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Nov 22, 2012 12:31 AM by Lupita Murillo

Victims' advocate loses cancer battle

TUCSON - The founder of Homicide Survivors loses her battle with cancer. Gail Leland, a treasured member of the community died Wednesday morning in her sleep.

Out of her own tragedy, the 63-year-old Leland turned it into a triumph for victims' rights.

In 1981 her 14-year-old son Richard's remains were found in the desert on the northwest side. In 1983, she and Gloria Fritz started Parents of Murdered Children, and in 1997 it became Homicide Survivors.

Gail Leland celebrated her 63rd birthday last month surrounded by friends and family.

Vicki Hart, a long-time friend says, "It's a very sad day, it's been a long 10 years for Gail and she handled it better than anybody I've seen in my life. Her illness and continued to do for others all that time."

Her youngest son Michael, was only five when his older brother Richard was murdered. He, along with his older brothers, had to share their mother with other victims' families.

"Her life's work has helped so many people and she is a wonderful mom and grandmother," Michael said. "She's made me more compassionate. She's shown me tragedy can be overcome."

Brian Fritz met Gail Leland when his little sister Cathy was murdered in 1983. He says Gail was there to help his family and then went on to help so many more.

"When somebody is murdered especially the parents they are in a daze they don't know what to do and Gail took it not only to help them get through that grieving process but when somebody was caught she would help them thru the court process."

Even though she helped thousands of people, she never found out who murdered her son. Now some believe, she is at peace and has been reunited with her son Richard.

Leland loved her sons, and she adored her six grand children. She will be missed.

Funeral services are pending. The family requests in lieu of flowers to make donations to Homicide Survivors.

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