DENVER (AP) — A Colorado mother still trying to make sense of her son’s murder is opening a center offering young people alternatives to crime.

Rhonda Fields, whose son, Javad Marshall-Fields, was killed along with his fiancee in a 2005 before he could testify in a murder case, is to cut the ribbon on Sunday at the Dayton Street Opportunity Center in Aurora.

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The University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, which will staff a health clinic at the center, is one of several partners being pulled in to provide services that also include GED training, job placement, and college counseling.

“If you come in that door, we will offer a resource that will help you,” said Fields, an Aurora state representative whose surviving child, Maisha Pollard, is the center’s executive director.

Paul Callanan, director of Denver’s gang reduction initiative, said Fields is “on the right track.”

The key, said Callanan, who is not involved with the Aurora center, is to coordinate with other projects with similar goals.

“That’s what we strive to do here in Denver and they strive to do in other cities,” he said. “A one-stop place where people can go get services is a good start.”

Vivian Wolfe and Javad Marshall-Fields (credit: CBS)

Vivian Wolfe and Javad Marshall-Fields (credit: CBS)

Javad Marshall-Fields, 21, was a key prosecution witness in the death of a friend, Gregory Vann, who was shot during a scuffle after a concert in an Aurora park in 2004. Days before he was to testify, he and his fiancee, Vivian Wolfe, 22, were shot and killed on an Aurora street.

Robert Ray (credit: CBS)

Robert Ray (credit: CBS)

Robert Ray, a teenager at the time who had the phrase “Crime Pays” tattooed on his back, was convicted in 2009 in the slayings of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe. Ray is on death row alongside his friend, Sir Mario Owens, who was convicted in Vann’s death. Marshall-Fields had been set to testify against both men in Vann’s slaying. Authorities say Ray, who had been charged with attempted murder in the park shooting, ordered the slayings of Marshall-Fields and Wolfe from jail.

Sir Mario Owens (credit: CBS)

Sir Mario Owens (credit: CBS)

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Marshall-Fields had been on the debate and basketball teams in high school and was considering a career in politics, law or corporate business. Wolfe wanted to pursue graduate studies in nutrition and become a midwife.

Rhonda Fields, a legislator since 2010, said she was too depressed to do much immediately after her son’s death. Then, officials from his and Wolfe’s alma mater, Colorado State University, proposed a scholarship in their names. They offered to fund half the necessary $30,000 endowment if the families would raise the rest.

“That was enough to get me out of bed,” said Fields, a former airline customer service trainer who went on to become a prominent advocate for crime victims. She represents an urban slice of Aurora, the city where she raised her two children.

Rev. Leon Kelly, who for three decades has run independent after-school and parolee support programs in the Denver area to address gang violence, said he hoped Fields’ prominence would attract support and funding necessary to ensure her effort is sustainable.

“Aurora is dealing with some big problems, and some of the efforts that have already been put in place struggle to keep their doors open,” said Kelly. “I’ve seen so many programs and efforts come, and I’ve seen them go.”

In the last decade, the Fields Wolfe Memorial Fund, founded by Fields and Christine Wolfe, mother of Vivian Wolfe, has granted 11 scholarships. But Fields came to see that violence grew from many causes and would need multi-faceted solutions.

“There are so many issues that people are dealing with,” Fields said. “Before they can even think about going to college, they’re wondering where they’re going to get their next meal.”

She envisions the center growing to one day offer child care and support for victims of domestic violence.

“I was just a mom trying to raise my kids,” Fields said, “And now, we’re … opening a building. I just can’t believe this.”

By DONNA BRYSON, Associated Press

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