JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After more than a year without a leader, the Justice Coalition has appointed Michael Liles as their new Executive Director. The Board of Directors made the unanimous vote last week.
His wife, Debbie, survived a brutal attack in their home in 1993. Tragically, she was murdered in the same house earlier this year.
Debbie loved teaching music at San Jose Elementary and was adored by her students. She was first attacked in her home two years before the Justice Coalition was formed.
Her husband knows exactly what it's like to need an advocate throughout the court process. He wants to help victims, because he’s been one.
With his wife's photo hanging over his desk, Michael Liles is settling in to a new space and a new role. "You just never know when crime is going to tap you on the shoulder," said Liles.
He never believed crime would happen to his family.
Curtis Head broke into their Northside home and brutally attacked Debbie. Liles says throughout the trial, he had great support, but no formal advocate.
"We had no idea of the process. We didn't understand the various hearings that would occur," said Liles.
Providing answers and comfort are just two reasons why Liles is taking on the role of Executive Director for the Justice Coalition.
Nearly 24 years after Debbie was attacked, Liles never imagined he would need an advocate again.
The Coalition was there for him.
"That's part of what the justice Coalition is helpful with. Because life does go on, and sometimes as a victim, you want it to stop," said Liles. "They help us as victims get through some of those things."
Debbie’s five children miss her.
Singer Josh Groban heard what happened and donated to her school. A memorial bench was created in her memory.
For Liles, heading the Justice Coalition is a chance to make a difference and make his bride of 41-years proud.
Liles worked in temporary labor for 35 years, putting people to work. He believes doing this is important to cut down on crime. That may not be a focus for the Justice Coalition, but he says that can still make a difference.