Elaine Hall knew something was terribly wrong the day her 13-year-old son went missing.
If Dylan Redwine had run away from his father’s house during a court-ordered visit over the Thanksgiving holiday in 2012, he would have called his mother to let her know he was OK, Hall said.
That is the kind of relationship they had.
Hall’s worst fears were realized almost a year later when some of Dylan’s remains were found in a remote wilderness area on Middle Mountain northeast of Vallecito Reservoir.
It was the beginning of her nine-year involvement with the criminal justice system, which ended in 2021 with the conviction of Mark Redwine, the boy’s father, on charges of murder and child abuse. He was sentenced to 48 years in prison.
The criminal justice system was a “horrible, bruising process,” Hall said in an interview last week with The Durango Herald. But it was made more bearable thanks to Jane Foy, a victims advocate in the 6th Judicial District, who listened, helped explain things and advocated on her behalf, she said.
“Her job is kind of selfless,” Hall said. “She doesn’t get much recognition, and it’s too bad, because she’s definitely a key piece of the whole system.”
Foy is the lead victims advocate for the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office – which prosecutes cases in La Plata, Archuleta and San Juan counties. It is her job to meet with victims, keep them informed of criminal proceedings, explain the criminal justice process, make sure their positions are heard by the courts and connect them with nonprofit services and a victims’ compensation fund.
“I really think we're the foot soldiers of the case,” Foy said.
While she doesn’t receive much recognition – maybe cards, flowers or hugs from victims – in September she was named the Victim Advocate of the Year by the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.
In a nomination letter, Assistant District Attorney Sean Murray said Foy has shown a “zealous work ethic,” “unflappable empathy and grace for victims” and “tremendous commitment to the Victims Rights Act and the rule of law.”
“Jane is the lifeblood in our ability to make sure that we're helping victims,” Murray said. “It gives meaning to what we do on a daily basis.”
Foy has been with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office for more than 20 years. Before that, she worked as a judge’s clerk and in Durango’s restaurant industry.
“It was time to grow up and stop doing river trips and get a job and have insurance,” she said.
She has worked for five elected district attorneys, including Gregory Lyman, Sarah Law, Craig Westberg, Todd Risberg and Christian Champagne.
She supervises four other victims' advocates. She has served 590 victims so far this year and has interacted with more than 8,000 during her career.
“It takes a unique, odd person to do it,” Foy admitted. “So yeah, I'm odd.”
Victims run the gamut: Some are the victims of property crimes, some have been sexually assaulted, and some are the family members of a deceased person – perhaps killed by a drunken driver.
Advocates must be prepared to confront a range of emotions.
Some victims are emotionally devastated. Some are mad at the workings of the criminal justice system. And some are uncooperative with prosecutors, for example, in situations of domestic violence when a victim doesn’t want any more trouble to befall the alleged abuser.
Foy isn’t there to make people feel better about an awful situation – at least, that’s not her stated job description. Rather, her primary concern is with victims’ rights as outlined in the Colorado Victims Rights Act.
Foy is “kind,” “blunt” and “concise,” said Kaity Jones, the wife of Isaac “Ike” Raidl, who was severely injured last year by a drunken driver.
“We were in a really tough spot and she helped us get through that – after hours, during hours, it didn't matter,” Jones said. “ … She doesn't mince words, and she just gets (expletive) done. … I can't even begin to fathom how we would have navigated any of that without her help.”
Foy acts as a buffer between victims and attorneys.
“We translate what the attorneys say into plain English that everyone can understand,” she said.
She consults with victims prior to plea deals and speaks with them during critical stages of a case.
“I believe information is power, and the more information we can provide crime victims, the better off they are,” Foy said.
In Redwine’s case, Foy made sure the family had plenty of seating in the courtroom and had a way in and out of the courtroom without being inundated by media, Hall said.
“She just made a lot of horrible things easier,” Hall said. “To this day, I keep in touch with her because she's just an exceptional human being and I will always appreciate what she did for me and my family.”
Criminal cases can stretch on for years, and victims can become disinterested or emotionally drained during the judicial process.
Yet, prosecutors need victims to remain involved. They may need a victim to take the witness stand to help prove a case or offer rebuttal information to a defendant’s version of events.
Foy said a recent child sex assault case took three years to go to trial. The trial ended with a hung jury. Will the family be willing to go through a second trial? These are the types of situations Foy and prosecutors must navigate with victims.
Some child sex assault cases take so long to be resolved that by the time their cases go to trial, the “child” is enrolled in college, she said.
“We have to keep them reeled in and interested and wanting to participate, because they can drop out at any time,” Foy said.
It is natural for victims to feel upset going through the judicial process – angry toward a defendant, disappointed about a court ruling or annoyed with a delay in court proceedings, she said. Sometimes, a victim’s anger gets directed at Foy. She has learned not to take anything too personally.
Gina Bratzler described herself as “a grieving mother who was half-crazy” after losing her son in the same drunken driving crash that severely injured Raidl. In her grief and anger, Bratzler said she went to “the darkest place you can go.”
On occasion, she took her anger out on Foy.
“I know there was once or twice that I was actually rude to her, and I apologized to her immediately,” Bratzler said. “ … She was able to calm me down, and nobody else could do that. My own family members couldn't do it.”
If there is a golden rule when it comes to working with victims, it is to treat them with fairness, dignity and respect, Foy said. That doesn’t mean advocates must put up with verbal abuse or hostile behavior, she said. Sometimes, victims hang up on her; sometimes, advocates must walk away from victims.
Typically, if Foy lets people vent, it “brings the temperature down,” she said.
“No one on my team makes enough money to be treated unprofessionally and rudely,” Foy said.
Foy has a front-row seat to some of humanity’s more disturbing facets – murder, sexual assault and DUI vehicular homicide. It can take an emotional toll.
Foy said it is important to have co-workers to confide in, because it is not always possible to discuss cases with family and friends.
It can be heart-wrenching to hear victims or surviving family members describe how a particular crime uprooted their lives or ripped away a loved one, she said.
One small part of her job is to pass tissues to grieving families. Sometimes, Foy is the one who needs a tissue.
“Several times, I've had to excuse myself and go to the ladies’ room, shed a tear or two, pull it together and go back into the courtroom,” Foy said. “We're human just like everybody else.”
Murray, who nominated Foy for the Victim Advocate award, described Foy as “stolid,” an omnipresence in cases that involved serious harm to victims.
Before he became a prosecutor, Murray worked as a public defender. He was trained to take an adversarial stance with prosecutors and their staff.
But Foy was disarming; Murray couldn’t help but respect Foy for her “perennial presence” and advocacy on behalf of those harmed by crimes, he said.
“Jane obviously had the heart of a public servant,” Murray wrote in his letter, “and the passion she displayed is something that was incredibly inspiring, even from across the aisle.”
He said Foy treats victims like family, without crossing a professional line.
“She's just someone that's almost above criticism or reproach because she's just so passionate about what she's doing that it's hard not to respect that, even in this adversarial world that we live in,” Murray said.
Anyone can become the victim of a crime. That said, the DA’s office has an up-close and personal look at some of Southwest Colorado’s underlying societal problems, including homelessness, alcoholism and drug addiction.
“We don't get to pick and choose who walks in the door,” Foy said.
Foy said there is a difference between becoming emotionally vested and keeping a clear head to provide victims with the best possible advocacy.
She allows herself to understand where victims are coming from. For example, a victim of domestic violence might not leave her abuser because she doesn’t have any income and she has never balanced a checkbook.
But putting herself in someone else’s shoes doesn’t mean becoming emotionally attached, Foy said.
“You have to be stronger than the people you want to serve,” Foy said. “ … You have to have a backbone and be strong and be able to support people.”
Hall said she didn’t need to be coddled and treated like a victim – “because Dylan was the victim” – and Foy understood that.
“She's done this for a long time,” Hall said. “She's very good at what she does. And she knows how to treat people the way they need to be treated during their healing times and their rough times.”
Setting boundaries is important to keeping herself safe, sane and mentally sharp, Foy said. She rarely shares her cellphone number – even with attorneys and potential witnesses – to help maintain a healthy work-life balance.
“You don't become attached to (victims), because you can't – because you can't do your job,” Foy said. “You can't give them the support and the guidance they need for the court system if you're going to be so involved with them.”
That doesn’t mean victims haven’t grown attached to her. She receives flowers, birthday cards and Christmas cards from clients she worked with years ago. And occasionally she grows close to a family, especially after a long slog through the judicial process – as human nature is wont to do.
Every Thursday, Foy exchanges emails with the mother of a woman who was raped and killed in 2007.
To this day, she keeps a picture of Dylan Redwine at her desk.
Foy fights to give victims a voice in a system that is largely focused on defendants’ rights. And as much as people may think there are winners and losers in the criminal justice system, Foy said there are only losers.
“They don’t call it the ‘victim justice system’ for a reason,” she said. “It’s very focused on defendants. You can ask any victim that.
“You go through a trial and you get a guilty verdict, and people think they're going to feel elated and great. But really, there are no winners. Everyone's a loser. It’s sad.”