Remembering to forgive

Parents of Murdered Children hosts Corley, ceremony

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Those who attended the 2017 A Day of Remembrance ceremony at the old Sumter County Courthouse on Thursday evening received a message about finding forgiveness.

The event was hosted by the Sumter chapter of Parents of Murdered Children.

The ceremony started with attendees marching from Central Carolina Technical College's Main Street campus to the courthouse.

During the ceremony, the crowd was addressed by local and state officials and law enforcement officers who spoke about finding a light amid the darkness of losing a loved one to violence.

This year's guest speaker was Milton Corley, former manager of Corley Vision Center on Bultman Drive, who shared his story publicly for the first time.

On Aug. 10, 2011, Corley's daughter, Melissa Corley Haley, was stabbed to death after leaving the now-closed Scooter's Lounge on U.S. 378 with a man named Samuel G. Henderson.

Henderson was arrested, charged with murder and sentenced to 45 years in a state prison by a Third Circuit Court judge.

Haley was 33 years old when she was killed and was a mother of two.

"I remember her every day," Corley said. "It still hurts."

He said he sometimes sits in church and thinks how wonderful it would be if his daughter could sit by his wife on Mother's Day.

Corley said the hardest thing to accept was knowing that his daughter was alive when she was left in the woods near Cane Savannah Road.

"I know in my heart as a Christian I have to forgive, but I just can't do it right now," he said.

After the death of his daughter, Corley said he could not go to work nor talk to anyone about his loss.

But over time, after the Corleys moved to Myrtle Beach and joined a new church, he began to find peace again.

"God is in all of this," he said. "It does get better."

Milton's wife, Teresa Corley, later spoke about her path to forgiveness.

"Nobody gets away with anything. God knows it all," she said.

Teresa said she was visited by an angel who directed her to the words of Romans chapter 12 verse 9, which talks about forgiveness.

When someone harms you, give it to God because vengeance is his, she said.

Teresa said although her daughter is not here, she is. She said she is here to spread the word of forgiveness to other families that have been hurt.

After Milton and Teresa Corley spoke, family members of murder victims were given candles to hold while the deceased's names were said in remembrance. Each time a name was called out, a bell rang.

Every year, light a candle on the anniversary of your loved one's death and say, "I remember," the Rev. Maggie Richardson, president of Sumter Chapter POMC, said.

Near the end of the ceremony, Richardson and Ann Mack, secretary of the group, revealed the group's wall that holds photos of loved ones who were murdered.

Richardson said two more photos will be added to the wall, including a photo of Melissa Corley Haley.

The wall started with three photos and has grown to hold 23 photos.

Richardson said she hopes no more pictures are added to the wall, but if more do come, the group will continue to move forward.

You should search every day to restore hope, she said.

"If we love God, we have got to love people," she said.