17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office Honors Local Heroes During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Awards Reception
The annual reception is an opportunity to acknowledge those who serve victims and survivors
Brighton, CO — Today, 17th Judicial District AttorneyBrian S. Mason announced the award recipients from the annual National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Awards Reception which honors individuals who dedicate their lives to the service of victims and survivors in Adams and Broomfield counties. On Thursday, April 22, 2021, six individuals and organizations received awards during a virtual reception.
“I am proud to give these awards to these distinguished individuals and teams,” said District Attorney Brian Mason. “Their selfless dedication to victims makes our community a better place. We are all truly grateful for what they do.”
Ray McKinnon Award (Outstanding Volunteer Service to Victims):
Honoree: Sparkling Kindness
Sparkling Kindness is a 501(c)3 that assists law enforcement and community groups throughout Adams County. In 2020, they compiled and distributed 3,071 kits and supply bags for families in need. The items were donated to hospitals, community-based programs, law enforcement victim services units, and homelessness programs.
Dale R. McLaughlin Award (Outstanding Service to Victims in a Law Enforcement Setting):
Honoree: Colorado State Patrol Vehicular Crime Victims Unit and Victim Advocate Lori Brown
The Colorado State Patrol Vehicular Crime Unit and Victim Advocate Lori Brown have shown what it means to go beyond the call of duty. This team of individuals has exemplified the ability to navigate difficult circumstances and still provide the necessary support to victims and survivors in need.
Edward Towey Award (Outstanding Service to Victims in a Criminal Justice Setting):
Honoree: Jennifer Duarte, 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office
Senior Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Duarte is a longstanding and valued member of the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. Her commitment to victims and survivors is unmatched. Jennifer is usually the first attorney in the office to review a case when it is submitted, and serving victims is always her top priority. Jennifer’s expertise, dedication, and victim-first mentality make her richly deserving of this award.
Thomas Green Award (Outstanding Service to Victims in a Non-Profit Setting):
Honoree: Sulma Mendoza Rios
In 2006, Sulma Mendoza Rios founded the Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Center. Sulma’s expertise as an attorney allows her to use her skills to promote and increase awareness of injustices victims regularly face. Sulma uses her knowledge base to inform others of the intricacies of domestic violence and victimization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sulma formulated a plan to help victims who were adversely affected by the virus.
GayleVoyles Award (Outstanding Direct Victim Services):
Honoree: Brighton and Commerce City Police Victim Services Unit
Despite a global pandemic, the Brighton and Commerce City Police Victim Service Unit reached new heights in their ability to assist victims and survivors. In 2020, the Brighton and Commerce City VSU opened 2,513 new cases, served 4,502 victims and witnesses, and completed 1,398 crisis responses. That was a 26% increase over 2019 in the number of cases opened and a 38% increase in the number of victims and witnesses served. The Brighton and Commerce City VSU was truly a model organization during a tumultuous year.
Sean May Award (Outstanding Leadership):
Honoree: Ashley Harrington
For seven years, Ashley Harrington has served the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network with honor and dedication. Ashley is a champion for advancing the rights of immigrant children and families who have been the victims of crime. Ashley is the Managing Attorney for the Children’s Program. She leads a team of 12 attorneys, paralegals, and advocates who are on the front lines of ensuring these families have access to free expert-level legal representation in their immigration cases.
District Attorney Mason assumed the oath of office on January 12, 2021. The 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office endeavors to seek justice on behalf of the citizens of Adams and Broomfield counties in felony and misdemeanor cases. DA Mason and his staff are dedicated to transforming the criminal justice system to better serve the citizens of the 17th Judicial District.
Ms. Gazelka is a forensic therapist and clinician in Denver, Colorado. She is currently focused on providing therapy and assessment services to adult offenders in the community corrections and parole systems as a supervisor at Correctional Psychology Associates (CPA). Her education and career have been devoted to the intersection of psychology and law since 2000. Ms. Gazelka has been working within the field of forensic and correctional psychology since 2006, providing therapy in the community and acute mental health care and risk assessments in county jails. She has practiced as a Licensed Professional Counselor since June 2012. She also became a Licensed Addiction Counselor in March 2014. She was listed as a full operating level DVOMB Approved Provider in June 2019 and started a fledgling DV program oriented to Colorado’s Department of Corrections at CPA in September 2019. Ms. Gazelka was appointed to the Domestic Violence Offender Management Board (DVOMB) in March 2019 and has started her second term with the board. Ms. Gazelka has been recognized for her work as Contributor of the Year at CPA in 2010 and 2012, as well as having been awarded an Alumni Impact Award for her forensic work in the community by University of Denver’s GSPP in 2019. Ms. Gazelka received her Master of Arts degree in Forensic Clinical Psychology from University of Denver's Graduate School of Professional Psychology in 2009. Ms. Gazelka also received her Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law in 2007, obtaining attorney’s licenses in both Minnesota and Colorado (currently inactive).
Alex Castro Croy
Alex Castro Croy is a bilingual, bicultural, Trauma and Addiction Counselor and owner/Lead Clinician of Life Recovery Centers in Denver and Northglenn Colorado.
A first-generation immigrant from Mexico who accomplished his dream in higher education receiving an AA in Pastoral Ministry (Dallas, Texas), Bachelor of Science in Human Services (MSU in Denver, Colorado) and MA in Community Counseling from Regis University (Denver, Co). He is continuing to pursue his MA/Ph.D. from Pacifica Graduate Institute in Jungian and Archetypal Studies.
Alex’s passion includes training, teaching, counseling, and consulting. He has been an Adjunct Professor for the Human Services Department at MSU-Denver for 9 years. He has served as an Interventionist for the Latino GLBTQ community, Drug Court Probation Officer at Denver Juvenile Court Probation (8 years), Bilingual Diversion Officer for Denver DA office (5 years), and currently owner and director of Life Recovery Centers (7 years). He has worked with a variety of clients from all walks of life and his eclectic therapeutic interventions have proven to be effective in treating trauma and addiction.
Thea Wessel is an addictions counselor with a private practice in Colorado. She has been working in the criminal and addiction fields for thirteen years. Ms. Wessel earned her Masters in forensic psychology from the University of Denver and has her LPC, LAC, MAC, NCAAC, and ADS. She is working towards her Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Ms. Wessel continually challenges herself and others to provide quality addiction treatment and ways to continue to educate the community about addiction issues.