As the ceremony concluded, the audience was encouraged to reach out to community partners if they knew of a victim in need, as April is also National Child Abuse Prevention Month and National Sexual Assault Awareness Month.