Md. Victims' Rights Activist Roper Dies at 79

Roper began lobbying for victims' rights following daughter's '82 murder

Sunday, Apr 7, 2013  |  Updated 8:19 AM EDT
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A Prince George's County highway is being renamed to honor the life of murdered college student Stephanie Roper. She was killed after her car broke down on a county road. As News4's Jackie Bensen reports, it comes after years of work from her parents to change the law for victims' families.

Jackie Bensen

A Prince George's County highway is being renamed to honor the life of murdered college student Stephanie Roper. She was killed after her car broke down on a county road. As News4's Jackie Bensen reports, it comes after years of work from her parents to change the law for victims' families.

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Vincent Roper, who along with his wife Roberta became an advocate for the rights of crime victims after the 1982 murder of their daughter Stephanie, died early Thursday morning at the age of 79 at a hospital near his home in Prince George's County. His death was announced by the Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center (MCVRC).

"Along with his wife Roberta, Vince Roper worked tirelessly to see that victims of crime were treated with dignity and respect, and given all the rights due under law," Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said in a statement. "When the laws were proven to be inadequate, they worked to get old laws changed, or new laws passed. Countless Marylanders have benefited from their dedicated service and thousands of lives are better because of their work."

Roper died one day after the 31st anniversary of his daughter's death. Stephanie Roper, a senior at Frostburg State, was kidnapped, tortured, raped, and murdered after her car broke down on a remote stretch of road in Prince George's County.

The Ropers were excluded from observing the trial of the two defendants charged with Stephanie's murder and were denied the right to present a victim impact statement at sentencing. Out of frustration, the couple formed the Stephanie Roper Foundation (now the MCVRC) and began lobbying for rights and support services for crime victims and their families. The Maryland Victims' Rights Act of 1997 guaranteed the right of victims to be "informed, present, and heard at criminal justice proceedings." Similar provisions were made in the Justice for All Act, which was passed by Congress in 2004.

Last year, a portion of Pennsylvania Avenue in Upper Marlboro was re-named the Stephanie Roper Highway.

Funeral services will be held Friday at the Church of the Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church St. Joseph's Center in Upper Marlboro. In lieu of flowers, Roberta Roper has requested that donations be made to the MCVRC or the Stephanie Roper Scholarship at Frostburg State University. Donations for either can be sent care of MCVRC.

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