Meet the Victim Witness Team
Marya Simmons, Unit Supervisor
Marya Simmons joined the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in 2013 as a Victim-Witness Advocate and she now holds the position of, Victim-Witness Unit Supervisor. Prior to joining our office, she was a Justice System Advocate for victims of sexual assault at the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. Her extensive experience with assisting women who have been diagnosed with drug and alcohol dependency and mental health illnesses allows her to work with a diverse population, while addressing their needs outside of their cases.
Marya received her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Tiffin University and an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Bryant and Stratton College. She supports victims and witnesses who have been affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, homicide, and other violent crimes navigate the judicial system process. She is also an active member of the CODIS Taskforce/SAK Initiative, Co-Chair of the Cuyahoga County SART, SAVA Board member, member of the Collaborative to End Human Trafficking, and a Registered Advocate in the State of Ohio.
Brooke Friedman,Victim Witness Advocate (Sexual Assault Kit Task Force)
Brooke Friedman is a graduate of The Ohio State University and has received her Bachelor’s degree in Criminology. She joined the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office as a Victim-Witness Advocate in November 2015.
Prior to joining the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office, she worked as a Women’s Forensic Case Manager at a non-profit agency that reaches out to the homeless. Brooke was instrumental in attaining housing and services for disadvantaged women suffering from mental health issues. In addition, she advocated for those women in the courtroom. As an integral part of the Women’s Re-Entry Program for those that have been diagnosed with mental health and chemical dependency issues, Brooke gained much insight into the plight of women who have been traumatized. Through her experience, Brooke was able to gain a unique perspective into their day-to-day battles.
Brooke is currently enrolled in the graduate program at Case Western Reserve University for a Master of Science in Social Administration. In addition, Brooke volunteers at The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center supporting victims and their families whom have suffered a sexual assault.
Heather Goode,Victim Witness Advocate (Sexual Assault Kit Task Force)
Heather Goode joined the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in 2015 as a Victim-Witness Advocate for the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force. Prior to joining the office, she worked in community mental health on Cleveland’s east side for five years. Heather’s extensive experience includes advocating for adults suffering from mental illness with criminal backgrounds. Being able to differentiate symptoms of various mental health diagnoses allows her to work with a diverse population providing a multitude of community resources for support.
Heather received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Criminology from Cleveland State University in 2008. While in college, she interned with Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center with juveniles serving house arrest on the South East side. Following her internship, she worked with juveniles in residential treatment at Bellefaire JCB. After transitioning into Community Mental Health, Heather completed a Master’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Tiffin University in 2013.
Susan Kennedy, Victim Witness Advocate
Susan Kennedy joined the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office as a Victim Witness Advocate in February 2015. Susan has more than 20 years of experience working with vulnerable and at-risk children in various capacities. This includes 18 years with the Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services, first as a social worker, then as a program officer. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Toledo.
Jolanda Knowlin, Victim Witness Advocate (Sexual Assault Kit Task Force)
Dr. Jolanda Knowlin joined the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in June 2015 as a Victim-Witness Advocate. Dr. Knowlin is a dedicated clinician, advocate, researcher, and analyst with extensive experience providing effective prevention, psychotherapeutic intervention and assessment, consultation, and advocacy services to diverse and underserved populations across diverse settings. She is passionate about the provision of advocacy and implementation of culturally competent psychological assessment, research, and practice to enhance individuals’ quality of life. In conjunction with the American Psychological Association, Dr. Knowlin has utilized her expertise to help translate psychological research and practice into federal legislation. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Hampton University, graduating with honors and summa cum laude. She also earned a Master of Science degree and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Clinical Psychology with a minor concentration in Developmental Psychology from Howard University, with honors.
Adrena Merchant, Victim Witness Advocate (Sexual Assault Kit Task Force)
Adrena Merchant has been employed with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office since April of 2015. Adrena works as a Victim-Witness Advocate with the Sexual Assault Kit Task Force. Prior to joining the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Adrena worked at Trumbull County Children Services in the Alternative Response Unit and the Investigative Unit. As an Alternative Response Caseworker, Adrena provided Alternative or Traditional child welfare response services to referred children and their families. As an Investigative Caseworker Adrena investigated more serious cases of child abuse i.e. sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and child deaths. Adrena conducted Child Forensic Interviews with children who suffered sexual abuse and serious physical abuse. Adrena has received over 330 hours of training with the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program, presented by Northeast Ohio Regional Training Center. Adrena earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Kent State University.
Jeanette Pellot-Ayala, Victim Witness Advocate
Jeanette (“Jeany”) Pellot-Ayala joined the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office in January of 2014. Jeany is fluent in Spanish (verbal & written). She previously worked at Catholic Charities as an Immigration Legal Advocate assisting immigrants file immigration applications with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). She was accredited by the Board of Immigration Appeals to assist clients and accompany them to their immigration interviews with USCIS. She has over a decade of experience in the legal field. Jeany graduated from Bryant & Stratton with an Associate’s degree in Criminal Justice in May of 2012, and is currently enrolled at Cleveland State University to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She also volunteers with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as a facilitator with the support group named ALAS, Alliance of Latinos Against Stigma, to assist Hispanics members cope with their mental illness.
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