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offering help and healing through marc's place
Story by Casey Rinaldi, Photo by Amy Long

Following the murder of their son, Marc, in August 2011, Tana and Jack Despain established the non-profit organization, Marc’s Place, to help victims of violent crimes in Jonesboro navigate the massive legal issues like those the couple has had to face.

“The name came about from us going to the cemetery. We went daily (after) Marc was murdered, sometimes twice a day, because it was just a devastating blow to us, and after weeks of going to the cemetery, Jack didn’t like saying that, so he would say, ‘Let’s go to Marc’s Place,’ and so that’s how the name came about and it stuck … ,” Tana said.

Four people were sentenced in connection with the murder of the Despain’s son. In September, Michelle Despain was sentenced to 30 years in prison for her part in the 2011 murder of her husband. Previously, Michelle Despain’s father, Carl Kelley, and the convicted shooter, Terrance Barker, plead guilty to first-degree murder and were sentenced to 35 years in prison. A third man, Johnny Hubbard, plead guilty to hindering apprehension in the murder-for-hire conspiracy and received an 18-year sentence. His probation on a previous drug conviction was also revoked and he was sentenced to 40 years, with the terms to run consecutively for a total of 58 years.

Marc’s Place was officially incorporated as a nonprofit organization earlier this year.

“I knew that I wanted to do something; I just didn’t quite know what,” said Tana. “That’s just my nature; I just jump into things, kind of like how you learn to swim. I just knew that I wanted to help people because I had been a legal secretary for a long time, and even with that being said, I was so apprehensive
about approaching the police and the prosecutor and I felt like with me having knowledge of the legal system and being apprehensive, how much more so would someone who’s not got any legal background … be of the legal process? So I knew that I wanted to help people in that area.”

The mission statement of Marc’s Place, Tana said, is to help an individual who’s been a victim of crime. Whether the person has experienced the loss of someone through murder or they are a victim of some type of abuse, the goal is to help them through the legal process and to serve as a support group during that process in any capacity possible.

Tana said her counselor’s assistance helped the couple make Marc’s Place a reality.

“Mandy Smith has just been a godsend to us as far as support goes and helping me through this process,” she said. “So I thought that helping people find someone to talk to, if that’s what they want, that’s what I want to do.”

Tana believes the nonprofit organization is already helping to fill a void in the community.

“Even before we got our articles of incorporation established, my counselor had some of the police officers contact her and refer some victims to me,” she said. “So even before I got my feet wet, I was already established trying to help someone.”

Some of the services that Marc’s Place provides its clients include resource packets, brochures, assistance with the legal process and finding therapy. When possible, the organization will also assist with transportation for the victims to court proceedings and other needs. In addition to sharing information through local media, Tana said she hopes to inform the public about Marc’s Place through
public speaking.

“Although I haven’t received any public speaking engagements yet, I’m hoping to get started on doing that by contacting some of our local businesses and churches to tell my story and to get my information out there,” she said.

In an effort to raise funds to further the efforts of the organization, the Despains are planning to host a country music banquet featuring an auction of notable items donated by some of Marc’s favorite country music stars, as well as an annual golf tournament next year in their son’s honor.

“As far as Marc’s Place, we hope that people will start noticing that we’re out there and will not hesitate to contact us,” said Tana. “We’re hoping to expand out into the Hispanic community by getting our brochures printed in Spanish. I don’t want anyone to be hesitant to ask me for help.”

For more information on Marc’s Place, visit the organization’s website at marcsplace.com or send an email to Help@MarcsPlace.com.

Editor’s note: Dateline NBC was in Jonesboro in October for an upcoming episode on the murder of Marc Despain. As of press time, the date the show will air had not been released.