SALEM — The family of a 19-year-old Danvers man who was killed in a car crash last month will be on Essex Street this weekend handing out material from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
“I have permission to use their logo and to hand out their items,” said Marilyn Rubner of Billerica, the aunt of Dillon Renard, who died June 16 in an early morning accident on Boston Street. “It’s not a demonstration. It’s just bringing awareness to the city.”
The 25-year-old driver in the fatal crash, Angelique “Angel” Griffin of Salem, pleaded not guilty to a charge of motor vehicle homicide while driving drunk. Renard was a passenger in the car.
An appearance here Saturday by family members handing out MADD ribbons and magnets saying “Drive Safe, Drive Sober” triggered a complaint to police from the owner of Crow Haven Corner, a witch shop where Griffin once worked.
It was the first public incident in what appears to be a simmering dispute between the victim’s family and some members of the witch community.
Laurie Stathopoulos, the owner of Crow Haven Corner, said she called police after being told a representative of the group had been in her shop making disparaging comments.
Rubner said they handed out the materials on the street and entered several stores, including Crow Haven. She said she “went in that one by accident” and denies seeking a confrontation.
However, Rubner alleges that a few members of Salem’s Wiccan community have attempted to intimidate the Renard family in court and on Facebook.
“Every time we go to court, we get stared down by Wiccans,” she said. “... We are a very strong Christian family, and we’re not intimidated.”
Several local witches have appeared in court in support of Griffin.
Christian Day, a well-known Salem witch, said he has been away and has not been in court, but is helping pay for her legal defense. Day, who has been described incorrectly as Griffin’s uncle, said he is a close family friend.
“She is my mother’s best friend’s granddaughter,” he said.
In a charge and countercharge, Rubner said Day tried to intimidate their family on Facebook by saying he would “hex each and every person that would dare harm her (Griffin). ... I call upon everything in the heavens and hells to both protect her and to strike down anyone who would capitalize on this tragedy for their own gain.”
That quote, which got wide circulation when it was printed by the online version of a British newspaper, was not aimed at Renard’s family, Day said. It was a response to an individual who had posted an online message threatening Griffin, he said.
“It was not about the family,” he said. “It was never about the family. It was about the people that were exploiting this and that were threatening physical violence. ... They made these threats against her, and I will not tolerate it.”
Day said he has also received threats. “They are doing this to me so I won’t stand up for (Griffin), so I won’t help her legally and with her problems.”
Day stressed that he does not drink and is strongly against drunken driving but will let the courts decide Griffin’s guilt or innocence. He said he is only trying to stand beside a close family friend during a difficult time and ensure her the best possible legal defense.
“I’m not going to abandon someone in their hour of need,” he said.
Rubner said they are not targeting witch shops but are coming to Salem because Renard was raised here and the accident happened in Salem. They are coming, she said, “to promote something good in my nephew’s memory.”
Members of MADD will be with them, Rubner said, at the next court appearance Aug. 17.
The two Salem witches said this is a tragedy for both families.
“I have an 18-year-old son,” Stathopoulos said. “My heart goes out to them.”
The Salem News was not able to reach a spokesman for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Tom Dalton can be reached at email@example.com.