Q&A with Victim Advocate Lucy Drake
The following Q&A is with Lucy Drake, a Victim Advocate II currently assigned to the Barstow Office of the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office. Drake has been with the office for seven years.
Q: What has been the most memorable case you’ve handled?
LD: The Jeami Chiapulis case; I think of it as the case that seemed to never completely close. The victim was Leisa Hurst, single mother of two young girls. Her boyfriend (Chiapulis) killed and buried her in the desert…somewhere. The family had several huge search parties go out on the weekends but they weren’t able to find her body. Then DDA Sean Daugherty approached the family with the idea of offering Chiapulis a plea agreement of 2nd Degree murder in return for him showing them where Leisa’s body was buried. The family was on board with the idea and Chiapulis accepted the deal. So they were able to get her body and finally have a proper funeral. Finally, the family thought they were close to getting some closure. Both of Leisa’s parents were very involved in the case. Leisa’s dad went to EVERY SINGLE court appearance. And even though she lived out of state, Leisa’s mom went to quite a few herself.
But on the day of Chiapulis’ Sentencing the defendant’s other girlfriend, Joyce Fransson, was interviewed by Police Detectives Libby and Griego. She told them that she was the one who showed Chiapulis where to bury something he didn’t want found. Somehow I ended up sitting in on her interview and even rode out with Joyce and the Detectives while she directed them to where she and Chiapulis had taken Leisa’s body. In the end, Joyce was charged with and plead guilty to the court for Accessory; she was sentenced to three years in State Prison.
Just when we thought the final chapter was finally done, Chiapulis picked up more charges involving this case. While in custody at Tehachapi State Prison, Chiapulis allegedly tried to hire another inmate to get someone to kill Det. Libby, Det. Griego, Joyce Fransson and Leisa’s two daughters. The inmate didn’t follow through, and instead contacted Det. Libby and told him all about it. So now Chiapulis is facing charges in Kern County for Soliciting to Commit Murder.
Also, 48 Hours took an interest in the case. So from time to time throughout, we’d have the producer from 48 Hours coming to court. And sometimes there was even a camera crew filming court proceedings and conducting interviews with various people related to the case. The episode was called “Body of Lies.” [EDITOR’S NOTE: To view the episode, click here]
Q: Why is the role of the advocate so important?
LD: The judicial system, as a whole, is pretty intimidating and hard to understand. I feel like a large part of my job is being an interpreter. It’s pretty easy for the victim to kind of get “lost” in the whole prosecution process. Many victims do want to know what’s going on with the case, but they don’t feel comfortable coming to court or calling the DDA. They feel more comfortable just talking to me. And most of the time it’s during these conversations about case status that we talk about their restitution issues or their need to apply to the Victim Compensation Program (VCP) for counseling, etc. These things are pretty important and most victims don’t even know they’re available. And finally, victims just need support in general. I’m still amazed at how many victims I meet who come to testify about something horrific that happened to them, and don’t have a single person in their life who could come with them for support. It’s sad. But I’m glad at least I’m able to be there.
Q: What is the most difficult part of your job?
LD: I think the most difficult part of my job is working with homicide cases. From the very first phone call, they’re difficult. I never know what I’m going to encounter on the other end of that phone when I make the call. Sometimes the person I talk to is able to hold themselves together throughout the conversation. Other times, the person falls apart at the mention of their loved one’s name. And it all starts from there. There’s family dynamics that I have to learn and work with. They have lots of anger and resentment at the defendant not only for killing their loved one, but also for all of the defendant’s rights to continuances, hiring/firing of attorneys, appeals, etc. I get to hear about all of it. It’s completely understandable. But at the same time, it wears on you after a while.
Q: Best part of your job?
LD: The best part of my job is just a bunch of little things, really. It’s helping a family get relocated before their abuser gets out of custody. It’s helping a family get funding for a funeral they weren’t expecting to be planning this week. It’s running into past victims at the grocery store and hearing about how much better they’re doing “now that it’s all over.” It’s that look of relief I see on a victim’s face when I tell them about VCP that could possibly help them with their astronomical medical bills. It’s getting a thank you card in the mail that brings tears to my eyes. It’s getting to be there with a family and hearing a long-awaited guilty verdict. It’s getting bear hugs after a sentencing. It’s a lot of little things that you could never put a price tag on.
Q: What made you want to become an advocate for the District Attorney’s Office?
LD: While I was in college, I had to do an internship at Haley House, the Domestic Violence shelter here in Barstow. After my internship, I got hired as a DV shelter Advocate. I loved my work there. It was an amazing feeling to see women come into the shelter completely broken with no hope in their eyes, and be transformed into stronger people who could not only stand on their own, but also help strengthen other women coming into shelter. I felt so honored to play the smallest part in that. During my time at the shelter, I met Denise Mason-Sears. She was the advocate assigned to the Barstow DA’s Office back then and would routinely come to the shelter and help the clients complete VCP applications. One day while she was waiting on a client, my co-worker started asking her to tell us about her job. I was fascinated by her work. To me, it seemed very similar to what I was doing at the shelter, except on a much broader scale. I loved the idea and knew immediately that as soon as I was done with my degree, becoming an advocate for the District Attorney’s Office would be my next goal.