The Dancing Grannies, a Milwaukee-based group of women that lost four of its members in the Waukesha Christmas tragedy, is preparing for its return to the Wisconsin community’s annual parade nearly one year after Darrell Brooks Jr. killed six and injured countless others.
The Dancing Grannies will return Dec. 4 to the route where devastation unfolded nearly one year ago at the Christmas parade, The Associated Press reported. Among those killed were “Dancing Grannies” Tamara Durand, 52, Jane Kulich, 52, LeAnna Owen, 71, and Virginia Sorenson, 79.
The group will honor its fallen members and, much like Sorenson would tell them, will “keep on dancing.”
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“We’ve got to get back out there,” Jeannie Knutson, an original “granny” told the AP.
Brooks, 41, was sentenced Wednesday to six consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole for the Nov. 21, 2021, parade attack. The fifth and sixth victims were Jackson Sparks, 8 and Wilhelm Hospel, 81.
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Durand was one of the group’s newest members, while Sorenson was lauded as the ladies’ “glue” who “held the group together,” one of the women told the AP.
Brooks drove a red Ford Escape through a crowd of paradegoers — including children and elderly people —during the Nov. 21, 2021, Christmas celebration. He was fleeing a fight with his ex at the time.
He was charged with six counts of first-degree intentional homicide, and prosecutors soon added dozens more counts. Brooks initially pleaded not guilty and then changed his plea to not guilty by mental disease.
It took a jury only three hours to find him guilty of all 76 counts related to the attack.
Before sentencing him on Wednesday, Waukesha County Judge Jennifer R. Dorow said she “searched for a mitigating factor in this case.”
“I waited patiently for an apology, a true apology,” Dorow said. “I didn’t get it, and not for my benefit, but for the victims.
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“There is no medication or treatment for a heart that is bent on evil,” Dorow added. “Child trauma, bipolar, indifference, physical abuse of a child or even childhood trauma did not cause Darrell Brooks to commit the acts for which he will be sentenced here today. It is very clear to this court that he understands the difference between right and wrong and that he simply chooses to ignore his conscience. He is fueled by anger and rage.”
In addition to the life sentences, Dorow sentenced Brooks to 762½ years in prison, plus 305 years of “extended supervision.”
Jan Kwiatkowski, a 67-year-old who has become a leader among the “Grannies,” reiterated Sorenson’s long-held words to the AP.
“Ginny always had this saying before parades: ‘If you make a mistake, if you get off kilter, if you drop your pom poms, no matter what, you keep on dancing,’” she said. “And that’s the mantra we all grabbed on to.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.