Funeral services were held Friday for a Maryland man who turned the 1982 murder of his 22-year-old daughter into a crusade for victims’ rights -- a little-known concept at the time.
In a packed Upper Marlboro church, Vincent Roper was remembered as a man who loved his family.
His daughter Stephanie, a student at Frostburg State, was driving home to Croom, Md., 31 years ago after a night out with friends during spring break when her car broke down. To say that she was abducted, raped, murdered and set on fire does not adequately describe the horror Stephanie Roper endured.
Her parents, Vincent and Roberta, suffered more pain when the suspects were prosecuted.
“Imagine losing your daughter to a terribly violent crime and then being told you can’t be in the courtroom when the killers are on trial,” said University of Maryland Chief of Police David Mitchell, who was a Prince George’s County police lieutenant at the time.
With a quiet but steel-willed determination, Vincent and Roberta Roper began a revolution that came to be known as victims’ rights. They created the Stephanie Roper Foundation, now called the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center.
In the decades to follow, the couple changed laws and lives.
"Getting us into the courtroom, getting us into the police department to get an investigation started -- the man saved our lives,” said Gale Seaton, whose daughter Stacey was killed in 2005.
"There’s something different about parents coming forward who’ve experienced a loss comforting another parent," Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said.
Many were inspired by the couple's long and loving relationship.
Vincent Roper will be laid to rest in the family plot near his beloved daughter. He was 79 at the time of his death.
Follow Jackie Bensen on Twitter at @jackiebensen