Funeral expenses for Damas family covered by state victims' fund

Damas' last words to Haiti

Thoughts before extradition

— At $6,000, the average cost of a funeral is an expense that no one really wants to think about.

Thankfully, the Dieu family of Collier County doesn’t have to.

On Saturday, the family is burying not one, but six family members -- 32-year-old Guerline Dieu Damas and her children, Meshach “Zack” Damas, 9; Maven Damas, 6; Marven Damas, 5; Megan Damas, 3; and Morgan Damas, 19 months.

Authorities say that the family was slain about two weeks ago by 33-year-old Mesac Damas, Guerline’s husband and the children’s father, who is in jail facing six counts of first-degree premeditated murder.

It will no doubt be an expensive funeral, but the Dieu family won’t be picking up the tab.

That responsibility actually falls to Florida’s criminals through the Florida Attorney General’s Office‘s Crime Victim Compensation Program.

“The money comes from when defendants are sentenced. There is a $50 fee that is imposed,” said Samantha Syoen, State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman in Fort Myers. “Part of that fee goes into a trust fund.”

The program was established in 1978 to provide fair treatment for victims and witnesses, Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Ryan Wiggins said in an e-mail. The fund covers a variety of expenses, authorities said, including property loss, domestic violence relocation assistance, prescriptions, prosthetic devices, and mental health counseling.

And, of course, it covers funeral costs, up to $6,000 per person.

Wiggins said her office authorized an initial $6,000 payment to the Dieu family -- $1,000 for each victim -- last week.

“We are expecting itemized funeral bills, which we intend to pay (up to the maximum benefit) upon receipt,” Knowles wrote in an e-mail.

Angela Larson, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office’s victim’s services supervisor, said her department has had two advocates working closely with the Dieu family since Sept. 19, the night the bodies were discovered inside their North Naples townhouse.

“We assisted them with completing that application and submission,” she said of the compensation program.

Local businesses, including a limousine services and a local florist, have been working with the family to keep costs down, said Ann Jackson, an administrative assistant with Fuller Funeral Home, which is hosting the funeral.

“Everybody is kind of stepping up,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean the family still isn’t in need of donations.

Helps Outreach Ministries is collecting money for the family through the Guerline and her Angels Fund by mail or in person at its office at 2025 J and C Blvd., Suite 1, Naples, Fla. 34109, or online at helpsoutreachinc.org.

“For all the people that need to travel, accommodations for all of those people, feeding all of those people,” Jackson said. “There’s a lot for them to think about.”

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Related Links

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features