Press Release: 2023-09-18

DA announces new Victim Witness Unit Chief


New director has long history with advocacy for victims

Victim Witness Unit Director Emily O'Neil

Victim Witness Unit Director Emily O'Neil

NORTHAMPTON  – The Northwestern District Attorney’s Office has named Emily O’Neil as director of its Victim Witness Unit, replacing Jackie Gaw, who retired this month after 12 years in the position.

O’Neil comes to the office after a 28-year career in the Hampden County DA’s office, where she started as an intern, moving into court administration work, and then victim witness advocacy. In her role there, she served as victim witness advocate in the district courts, the child abuse unit, for superior court  cases, and most recently as an advocate in the special victims unit.

O’Neil earned her undergraduate degree from American International College in criminal justice and psychology and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Westfield State University.

She started in her new position on Sept. 11.

“We are pleased to welcome Emily to the office,” said Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan. “She has a passion for supporting victims through difficult cases and court proceedings and is excited to join our incredible victim witness staff.”

DA Sullivan also noted that Jackie Gaw was highly respected in the field of victim witness advocacy, serving the office with distinction since her appointment on Jan. 1, 2011, when he assumed office.

In April, Gaw was honored with the 2023 Gerard D. Downing Advocate of the year award at the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association annual prosecutors conference. In remarks at the time of that award, DA Sullivan observed that Gaw was a leader and mentor to many in the field.

O’Neil noted that during her time as a victim witness advocate in Hampden County, Jackie Gaw was a mentor to her.