QUEENS — Natasha Morales shows up at the grimmest of moments to offer a glimmer of hope in a families' darkest hours.
This week, the director of the Crime Victims Advocate Program for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown was needed by the wife and family of Raymond Facey.
He was allegedly shot during a carjacking by an ex-con who police said had just gunned down Nassau County Emergency Service Officer Arthur Lopez in Queens.
Facey's wife June was sitting at a dining room table surrounded by relatives. She was in shock with tears running down her cheeks.
It was a devastation Morales had seen so many times before.
She took a seat next to Facey and said she wanted her family to know they were not alone, and that her office would be providing assistance throughout her ordeal.
Her first task, however, was not to talk about counseling or finances. It was merely to listen as June, wiping tears from her eyes, talked and talked about what a kind, wonderful and helpful father and husband her beloved Raymond had been.
“She and the family were in a state of shock," Morales said. "Everything was so unexpected. I just listened and let them know that the feelings they had were normal.”
At one point, June Facey took hold of a framed photo of her husband. He appeared vibrant, smiling in a pressed dark suit and very much alive. She showed the photo to Morales.
“He looked like a very nice man, very happy,” Morales said, speaking in a soft voice.
Morales, who is also a licensed counselor, assured Facey that her unit can help get them the various types of assistance available to families and survivors of violent crimes.
The financial support includes money to cover up to $6,000 for funerals, as much as $30,000 in lost wages, assistance in covering costs of medicine, drugs and hospitalization, among others things.
Just knowing that these emergency services are available can be an enormous comfort at a time of such tragedy.
Counseling will arguably be as important considering the horrific circumstances of Raymond Facey’s death — he was shot in the head while talking to his daughter on a cellphone about an upcoming vacation together. Ex-con Darrell Fuller is accused of killing him and the police officer.
Fuller shot himself in the shoulder before being arrested, police said. He was treated at an area hospital, and is expected to be arraigned Thursday.
“Initially, though, I try to validate their feelings, the shock and pain of what they are experiencing, and just say that it is OK to feel that way,” Morales said. “I think they appreciated and were comforted knowing they have the support of the DA and are not going to be alone.”
Morales, who has been the Queen's DA's crime advocate for eight years, said she has met hundreds of families traumatized by violence.
Each time is difficult, and she has to contain her own emotions.
“My job is to take care of the family, and I have to have a brave face and not become someone that needs to be taken care of,” she explained.
When she left the Faceys' grief-filled home, her own emotions rose to the surface.
“You see a whole family in mourning,” she said. “I felt sad for them, for their pain, that she lost her husband. They were very close.
“Survivors of homicide victims, they have a special place in my heart," she added. "It makes you hug your own family a little tighter because life is fleeting.”