vigil (copy)

People add candles to a makeshift memorial along the Walloomsac River pathway in Bennington on Jan. 19, a day after Emily Hamann, 26, was fatally assaulted on the riverside path.

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BENNINGTON — Around mid-day Jan. 18, a young woman was slashed to death along a riverside path in downtown Bennington, not far from the Walloomsac Apartments. Sensing the fear among apartment residents after the killing of Emily Hamann, local faith leaders decided to organize a monthly walk along the path.

Organizers want to bring community members closer as well as help reclaim people’s sense of beauty and safety about the place.

“Its purpose is just to get people back out there, in a group, so that people aren’t avoiding it because of fear and because of being alone,” said Rev. Angela Emerson, of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, in Bennington. “We want it to become a popular place of beauty and recreation.”

Sponsored by the Greater Bennington Interfaith Council, the walk along the Walloomsac River pathway is scheduled for the third Saturday of every month. It’s happening this Saturday, with participants setting off at 10 a.m. from People’s Park, on Depot Street. Everyone is welcome to join.

Hamann’s mother, Kelly Carroll, has been helping spread the word about the event.

“I think that anything that we can do to make the residents of the Walloomsac Apartments to feel more secure in their homes is worth trying,” she said.

The plan is to walk down the entire pathway and turn around, back to the park. The interfaith council, made up of about a dozen faith communities in the area, will offer refreshments after this Saturday’s walk.

The group hopes Walloomsac Apartment residents who can’t do the whole walk might still participate in a portion of it. “We’re working on seeing if there’s a way to make the walk inclusive of folks who can’t quite walk the entire distance,” said Spencer Jarrett, a board member of Congregation Beth El, in Bennington.

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The Walloomsac Apartments provide public housing to seniors and people with disabilities. It currently has 57 residents, according to the Bennington Housing Authority.

Because of ongoing concerns about the coronavirus disease, the interfaith council is asking participants to wear masks and observe social distancing.

It’s also hoping various community organizations, such as law enforcement agencies and social service groups, can sponsor future walks. Jarrett said such events would enable local residents to learn more about the organizations and interact with their representatives.

Carroll said walk organizers have discussed pausing on Saturday to remember Hamann, 26, as well as Christopher Sharby, 46, a Bennington man whom authorities say was fatally assaulted in town in September.

A Pownal man, Darren Pronto, is charged with first-degree murder in Hamann’s killing. A Bennington man, Joseph Cattani, is facing charges of manslaughter and aggravated assault in Sharby’s death.

The defendants have pleaded not guilty. Both cases are being heard in Bennington Superior criminal court.

Contact Tiffany Tan at ttan@benningtonbanner.com or @tiffgtan on Facebook and Twitter.


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