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Violent deaths etched in stone

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Kneeling on a grassy knoll on a brisk winter morning, Deborah Jordan traced a name sandblasted into a brick - one of 50 set into a memorial walkway dedicated to murder victims - running her finger over each letter.

Come April, when 50 new bricks with names are added to the walkway, Deborah Jordan and her husband, Kenneth Jr., will have one of their own, for slain 15-year-old son Kenneth Leroy Jordan III."There sure are a lot of them, huh? Guess I'm not alone," Deborah Jordan said as she read the names on the bricks. "You know, it's a symbol that they lived . . . and that they died. That's what I want for my baby, Kenneth."

Memorials to murder victims are being erected across the country, from a memorial garden in Sacramento, Calif., to a memorial quilt in Columbia, S.C., according to Diane Alexander, spokeswoman for the National Victim Center in Washington.

In Columbus, "murder walk" is for the living, a place along the Chattahoochee River where tree limbs rustle in the breeze, a place for young and old to stroll, skate, run or bicycle.

The idea for the walkway came out of a planning meeting for National Victims' Rights week two years ago between city officials and Bernice Johnson, a member of Columbus' Victims of Violence and Leniency advocacy group.

One of the first bricks placed in the walkway bears the name of Johnson's daughter, who was murdered in her home near Columbus. Ann Johnson Curry, 24, was nine months pregnant when she was killed in August 1985, along with her 4-year-old daughter and 19-month-old son.

"It's not something you get over. It becomes less painful . . . but it never really goes away. We wanted a place where people could get together and share their stories," Johnson said.

The city of 179,000 people donated land for the memorial walkway. The bricks cost $20 each.

Some of the bricks bear names of people killed in this west-central Georgia city over the past 20 years and others honor victims of murders elsewhere who had relatives and friends in Columbus.

In February 1996, Kenneth Leroy Jordan III was shot twice, his body pushed out of a car and into a ditch in Alabama, about 25 miles from Columbus.

Authorities said the shooting was gang-related, payback for disrespecting an older member of the gang. A 22-year-old man was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The Jordans have turned Kenneth's room into the "quiet room," a place for peace.