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SPECIAL REPORT: Wausau PD supports crime victims with specialized unit

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- A specialized unit at the Wausau Police Department focused on assisting victims after a crime takes place continues to help community members.

The Victims Response Unit, or VRU, has been around since 2016. Wausau PD Captain Ben Graham said it helps an average of 250 victims each year.

While the main case load consists of sexual abuse, neglect and child sex assault cases, they also assist victims who have lost a loved one in homicide cases.

One of those victims is Beth Leith. Her father, Lyle Leith, was killed in February 2018 and Beth credits the healing from losing her dad to the VRU.

"It felt dark; I felt the whole world crashing down on me," Beth said in response to the moments after she found her dad lifeless.

"When my daughter made the 911 call, [Wausau PD] was there in seconds," she said. "It was amazing how they took control. That's what I needed, somebody just to help me, and they did."

While investigators swarmed Lyle Leith's home, the VRU, including officer Jim Martin, was on standby, ready to assist the Leith family.

"The unit consists of an officer, a therapist and a crime response specialist," Wausau PD Capt. Ben Graham said. "All of them are trying to fill that cap, so you have the victim of a crime and you're trying to get them to wellness."

In addition to providing the necessary resources for the healing process, Beth credited Ofc. Jim Martin and mental health therapist Kristen Seidler with making her feel like family.

Months after Beth's father was killed, her ex-boyfriend was arrested and charged with first-degree intentional homicide in connection to Lyle's death.

"People just assume that because an arrest is made or because they get a conviction that suddenly that person gets the closure they need, and that's just not the case," Seidler said. "I appreciate that this unit addresses those things and is a resource for people, not just immediately after but even down the road."

That road is one that Beth knows all too well.

"It's a hard road but they way they responded from the start, helped us to cope and recover. They were amazing. I couldn't have gone through this without people like them," she explained.

Beth and Wausau PD encourage victims to reach out and ask for help.

The VRU is fully funded by grants from Victims of Crime Act and the Greenheck Foundation.

If you are a victim to a crime or know someone who could benefit from this resource, contact Wausau PD at (715) 261-7800.

Neena Pacholke

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