Meet the Victim/Witness Coordinator
Victim/Witness Coordinator: Patty J. Boardwine
Patty J. Boardwine
- Joined Office in 2006
- Hometown: Saltville, VA
- University of Tennessee - BS, 1987
- University of Maryland, National Victim Assistance Academy, 1996
- Advanced Program Manager/Advocate/Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, National Advocate Credentialing Program
- Prior and Current Experience
- Avalon Center: Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Program, 2000-2006
- Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, 1998-2000
- Sexual Assault Center, Knoxville, TN, 1987-1998
- Knox County District Attorney’s Office Grant Coordinator, 2014 ‐ Present
- Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking "Ignite a Force" Social Justice Award, 2016
Role of the Victim/Witness Coordinators
Victim/Witness Coordinators are employed by the District Attorney’s Office to help victims and witnesses of crimes to understand their rights and answer their questions about the criminal justice system.
Meet the Support Staff Team
The Support Staff Team of the District Attorney General’s Office performs key functions throughout the office, including ongoing victim/witness contact and support, file and docket preparation, in court and out of court assistance to attorneys, preparation of information pleadings and indictments, facilitation of phone calls, and collaboration with the school system on truancy matters.
Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinators, Legal Secretaries, Receptionists, & Truancy Coordinator:
Lakisha Summeour – Legal Secretary
In 2018, Lakisha Summeour joined the Office to serve as a legal secretary. She has chosen to work in public service because giving back to her community is very important to her. Lakisha was born and raised in Knoxville. She received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from King University in 2015. She has two active kids and she loves spending time with her family. Her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., also keeps her busy. The organization brings her joy because it offers her the opportunity to volunteer and promote community service.
Amber Hayes – Legal Secretary
Amber Hayes joined our Office as a Legal Secretary in 2017. She earned her Associate’s Degree in criminal justice from Roane State and is pursuing her bachelor’s degree from King University. She credits female role models for inspiring her to choose a career in criminal justice and public service. Ms. Hayes names General Allen as a role model, as the first female district attorney general of Knox County. She is also inspired by her aunt, who is a victim advocate in Georgia. Her favorite part of her job is helping people every single day. When she isn’t working or studying, Ms. Hayes enjoys her first hobby, riding horses.
Leigh Anne Owens – Legal Secretary
After working more than 27 years in the medical profession, Leigh Anne Owens joined our Office as a Legal Secretary. She is inspired by the compassion and strength shown by assistant district attorneys and victim witness coordinators as they work with victims of crime to seek justice. Ms. Owens enjoys learning about and interacting with the different aspects of the criminal justice system, and helping people along the way.
Kristi Nutter – Legal Secretary
Kristi Nutter joined the Knox County DA’s Office as a Legal Secretary in 2012 after being the Legal Administrator for Egerton, McAfee, Armistead, & Davis P.C., Knoxville for 20 years. She came to our Office seeking a position in the legal system that would offer her new challenges. Her favorite part of her job is seeing justice prevail, and she says she’s motivated at work everyday by her co-workers. Ms. Nutter says, “My co-workers are GREAT and the attorneys I work for are patient and instructive.” Ms. Nutter is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Kimberly S. Beckner – Legal Secretary
Kimberly S. Beckner joined the District Attorney General’s Office as a Legal Secretary in March 2009. She has 38 years of legal experience. She moved to Knoxville from Clintwood, Virginia to further her career in the legal field. In addition to the DA's Office she has worked at Wimberly, Lawson & Seale; Kramer & Rayson; Frantz McConnell & Seymour; and Daniel & Oberman. In 2009, she decided to explore the prosecution side of the criminal justice system and has been dedicated to the Knox County District Attorney's Office ever since. She currently assists the prosecutors in the 1st Sessions and 4th Sessions Courts and Expungement Screening, and also assists criminal investigators in warrant screening and processes worthless checks. Ms. Beckner is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and says she draws her inspiration from the work her husband does as an Officer with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.
Marilyn Billingsley – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Marilyn Billingsley became an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator in our Office in 2000 after having a career as a case manager specialist and job readiness coach at the Department of Human Services in Knoxville. She gives credit to her co-worker, Ms. Clarissa Gass, who helped her become interested in working here, and says her favorite part of her job is when the jury returns a verdict of guilt. For the past 10 years, the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) has certified Ms. Billingsley as a Comprehensive Victim Intervention Specialist.
Sheri Burkett – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Sheri Burkett came to the DA’s Office in 2008, and has worked as an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator ever since. Prior to joining our Staff, she worked in the corporate legal field for 15 years before starting her family, and then returned to work for Knox County Schools as an Intervention Aide until 2008. Ms. Burkett experienced personal tragedy when her sister was murdered in 1991, and recognizes that having been through the criminal justice process as a family member certainly took on a personal meaning for her. She says that her favorite part of her job is getting to work with families who have lost loved ones and helping them with their journey through the "system" – “I feel a special bond with them,” she notes. Her daily inspiration at work comes from Assistant DA TaKisha Fitzgerald, realizing how hard she works and her determination to seek justice for everyone. Ms. Burkett states, “She is as vested in a theft case as she is in a homicide case while at the same time showing an incredible amount of kindness and compassion. Her passion inspires me everyday.” She has experienced many fascinating work-related stories and believes that compassion and patience are virtues for any Victim/Witness Coordinator.
Connie Childress – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator & Legal Secretary
Connie Childress has been a member of our Staff since 2011, working a dual role as an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator and Legal Secretary. She previously owned/operated a garden center in Loudon County, Tennessee and had prior employment in the legal field, but felt the DA's Office would offer interesting work. Ms. Childress’ favorite part of her job is her interaction with victims and being able to help them during a most difficult event in their lives. She has a strong suit for empathy and intuition, crediting her life experiences in working with the public for those traits, and says she “feels inspired to know and work with so many dedicated, truly good people who believe in what they are doing and want to make a difference.” Her assignment in the White Collar Unit during the Knox County Trustee’s Office criminal probe has given her vast amounts of knowledge and experience in complex legal issues as addressed within a public office. Ms. Childress is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Veronica Fay – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Veronica Fay is an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator, having joined the DA’s Office in February 2017. She comes to us with many years of experience as an administrative assistant and office manager and says she is very pleased to have become a part of our team. Ms. Fay was an advocate for a domestic violence program for 5 years, working with women and children in shelter and court, and says she will always be an advocate for raising awareness on the serious issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Ms. Fay has a passion for baking a variety of breads and is also an accomplished photographer who has had exhibits in both Tennessee and Virginia. Indeed, one of her photos was selected for the “Arts in the Airport” Spring 2017 Exhibition at Knoxville’s McGhee Tyson Airport!
Susan Forbes – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator & Legal Secretary
After completing paralegal school in 1993, Susan Forbes began her first job by working at the Knox County DA’s Office as an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator and Legal Secretary. She has a Paralegal Associates Degree and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology. She appreciates the time she previously spent working in the Child Abuse Unit and with victims of sex crimes, noting that that time was a favorite part of her job, but she is inspired every day at work by all victims of crime. Ms. Forbes is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Saundra Franklin – Legal Secretary
Legal Secretary Saundra Franklin has worked with our Office since 2006 and is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. She began her career here as a clerk in 2006 to get experience in the legal field and says she loves the people with whom she works. Ms. Franklin is continually inspired by her co-workers and enjoys being a part of an organization that is helping victims and doing something positive for the community.
Heather Houbre – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Previously working as a Victim/Witness Coordinator for the Shelby County DA’s Office in Memphis, Tennessee, Heather Houbre always had an interest in helping victims and helping them better understand the criminal justice system. To persist in her passion of helping others, Ms. Houbre joined our Office as an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator in 2011. Being in court is her favorite part of her job and she is motivated knowing that out of all of the victims that she helps, whether they are happy with her at the time or not, she knows that we have done our part to try and keep them safe. She says the countless attorneys and support staff who show up everyday to try to make a difference inspire her. Ms. Houbre has a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology, and has completed the following training seminars: National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative in Phoenix, AZ.; Annual Training Conference of the Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference; and, Domestic Violence Advocate Training: Danger Assessment, Stalking, and Strangulation.
Robin Jones – Truancy Coordinator
Robin Jones, our Office’s Truancy Coordinator, has been on staff since 2000. Inspired by her own children, Ms. Jones feels it’s crucial to instill in children from a very young age the importance of education. As Truancy Coordinator, she loves the direct interaction she has with parents, grandparents, and guardians in the school system. Ms. Jones says she feels blessed to be able to do a job that she loves, and appreciates General Allen for placing her in a position where she can utilize her strengths. Along with being NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Ms. Jones received her Master’s Degree of Education in Mental Health Counseling in December 2016.
Madison Keel – Legal Secretary
Madison Keel joined the office in 2020 as a legal secretary in the Career Criminal/Gang Unit. She was born and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and moved to Knoxville after completing her bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies and English Writing from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Madison enjoys knowing when she comes in to work each day that everything she does contributes to the protection and service of justice to the community. In her free time, she enjoys reading, watching true crime documentaries, and spending time with her two younger brothers.
Juanita Loope – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Juanita Loope formerly served as the director of her family-owned childcare center and as a pre-school teacher for Head Start before coming to work at the DA's Office in 2001 as an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator. With her faith bringing inspiration to her each day, her favorite part of her job is being an advocate and providing support and encouragement for the victims of crimes, particularly those who are children. She says that she feels blessed to have experienced several incidents of bringing children comfort while also empowering them to be brave and able to tell their stories to the prosecutors pre-indictment and to a jury during trial, thus offering the children hope for recovery. Ms. Loope has received the following certifications: Child Development Associate (CDA) Certification, National Organization of Victim Assistance (NOVA) National Advocate Credential, and National Crime Information Center (NCIC) Certification.
Christy Lowe – Legal Secretary
In 1996 Legal Secretary Christy Lowe left her position of 6 years as a paralegal at the law firm of Arnett, Draper & Hagood to pursue a career in public service. She has an Associates Degree in Paralegal Studies and has definitely found her niche in criminal law. Ms. Lowe says that her motivation at work comes from knowing that this Office is standing up for victims and their rights. She draws inspiration from her co-workers and truly feels satisfied at work “knowing that at the end of the day we are doing good things for our city and community.”
Phyllis Lowe – Legal Secretary
Legal Secretary Phyllis Lowe has happily and loyally served the public and this Office since 1990. With past careers working with Home Interiors & Gifts, Inc. for 11 years and Independent Life Insurance Co. for 5 years, Ms. Lowe truly found her calling at the DA’s Office, or as she says, her “second home.” She is certified in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and has been acknowledged by Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. and former Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale for her service to the public through her work in this Office. Ms. Lowe says she is motivated by the people with whom she works each day, and finds it very rewarding to see the difference our Office makes, fighting for the rights of victims and their families.
Brenda McFarland – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator & Legal Secretary
Brenda McFarland, who carries a real estate license and was previously licensed as an insurance agent, began her career as a Legal Secretary in the DA’s Office in 1987 under former District Attorney General Ed Dossett’s administration. Ironically, she first interviewed with Ed’s wife Raynella for a secretarial position at Park West Hospital before landing at the DA’s Office. Ms. McFarland loves helping her co-workers with procedural questions and says that Retired Assistant DA Ron Lewis previously provided and Assistant DA Zane Scarlett currently provides inspiration to her for their never-ending patience and positive outlook through challenging situations. Ms. McFarland is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and plays a dual role as an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator for our Office by assisting all victims and witnesses testifying before the Grand Jury.
Erin Morrison – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator & Legal Secretary
Erin Morrison has the dual role of Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator and Legal Secretary in the DA’s Office. A graduate of The University of Tennessee, she received her Masters Degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Criminology. Ms. Morrison joined our Office while in graduate school, originally as an assistant to one of our prosecutors in court, and then full-time in 2007 in her current position. She says her favorite part of her job is problem solving - figuring out what, or where, or how she can assist someone in getting the help that they need. Ms. Morrison states, “I think that the attorneys who work in the Child Abuse Unit inspire me, as they have to see and hear things that are incredibly difficult to comprehend and understand from the emotional aspect of life. The other members of Team Justice, such as law enforcement and the personnel at the Department of Children’s Services, also inspire me as well.”
Sierra Ragland – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Sierra Ragland is an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator, having joined our Office Staff in 2011. With an Associate’s Degree in Human Resources, a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, and a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice, Ms. Ragland’s educational background inevitably led her to the District Attorney’s Office. She enjoys meeting new people everyday and loves the unexpected in court. Her motivation at work comes from her daughter and from helping victims.
Becky Simpson – Legal Secretary
Since graduating from college in 1990, Becky Simpson has been a Legal Secretary in the DA’s Office. She has always had a passion for helping people, and felt her calling was in criminal justice. Ms. Simpson goes above and beyond the call of duty every day helping people in Juvenile Court, and does what she can to help kids in the system turn their lives around for the better. She hopes these kids take advantage of their opportunities for help from the Juvenile Court system before they commit a serious offense that results in them being transferred as an adult for prosecution in Criminal Court.
Kaitlyn Smith – Receptionist & Legal Secretary
Kaitlyn Smith joined the Knox County District Attorney General’s Office in 2020 as an office receptionist. In 2014, Kaitlin moved to East Tennessee from Oregon with her husband and two daughters. Before joining the office, she was as an administrative assistant at a local church. She takes joy in organizing all things, from files to houses. In her free time, she also enjoys playing board games with her family, taking vacations to the beach, and serving the community through her church.
Tracee Smith – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator & Legal Secretary
Tracee Smith has been an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator in the DA’s Office since 2000 after having previously worked as the Children's Program Director for Haven House Domestic Violence Shelter. She joined our Staff to be able to give victims a voice, emphasizing that her favorite part of her job is working with victims. Ms. Smith, who is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, is motivated everyday to make a difference in our community, and says that the highlight of her career thus far has been her work on drug overdose cases. To help remind the community about the tragic loss of life as a result of drug overdoses, each Christmas season Ms. Smith displays an “Overdose Memorial Tree” outside of our Office.
Kara Sowards – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator Kara Sowards received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, graduating with a 4.0 grade point average. For her first job after college, Ms. Sowards joined our Staff in 2011 after losing her best friend to a violent crime. She says she loves being in court and her co-workers inspire and motivate her.
Marsha Sparks – Receptionist & Legal Secretary
Marsha Sparks has been a member of the DA’s Office since 2002 after a prior 3-year position with the United States Attorney's Office in their Asset Forfeiture Department. She previously worked with defense attorney John P. Valliant, Jr. as a Secretary/Office Manager from 1990-1993 and following that job she enjoyed being a stay-at-home mom from 1993-1999. Ms. Sparks says her favorite part of her job at our Office is interacting with other people and her terrific co-workers. She is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and, in addition to her friendly disposition, is proficient at multi-tasking in her dual roles as one of our Receptionists and as a Legal Secretary.
Jennifer Stout – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator & Legal Secretary
Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator and Legal Secretary Jennifer Stout was previously employed as an Office Manager at The Children's Center of Knoxville, a local non-profit childcare center funded by the United Way, before she joined the DA’s Office in 2009. She has always been interested in the legal field and, after watching a jury trial in Criminal Court, decided to apply for a position here. Early in her career here, she worked daily in a General Sessions courtroom as an assistant to one of the prosecutors, which reinforced the idea that her job varies each day and is not “routine.” Indeed, one time she appeared on National Geographic for a television reality show entitled “Snake Salvation” about a snake-handling preacher our Office prosecuted! On a more serious note, Ms. Stout feels inspired each day knowing that she is assisting in the prosecution of those who are driving under the influence, as she herself experienced personal tragedy when a drunk driver killed her grandfather. In addition to her Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies, Ms. Stout is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Kim Strike – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Kim Strike has been an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator in our Office since 2003 after working in the Knox County Public Defender’s Office for six years. Since joining our Staff, Ms. Strike finds herself frequently becoming attached to the families of murder victims and other victims during this most difficult time of their lives.
Cindy Vanosdale – Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator
Cindy Vanosdale has been an Assistant Victim/Witness Coordinator in our Office since 2008. Prior to joining our team, she was a Victim Advocate with the Knoxville Police Department and YWCA, working at the Family Justice Center. Certified by the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA), Ms. Vanosdale also utilizes her Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies when assisting her co-workers in trial. Her passion for the law and court procedures has helped her gain a better understanding of the needs of victims, which in turn has allowed her to make the court experience more bearable for victims in unfortunate and often tragic situations. Ms. Vanosdale says that her job is so rewarding because of her involvement in helping victims, and she feels so very blessed and honored to be able to serve those who have been devastated by crime.
Lauren Ward – Receptionist & Legal Secretary
Lauren Ward joined the DA’s Office as a Receptionist and Legal Secretary in May 2017 after a prior 5-year Law Clerk position with criminal defense firm Hindman & Lanzon. She received her Bachelor of History Degree from the University of Tennessee in 2016 and joined our Office with the intention of helping victims and viewing the criminal justice system from a different perspective. Ms. Ward says that her favorite part of her job is learning about the details involved in cases since no two cases are the same. She loves communicating with people and helping them find answers to their questions. Her co-workers and law enforcement officers motivate her daily, and she is inspired by the impact our Office makes in the community. In fascinating news, Ms. Ward shares that she had the opportunity to assist in a murder case in Union County that will air on Investigation Discovery’s “Fear Thy Neighbor” TV show in 2018.
Connie Watts – Legal Secretary
Connie Watts joined our Office in 2005 as a Legal Secretary. In addition to previously owning her own transcription service, Ms. Watt’s legal background includes working in the Appellate Division of the Oakland County, Michigan Prosecutor’s Office during Dr. Jack Kevorkian’s assisted-suicide cases. As a member of our Staff, she is certified through the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to process National Crime Information Center (NCIC) inquiries.
Kelly Wilson – Victim/Witness Coordinator
Kelly Wilson joined the DA’s Office as a Legal Secretary in 2014, and now serves as a Victim/Witness Coordinator in the Felony Drug Unit. Previously in her career, she worked as an Administrative Secretary in the Finance Department of the Knox County Schools Central Office, as a Firefighter/EMT for the City of Knoxville Fire Department, and as the Secretary/Receptionist in Administration at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. She distinguished herself by being voted as the Class President of her graduating class in the Knoxville Fire Department Fire Academy. Ms. Wilson grew up in a family of police officers, which has led to her passion for working in the public service sector. She says General Charme Allen inspires her because she is the first female District Attorney General in Knox County. Ms. Wilson is NCIC (National Crime Information Center) Certified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Michelle Wilson – Felony Drug Unit Secretary
Michelle Wilson joined the Office in 2018 and currently serves as the Felony Drug Unit Secretary. Previously, she was a legal coordinator for a mortgage company. Born and raised in Knoxville, she is a proud graduate of Halls High School. When she graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2001 with a political science degree she was 7 months pregnant with her youngest son. Michelle enjoys helping citizens of Knox County and her fellow team members through her role as a legal secretary and counts each day as successful if she is able to help at least one person.