March 31, 2012

Pets Find Safety at the Nest

This is something that is close to my heart as I had to leave behind my 2 loving dogs with my abuser who then abused & neglected them...thankfully a neighbor saw the dogs situation and they were taken from him, but it was so hard to leave them behind and it did keep me in the abuse longer then I should have stayed since I couldn't protect them if I wasn't there. This is wonderful to see!!! So many are starting to see the connection between animal abuse/cruelty and Domestic Violence, and the outcome are programs like this that address those needs and make it easier and safer for a victim to leave her situation. Please support programs like this, they are very much needed!

Here’s some information that we have gathered so far:  Animal Cruelty and DV

In response to survivor needs, the Nest Domestic Violence Shelter is going to build several kennels designed to accommodate household pets of the women and children who live at the Nest.

Research shows almost 50 percent of domestic violence victims delay or refuse leaving an abusive home out of fear of leaving their pets or livestock behind.

For anyone who has ever loved a pet, this isn’t surprising.  It is understandable, especially in light of the fact that most women entering domestic violence shelters report their partner has threatened, injured or killed their pet.

“We see more and more victims arriving with their pets.  Thus far, we have been able to partner with the Humane Society, animal boarding businesses and volunteers in the community to temporarily ‘foster’ our survivor’s pets while they are in shelter.  Our new kennels offer a permanent solution to sometimes tricky situation.  The residents of the Nest immerse themselves in rebuilding their lives, which means they are out working all day and or attending school.  The kennels will provide safe respite for the pets while the residents are out of shelter,” explains Nest Supervisor Terry Thompson.

A number of studies have identified an overwhelming link between family violence and pet abuse.

The Humane Society of the United States established the First Strike Program to address the connection.

The program produces a variety of materials on animal cruelty and its connections to domestic violence, child and elder abuse and community violence.

Simply put, animal abuse in a family is an indicator that other forms of abuse may also be occurring.

Laura Bonar, Program Director of Animal Protection of New Mexico, explains, "Research tells us that someone who is physically abusive to his wife and children is also likely to be abusive to the family pet. Batterers may threaten to harm the animal in order to control the victim and prevent her from leaving. If the victim is able to get out of the situation, it is not uncommon for batterers take out their aggression on the animals left behind."

HEAL Executive Director Coleen Widell tells of an experience she had in Connecticut during a consultation at a shelter. During her visit, a box of beautiful long-stemmed roses arrived, intended for one of the residents. As she opened the box, much to her horror, the resident found her new puppy's tail in the box. She immediately left the shelter and returned home.

Twenty two states, as well as D.C. and Puerto Rico, have enacted legislation that includes provisions for pets in domestic violence protection orders. Despite several efforts by domestic violence advocates, New Mexico is not one of those states.
The Nest is seeking donations to assist with the kennel project.

If you are interested, please contact HEAL office manager Susanne Francis at 575-378- 6378.

HEAL & The Nest Domestic Violence Shelter

March 30, 2012

Eastern Kentucky’s Take Back the Night Rally

The below write up was done as an overview of what the rally entailed.  We encourage anyone that is going to a college or university that doesn’t have a Take Back the Night Rally to look into it and see how to make it happen on your campus!  If you don’t know where to start, let us know, we may be able to help you.  Take Back the Night is an internationally held march and rally intended as a protest and direct action against rape and other forms of sexual violence, some campus events include domestic violence awareness along with other forms of violence and abuse awareness.

If after reading the review you would like to find out more about the book “Fingernail Moon” or Hopes Wings Shelter, please see the links and book review after the Rally review.  There is also a link for upcoming Take Back the Night Events.

Take Back Your Life

    Was the message for Eastern Kentucky’s Take Back the Night Rally. Janie Webster Leech shared her story about her daughter’s sexual abuse, her court battle, and her life as a fugitive after fleeing the country with her child. In 2000 she received instructions on how to hook up with the underground and yet chose to venture out on her own. Someone from the audience asked why she had to run, when she had mental health professionals who could prove her child was sexually assaulted. Many of us have asked that question as well! (can I hear an AMEN?). This mother’s story was different from what we are used to. It is a story with a happy ending, and a journey to forgiveness and healing after sexual assault. While in Dublin, her ex-husband passed away, making it safe for her to return to the US. When she did so, a judge in Fayette County KY dropped her felony charges. (Unlawful flight and child abduction).

    College students from Eastern Kentucky University shared slam poetry and an assignment they had on stalking. Some students were stalked, and others did the stalking. Stalking included gifts, texting, facebook messages and more, but boundaries were set. It was interesting to hear the emotions shared of what it felt like to stalk and be stalked. That was a lesson that rippled out to their friends and hopefully will continue!

   Hopes Wings, the local shelter in Madison County, has struggled with grants since it has been open, and thanks to Mary Kay, will now be open and actually be able to offer shelter!

For upcoming Take Back the Night Events please visit the calendar for upcoming April events:

To find out more about Hopes Wings please visit their website at:

About the book “Fingernail Moon: The True Story of a Mother's Flight to Protect Her Daughter” : 

Fingernail Moon, the true story of a mother and daughter’s courageous journey. An inspiring story of Janie Webster’s daring quest to save her daughter’s life.
When Webster discovered that her husband had sexually abused their daughter, her seemingly content life changed forever. She began divorce proceedings, but the court allowed unsupervised visits between father and daughter. Then her husband was diagnosed with AIDS. Terrified that he could further abuse and even infect their daughter, Janie Webster knew that she had to flee.
Mother and daughter embarked on a five-year journey around the world. Although often discouraged, they found within their physical journey a deep spiritual meaning. With God’s guidance, they established and reestablished new lives in the countries where they stayed, finding people they could trust who provided them with friendship and assistance. Despite the threat of deportation and imprisonment hanging over them, they sensed the hand of God engineering their safe passage.

Purchase “Fingernail Moon” on amazon:

If your school is having a Take Back the Night Event and you would like for us to post about it either before or after please send us the information via the contact button to the left or send to Mary via email at:

March 28, 2012

Eastern Kentucky’s Take Back the Night Rally

The below write up was done as an overview of what the rally entailed.  We encourage anyone that is going to a college or university that doesn’t have a Take Back the Night Rally to look into it and see how to make it happen on your campus!  If you don’t know where to start, let us know, we may be able to help you.  Take Back the Night is an internationally held march and rally intended as a protest and direct action against rape and other forms of sexual violence, some campus events include domestic violence awareness along with other forms of violence and abuse awareness.

If after reading the review you would like to find out more about the book “Fingernail Moon” or Hopes Wings Shelter, please see the links and book review after the Rally review.  There is also a link for upcoming Take Back the Night Events.

Take Back Your Life

    Was the message for Eastern Kentucky’s Take Back the Night Rally. Janie Webster Leech shared her story about her daughter’s sexual abuse, her court battle, and her life as a fugitive after fleeing the country with her child. In 2000 she received instructions on how to hook up with the underground and yet chose to venture out on her own. Someone from the audience asked why she had to run, when she had mental health professionals who could prove her child was sexually assaulted. Many of us have asked that question as well! (can I hear an AMEN?). This mother’s story was different from what we are used to. It is a story with a happy ending, and a journey to forgiveness and healing after sexual assault. While in Dublin, her ex-husband passed away, making it safe for her to return to the US. When she did so, a judge in Fayette County KY dropped her felony charges. (Unlawful flight and child abduction).

    College students from Eastern Kentucky University shared slam poetry and an assignment they had on stalking. Some students were stalked, and others did the stalking. Stalking included gifts, texting, facebook messages and more, but boundaries were set. It was interesting to hear the emotions shared of what it felt like to stalk and be stalked. That was a lesson that rippled out to their friends and hopefully will continue!

   Hopes Wings, the local shelter in Madison County, has struggled with grants since it has been open, and thanks to Mary Kay, will now be open and actually be able to offer shelter!

For upcoming Take Back the Night Events please visit the calendar for upcoming April events:

To find out more about Hopes Wings please visit their website at:

About the book “Fingernail Moon: The True Story of a Mother's Flight to Protect Her Daughter” : 

Fingernail Moon, the true story of a mother and daughter’s courageous journey. An inspiring story of Janie Webster’s daring quest to save her daughter’s life.
When Webster discovered that her husband had sexually abused their daughter, her seemingly content life changed forever. She began divorce proceedings, but the court allowed unsupervised visits between father and daughter. Then her husband was diagnosed with AIDS. Terrified that he could further abuse and even infect their daughter, Janie Webster knew that she had to flee.
Mother and daughter embarked on a five-year journey around the world. Although often discouraged, they found within their physical journey a deep spiritual meaning. With God’s guidance, they established and reestablished new lives in the countries where they stayed, finding people they could trust who provided them with friendship and assistance. Despite the threat of deportation and imprisonment hanging over them, they sensed the hand of God engineering their safe passage.

Purchase “Fingernail Moon” on amazon:

If your school is having a Take Back the Night Event and you would like for us to post about it either before or after please send us the information via the contact button to the left or send to Mary via email at:

March 27, 2012

Maryland passes bill providing unemployment benefits to domestic abuse victims

I’m so glad to see this!  I pray that other states start implementing this as well to help Victims not have to choose between safety and their income.  Too many victims have no choice but to stay in their current job because they can’t go without the income, and too many abusers use this to their advantage…

March 27, 2012

Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and Maryland Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez announced that legislation to provide victims of domestic abuse with unemployment benefits has passed through the Maryland General Assembly.  The law would help people who must leave a job because continuing to work poses a threat to the safety of the victim, his or her spouse, children or parents.

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation sponsored the legislation.  The Lt. Governor testified before the Senate Finance Committee and the House Economic Matters Committee in February.  On March 23, 2012, the House voted 108-28 to pass the law which made it easily through the Senate 46-0.

Lt. Governor Brown takes this issue very seriously.  Unfortunately he has personal experience as his cousin Cathy was senselessly murdered by her estranged boyfriend in 2008. (See video, left)

He used his experience as a legislator and that of a family member affected by the tragedy of domestic violence to move this bill through quickly so that victims can heal and get back on their feet financially as soon as possible.  In a formal press release, the Lt. Governor said that no one should have to "choose between personal safety and financial security."

He has worked with Governor Martin O'Malley to pass other laws supporting domestic violence victims.  His work includes restricting guns from getting into the hands of convicted abusers and upholding protective orders initiated by the abused.    

According to , domestic violence deaths in Maryland have dropped by 41% since O'Malley and Brown took office.  For more information on unemployment benefits, financial assistance and the laws and services available to the citizens of Maryland, visit

Original Article

Judge outlines reasons for domestic violence increase

By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
In San Diego County, more than 200 restraining orders are issued weekly, often for domestic violence, according Superior Court Judge Christine Goldsmith.

A judge in the family law division for the past dozen years and wife of San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, she spoke about a rise in domestic violence cases at a Feb. 23 Continuing Education Center at Rancho Bernardo lecture.

Though domestic violence can happen at anytime and to anybody, Goldsmith said there is usually an uptick in restraining order requests during or following holidays, three-day weekends and sporting events like the Super Bowl. There has also been a correlation to the recession.

“We’re seeing more (cases) during the bad economy,” Goldsmith said. “They are not just violent but desperate, doing extreme things we did not hear of a few years ago.”

Goldsmith, who has been a judge for more than 25 years, said domestic violence reports have risen in the last couple decades because before then victims — most often women, but sometimes men — did not know where to go for help and society did not discuss the issue. Judges have also been trained to better identify and understand it.

“It was the common belief that women stayed with their abuser because it was no big deal and the man was entitled to run his home (as he saw fit),” she said. “That belief infiltrated society and the bench … (so victims had) nowhere to go.”

“Domestic violence is abuse committed by a person who has some relationship with the victim of abuse. … (It) can occur between teenagers in a young relationship and … in long-term marriages,” according to San Diego Volunteer Legal Program. Another form is elder abuse.

Though sometimes difficult to recognize, SDVLP says signs include jealousy and possessiveness, control, manipulation, mood swings, and attitude of disrespect, or history of domestic violence.

Goldsmith said some children at 8 or 10 years show tendencies toward committing domestic violence, such as fighting at school, using drugs or alcohol when they are 7 or 8 years old, and doing things like “setting a cat on fire.”

If not caught early and addressed through counseling, she said they could become homicidal or commit crimes like kidnapping or aggravated assault.

Some act out because they witness domestic violence at home. Others were exposed to drugs or alcohol while in the womb, so their brain development was affected, which influences their behavior, she said.

Though some abusers’ behavior cannot be changed, Goldsmith said through counseling others choose to modify their behavior.

“When I sit in family court I deal with domestic violence (incidents) every week, usually every day,” Goldsmith said.

Often the victim is requesting a restraining order. While there have been some well-publicized local incidents of where a restraining order did not prevent a victim’s assault or death, Goldsmith said it is important to have one so there is a record of the abuser’s history and police can arrest the abuser if the order’s conditions are violated.

She explained the process, starting with a temporary restraining order, which if there is sufficient cause becomes a permanent order lasting any length of time; often at least five years.

Goldsmith said she has also seen more restraining orders in paternity cases where non-married parents are fighting about the child.

She said family court judges in San Diego County combined typically hear 165 to 230 restraining order hearings per week. This does not include restraining order requests that come before judges for criminal or juvenile court proceedings.

“Throughout the county I can safely guaranteed more than 200 restraining order per week are issued,” she said. “Most of these are new applicants.”

About one-third are repeat applicants or those who feel a restraining order needs to be renewed, she said.

“Most applicants are women who run the gamut in age — 13 up to any age,” she said. “We now will take applications from people who are 12 or 13. Usually they are with a parent who comes in and makes the request for someone that young. At 16 or 17 they can come … to make their own application, which is heard in adult court.”

As for the 12- and 13-year-olds, she said they are typically being molested or have a boyfriend who is battering and abusing them.

“It is very sad for me to read the request from a 13-year-old who is usually dating someone 17 or 18,” Goldsmith said. “Frankly, it makes me wonder where was the mother or father … who saw no problem with dating at such an early age.”

Goldsmith said those needing a restraining order are given a packet containing all needed forms. They do not need to hire a lawyer and can receive assistance from the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program’s Domestic Violence Restraining Order Clinic.

It provides walk-in services on weekdays, 8:30 a.m. to noon, 1-4:30 p.m. at the Madge Bradley Building, 1409 Fourth Ave., 4th Floor in downtown San Diego. For details, go to or call 619-450-7588.

Original Article

March 26, 2012

Domestic violence review sought

By Tracey Roxburgh on Sun, 4 Mar 2012

Principal Family Court Judge Peter Boshier is proposing a new way of handling domestic violence cases.

He says it would include a "wholly revolutionary" engagement process in court with families.

Judge Boshier spoke exclusively to the Otago Daily Times before his Queenstown presentation co-ordinated by Jigsaw Central Lakes.

Submissions on the Family Court Review, announced in April last year by the Government, closed on Wednesday.

One of the questions asked in the terms of reference was if the state should be investing in private law.

Speaking publicly for the first time about the review, Judge Boshier said the present process did not work "anywhere near as well as it should".

The court was last reviewed in 1993 and following that the Care of Children Act was introduced, which was prescriptive about things which had to be done quickly to reduce delay - terminology was changed, Family Court was opened to the media, children were involved in the process, and "a whole lot of teeth" were added to enforcement.

"Parliament added a whole range of steps, from counselling ... to admonishment, right up to enforce orders and also breach-of-parenting orders.

"Away we went on a wonderful new platform. The Care of Children Act was introduced in 2005, there was no recession and we had $9 million.

"[Then] there's a recession and a change of tack with a new Government and there's a perception that "should the state be investing in private law?"

"That is the present question ... is this the state's business?"

Judge Boshier said as it was, the Family Court was "not a sustainable court" - each year it handled about 670,000 cases. Of those, 27,000 related to the Care of Children Act.

"It is that Act that's the troubling one for sustainability. Have we been overdoing it? It is pretty nerve-wracking when you have been involved in a court for such a long time and you see the structure of it about to be reviewed by others.

"There does need to be [a review] of the family court. There are too many cases before judges that do not need to be before judges."

One example given was a dispute over care arrangements for a child, which could be handled effectively by a mediator who had the right to arbitrate.

However, the most widespread changes Judge Boshier had suggested related to domestic violence cases.
"What I am suggesting is that when the Family Court makes a domestic violence order to protect the victim, hand in hand with the judge making that order, is ... a requested or required assessment and information session with the victim."

It would occur "on the spot".

The victim would be run through the consequences of the protection order put in place, a safety plan established and a risk assessment carried out.

"A judge should not, in isolation, make a protection order ... there must go hand in hand with that engagement with the victim to go through the consequences [of the order] and the need for safety."

At the moment, a victim seeking a protection order either went to their lawyer or filed an application for protection with the court, which was handled by a judge.

The second change Judge Boshier suggested was regarding the delivery of the protection order to the other party. It should not be served by police or the bailiff days later or posted to the violent party.

"Rather, they are to compulsorily engage with the person who has been violent within 24 hours. The person is required to come into the court where the judge has made the order. There will be a risk assessment ... and preliminary screening to see what sort of programme that person is best to attend.

Judge Boshier said the third element of change he had suggested was "utterly different" and required engagement from both parties' families or whanau within 14 days of a protection order being made by way of a family group conference. Family group conferences are held only in Youth Court matters or Care and Protection work.

"There must be invited the family ... or whanau of both sides, there must be invited the agencies who are engaged with this couple, either separately or together. It could be any number of people who hold information and can assess [the individuals involved]."

At the conference, the risk assessments and screenings would be made publicly available and programmes would then be recommended to either the victim and the person offering violence, either separately or jointly.

"This is wholly revolutionary. We have never gone down this track before, but it's time we did this, in my opinion.

"My proposal is the family group conference will compel the family and the whanau to recognise the violence and the effect it's having on the children and the family."

While $63.2 million was spent on stopping violence, excluding the core work of the police, Judge Boshier questioned whether there was "value for money".

"I don't think we're talking about more money. What I'm asking for is better use of what we've got."

Original Article

March 25, 2012

Officers taking time to assess domestic incidents

3/1/2012 9:48:00 AM
In 2010 fifteen Minnesota women lost their lives to domestic violence, according to the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women. Over the past decade 194 women were killed by a current or former husband, boyfriend, intimate partner, household member, or family member.

Officers from Wyoming, North Branch and Lakes Area Police Departments in late February attended training to implement an innovative program designed to address domestic violence. Over 30 officers from the three departments will use a scientifically-based tool, called a "Lethality Assessment," to direct their response to domestic violence calls and assist victims to seek help from shelters, like The Refuge Network.
The Lethality Assessment Program - Maryland Model (LAP).  The LAP is based upon 25 years of research at The Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. That research revealed: four percent of domestic violence murder victims nationwide had ever availed themselves of domestic violence program services. In 50 percent of domestic violence-related homicides, officers had previously responded to a call on the scene, and the re-assault of domestic violence victims in high-danger situations was reduced by 60 percent if they went to a shelter for help.

The goal of the LAP is to prevent domestic violence homicides, serious injury, and re-assault by encouraging more victims to utilize the support and shelter services of domestic violence programs. A specific series of questions are used by officers to determine level of risk associated between an abuser and the victim. When victims’ responses rate as high-risk on the Lethality Assessment, an immediate call is made to The Refuge Network's hotline. The immediate connection has been found to be much more effective than simply leaving a business card for the victim, who often does not follow through once the abuser has been arrested and removed from the home. Chief Stenson of Lakes Area Police said, “The Lakes Area Police Department is excited to take part in the Lethality Assessment process. Ours is but the initial step, in several elements working together, to make sure the needs of domestic violence victims are being met to the best of our ability. A few minutes to assess and get a few questions answered is well worth the time to improve services.”

Information gathered from the Lethality Assessment may later be used by prosecutors to charge and prosecute the cases and by probation officers to determine levels of intervention, with the ultimate goal of keeping victims safe and reducing recidivism. Chisago County Probation Officer Bruce Hagstrom supervises misdemeanor offenders. “We look forward to this new tool providing greater victim safety, and increased offender accountability by identifying higher risk domestic offenders.”  

Lethality Assessments will also be made available to Judges setting bail for  and pre-trial release determinations to assist the Court in determining appropriate bail and pre-trial release conditions. Chisago County is already prioritizing domestic abuse cases by placing domestic abuse cases on fast track, allowing cases to reach jury trial on a priority basis.

Sgt. Randy McAlister, Cottage Grove Police Department, assisted with the training sessions in Chisago County.  Sgt. McAlister has been an outspoken proponent of the LAP after its implementation in Washington County.  McAlister has seen the LAP assessment tool convince reluctant victims to get  help from the available domestic abuse programs and shelters.  

The implementation of the assessment in Chisago County is the result of collaboration among Chisago County Attorney's Office, Chisago County Court Services, The Refuge Network, and law enforcement. The adopted two-pronged intervention process features the law enforcement administered lethality screening tool and an accompanying referral protocol that provides direction for law enforcement, victims' advocates, court services and prosecutors.  Assistant County Attorney Jennifer Bovitz, Probation Officer Hagstrom, and advocates from the Refuge Network were instrumental in the LAP coming into use in Chisago County.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence in their relationship, help is available at The Refuge Network.  In Chisago County call (651)247-2890.
Original Article

March 24, 2012

Domestic abuse victim now helps others

By CINDY UKEN | Posted: Friday, March 16, 2012 12:15 am

Maria Martin

This was introduced as evidence in Maria Martin's domestic abuse case. It was taken after Martin was abused. Today, Martin speaks to other women of domestic violence and is an advocate for the Violence Against Women Act, which is pending reauthorization.

An impromptu call from a male acquaintance, wishing Maria Martin a "happy Easter," would send the man she had just begun dating into a jealous rage.

The witty and intelligent man she considered her "Prince Charming" was the same man who yanked her into his apartment, locked the door, and threatened her life and the lives of her three children.

James Archie Patrick III made good on his threat.

"He exploded into a fireball of irrational anger and jealousy," Martin said of that day in 2005. "I was confused. I didn't understand what was happening."

He punched her, alternating between her head and stomach, while cursing and calling her names. He shredded her new linen dress and leather jacket with a kitchen knife. He grabbed fists of hair and pulled. He broke her cellphone. He took a pistol from inside his Heights apartment and told her the bullets were "special" and would explode in her head. He pushed the barrel into her forehead with such force that it left a mark.

She is one of the reasons Montana's Democratic Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus are co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which provides more than $4 million for 50 programs throughout Montana. The legislation strengthens the ability of states, law enforcement and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking.

During hours of torture, Patrick held a knife to Martin's throat and asked if she would rather be shot in the head or have her throat slit. Patrick also threatened to kill Martin's three daughters, explaining that he would shoot the older girls and "gut like an animal" Martin's youngest, who was 6.

A passer-by heard Martin's screams and summoned police.

This was the same "charming" man who caught her attention four months earlier. It was a Sunday. Martin and her daughters were Christmas shopping and took a break at a popular coffee shop. They scoured the shop for a Sunday newspaper. Patrick would later offer them his copy, laying the groundwork for an intense but short-lived romance.

It was the first date that Martin, a vulnerable and naïve divorcée, had had in 20 years. She was smitten with Patrick, who had a promising career. He had degrees in both English and law and had practiced as an attorney in South Carolina before moving to Billings. As the pair began dating, he called and visited frequently. He regularly sent email and text messages. He was "intensely passionate," she said.

"I thought it was wonderful to receive all this new attention," Martin said. "I was starved for it."

What she thought were love, devotion and attention were really red flags, telltale signs of a possible abuser. He stopped by her house every night and called multiple times throughout the day. He did not want her to go back to school. He grew jealous over the smallest things. He wanted to be alone with her, away from family and friends.

"I thought it was flattering. However, it turns out this was isolation," Martin said.

Nearly three years after Patrick beat and threatened to kill Martin, Patrick was sentenced to 61 years in Montana State Prison. He was found guilty of several charges, including two counts of felony assault with a weapon.

"I just can't even really believe it," Martin said during a recent interview. "I can't believe it really happened to me."

Martin went on to earn her master's degree in rehabilitation and mental health counseling. She is active in the Billings Area Family Violence Task Force, the Montana State Coalition of Domestic and Sexual Violence, Carbon County Domestic and Sexual Violence Services and many similar organizations.

She is also an ardent supporter of VAWA, which played a huge role in her survival. Programs to help victims are crucial to surviving assault and the associated repercussions, Martin said.

VAWA consolidates 13 existing programs into four. Since VAWA was passed in 1994, there has been a 51 percent increase in women who report domestic abuse and a 37 percent increase in reporting among men.

Between 2000 and 2010, there were 98 deaths in Montana attributed to domestic violence.

"I am alive today because I am a strong, intelligent woman," Martin said. "I need to stand up, step out and be in front of this issue for others who can't or are not able to -- yet. No one deserves to be treated with disrespect and violence."

That is why she is supporting VAWA, which expands the definition of sexual assault to include "any non-consensual sexual" acts, including when the victim "lacks capacity to consent."

The legislation also specifically addresses needs in Indian Country, where violence rates are highest in the state. The bill recognizes and strengthens tribal criminal jurisdiction to investigate, prosecute, convict and sentence both Indians and non-Indians. It allows prosecution to happen in either tribal or federal court, with the right of appeal to federal courts.

The legislation is currently pending before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"This bill protects and empowers women by giving law enforcement, our courts and service providers the tools they need," Tester said. "I expect Congress to stand up for women and approve this measure in short order."

Original Article

March 23, 2012

T. Thomas Ackerman Releases 'The Safehouse' to Critic Acclaim: Novel Called a Call-To-Arms Against Domestic Violence

Saturday, March 3, 2012

T. Thomas Ackerman and Outskirts Press are pleased to announce the release of 'The Safehouse' to critical acclaim by readers of this page-turning thriller that has been called a call-to-arms against domestic violence.

The SafeHouse

Veteran author T. Thomas Ackerman is pleased to announce the release of his highly-praised thriller titled 'The Safehouse'. Evolving around the grave challenges of domestic violence, readers are jettisoned into the world of Ackerman's Detective Jessica Warren, and her life mission of protecting innocent women from predators.

'The Safehouse' is published by Outskirts Press, and is the second novel Outskirts has published by T. Thomas Ackerman. The Safehouse. Abusive husbands will wish they had never made contact with Detective Jessica Warren, Ackerman's new police detective heroine who makes saving battered women her life's mission - regardless of inadequate laws and dangerously violent, but basically cowardly men.

Domestic violence against women in the United States and abroad is a severe issue. In T. Thomas Ackerman's 'The Safehouse' readers are given a front row seat as to the magnitude of injustice as they travel with Detective Jessica Warren, a clever defender of aggression who understands all too well how vulnerable women are in abusive relationships. And she's not going to stand by and watch as innocent victims are injured or worse. The Safehouse is the story of Jessie Warren and the closely knit network of powerful women who aren't willing to allow abusive men to hide behind inadequate laws. It's the story of the victims she helps, some of whom learn to break out of the patterns holding them trapped. And it's the story of how Jessie navigates the police system with pragmatism, intelligence, and heart to extend a helping hand to women in need. But with all the time and emotional energy she spends helping others, will she be able to maintain her own life balance? And will she be able to outsmart the one member of the police force who doesn't approve of her unorthodox methods? True to life and riveting, The Safehouse will take you on a compelling journey to justice.

The abusive world of The Safehouse is one made tangibly real by author Ackerman, who is himself no stranger to the sometimes swept-under-the-carpet culture of domestic violence in this country. His father was a severe alcoholic and his mother died when she was only forty-seven, the victim of stress and illness from mental and physical abuse. His wife still suffers from neck pain that is the result of being violently strangled during her first marriage.

A continuing advocate of reform in this area, Ackerman will donate twenty-five percent of all royalties from the book to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

T. Thomas Ackerman lives in Connecticut with his family. He is also the author of For a Reason.

Midwest Book Review comments of The Safehouse, "A fine read that will grip the reader and not let go . . . Justice can sometimes be so hard to find. The Safehouse follows Detective Jessica Warren as she searches for justice as she joins with others in a crusade against domestic violence. But the law is not always on her side, and Jessica finds there are those who are working against her within it. Split between the law, her own goals, and standing against the evil that reeks in the world, The Safehouse is a fine read that will grip the reader and not let go.

Best-selling author Peter Thomas Senese commented, "The Safehouse is a well written, page turner that is equally a highly entertaining novel, but more importantly, it is a call-to-arms against domestic violence. This is a very important novel."

THE Safehouse may be purchased by visiting Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Outskirts Press.

For more information or to contact the author, visit: Outskirt Press.

Original Article

March 22, 2012

SF mayor suspends sheriff, seeks removal

Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi

By PAUL ELIAS Associated Press

Posted:   03/21/2012 12:19:32 AM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO—The San Francisco mayor says he's suspending the city's embattled sheriff and intends to permanently remove him from office following a domestic violence conviction involving the law enforcement official's Venezuelan actress wife.

Mayor Ed Lee said Tuesday that Ross Mirkarimi rejected his suggestion to resign after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor false imprisonment charge. Lee said he will file official misconduct charges Wednesday and the matter will be referred to the city's Ethics Commission.

"He has chosen not to resign, and now I must act," Lee said. "Sheriff Mirkarimi's actions and confession of guilt clearly fall below the below the standards of decency and good faith rightly required of all public officials."

If Lee succeeds in removing Mirkarimi as sheriff, the mayor will need the votes from nine of 11 members of the Board of Supervisors.

Earlier, a defiant Mirkarimi said he would fight to keep his job because he believes he didn't "official misconduct." The New Year's Eve dispute with his wife, Eliana Lopez, at their home in front of their toddler son left her with a bruise on her arm.

Mirkarimi was sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 8.

"I wanted to and have taken full responsibility," a sweat-drenched Mirkarimi told reporters outside his office in City Hall. "At this time, I do not plan to resign."

Mirkarimi said he hasn't spoken to his wife in nine weeks and is allowed to visit his son for about two hours each day because of an order issued by a judge. A separate order also prohibits the sheriff from carrying a gun.

He said his chief aim is reconciling with his family. "It's been cruel. It's been crushing," he said.

Mirkarimi also called a neighbor's accusation that he and his Lopez pressured him to destroy evidence and lie to the police a "complete fabrication." The claims were published Tuesday on the San Francisco Chronicle's opinion page, leading Lopez to cancel an appearance at a press conference to discuss the case.

Lopez' attorney, Paula Canny, said she advised the sheriff's wife to refrain from public comments because lawsuits were threatened.

Attorney Lidia Stiglich told The Associated Press that Mirkarimi will hire another attorney with more City Hall experience to represent him before the city's Ethics Commission and the Board of Supervisors.

Mirkarimi pleaded guilty to misdemeanor false imprisonment in exchange for the dropping of three other misdemeanor charges of domestic violence, child endangerment and dissuading a witness. The plea deal was struck as a jury was being picked for a trial that promised to embarrass the sheriff with testimony about infidelity, his temper and other intimate details.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said the false imprisonment charge was a domestic violence plea and the conviction was just as serious as the three charges that were dropped.

On Monday, a judge sentenced Mirkarimi to three years of probation and a year of counseling. Under the plea agreement, Mirkarimi must pay $590 in fines, serve probation, spend a year in a domestic violence intervention program, take parenting classes and do community service.

The district attorney said Mirkarimi will be barred from carrying a gun until a judge lifts a stay-away order that prevents the sheriff from seeing his wife without court permission. Gascon said that order could stay in place for the entire three years of probation.

Mirkarimi said he was undergoing counseling to address "my arrogance and anger management issues" and reiterated his advocacy against domestic violence during his time as a board supervisor.

Meanwhile, Lee has named a retired chief deputy, Vicki Hennessy, to serve as interim sheriff.

Original Article

March 21, 2012

Volunteers for DV Hotline Needed in Washington County, ME

By Tom Walsh, BDN Staff

Posted March 11, 2012, at 11:09 a.m.
Last modified March 11, 2012, at 5:36 p.m.

MACHIAS, Maine — Stepping into a domestic violence altercation can be among the riskiest situations that those on the front lines of law enforcement ever face.

“What an officer is walking into is the most lethal point of a relationship,” said Travis Willey, a patrol lieutenant with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department. “Each situation is different and is very dynamic, and these are some of the most dangerous calls to which police respond.”

How police respond can keep a victim safer or put that person in more jeopardy, he said. “You’re dealing with a very intimate situation between two people at one of the most stressful times of their lives. And when substance abuse is involved, it makes it more unpredictable.”

Willey is the liaison between the Sheriff’s Department and Next Step, the domestic violence project that for 20 years has served domestic abuse victims in Washington and Hancock counties. The agency provides shelter to those dealing with spousal abuse, offering counseling and providing alternative living arrangements in safe houses for battered spouses and their children. Next Step maintains a 15-bed shelter at an undisclosed location in Washington County, with stays ranging from a few days to a few months.

“Domestic violence is about power and control,” said Rebecca Hobbs, the executive director of Next Step. “It’s a lethal relationship, and it’s a very difficult childhood to live in an abusive home. Leaving can be very traumatic, and it’s difficult as a victim of abuse to know what’s best for the kids. We talk with victims about safety and whether there are other safe home living options. We also need to assess whether they are able to live in a communal setting.”

Willey said Next Step caseworkers are essential to the process of victims preparing statements that can be used in prosecuting abusers on charges ranging from assault to criminal threatening, criminal mischief and harassment.

“Next Step’s involvement keeps victims on board,” Willey said. “It improves the quality of the case for the District Attorney’s Office, which increases the chances of conviction.”

Such statements are also crucial, he said, to obtaining court-issued protection orders.

“Protection orders can sometimes provide the break that allows Mom and Dad to regroup and to get the help they need,” Willey said. “There are some success stories out there.”

On a per-capita basis, domestic violence is less of a problem in Hancock County than in Washington County, Hobbs said. That, she says, may be related to higher unemployment, poverty and substance abuse in Washington County.

“Last year we served 900 people, and 400 of those were in Washington County, which has a population that is much smaller than the population of Hancock County,” she said. “It’s more of an issue here.”

Hobbs said her agency is in the process of recruiting and training volunteers who staff a telephone hotline that fields calls from victims of domestic violence. The next training session is on April 7, she said. For more information, call 667-0176.

Original Article

Vaughn held for trial in stabbing homicide

Iryin Vaughn

RACINE — Iryin Vaughn was bound over for trial on Friday to face a homicide charge in the Feb. 7 death of Gwynevere Wright.

Vaughn, 25, of Chicago, is accused of stabbing Wright 29 times after they apparently argued. After the alleged homicide, Vaughn took the 2-year-old daughter he and Wright had together and fled to Chicago where he was arrested, police said.

Wright’s 12-year-old son was also in the house at the time of the alleged homicide. His testimony was the subject of a hearing in February when defense attorneys and prosecutors argued whether the boy should testify in person or whether the state could show a video of him being interviewed. Judge Allan “Pat” Torhorst said a video would serve.

On Friday Torhorst said he had reviewed the video and found it sufficient to meet the burden of proof required at a preliminary hearing, and he ordered Vaughn held for trial. Lead defense attorney Katie Gutowski of the Public Defender’s office entered not guilty pleas on the charges. A pretrial conference for attorneys was set for April 20.

Wright’s son told police that he heard Vaughn and Wright arguing in Wright’s bedroom around 10 p.m. He heard Vaughn say, “I hate you. I don’t want to be with you anymore,” the criminal complaint said. Wright said to Iryana, the 2-year-old daughter she had with Vaughn and who slept in the room with them, “Don’t ever date a man like this,” the complaint said.

Later the boy heard his mother yell, “Do it! Do it! Go ahead and kill me!” the complaint said.

Then the boy heard the sounds of fighting, and his mother screamed in pain, the complaint said.

After about five minutes Vaughn opened the door to the boy’s room and asked if he was asleep. Shortly thereafter the boy heard Vaughn leaving in his SUV, and when the boy opened the bedroom door he found his mother dead, the complaint said.

Vaughn remains in jail on a $750,000 cash bond.

Original Article


Murder victim mourned

Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2012 10:38 pm

RACINE — A wonderful person with a beautiful smile, who always put her children first — that was the Gwynevere Wright that emerged Sunday night as close to 50 people gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember the slain sister, mother and neighbor.  

Wright was found dead on Tuesday at 900 Racine Street in the upper-level apartment she shared with her two children.

Racine police were called to the apartment that night at about 11:10 p.m. after a neighbor called 911 to report that an assault had occurred and that Wright’s toddler was missing. An Amber Alert issued early Wednesday morning was canceled within hours after Chicago police found the Racine toddler, Iryana Vaughn, unharmed with her father, Iryin Vaughn, at a Chicago residence.

Vaughn, 25, has been charged with first-degree intentional homicide while armed. He is expected face those charges today in Racine County Circuit Court. 

Standing in the cold outside her apartment, Wright’s family and friends joined with strangers, singing spirituals and sharing the things that made Wright’s short life so special. 

“Gwyn was my biggest supporter,” said Wright’s older sister, Lashawnda McCarty. “She will be truly missed. Now I have nobody to call.”

McCarty, who lives in Green Bay, said she found out about her sister’s death early Wednesday morning after getting a call from her other sister and hearing about it on the news.

Wright’s brother, Zachary Strother, said his sister moved to Racine from Chicago last year hoping to give her two children a better life. 

“That shows you a little bit about her character,” said Strother. “She put her kids first.”

One soft-spoken woman who lived near Wright called her a “light” in the neighborhood.

More than a celebration of Wright’s life, the vigil doubled as a call to action for victims of domestic violence and those looking to help such victims escape abusive relationships. 

“I want to say to all people who are in (an abusive) relationship, ‘You need to get out of it,’ ” said Strother, white clouds of steam billowing from his mouth. “At the first sign of any abuse, you need to get away. You need to run.”

Cherie Griffin, executive director of the Women’s Resource Center, applauded Strother’s words. She encouraged anyone in a abusive relationship to contact the center.  

“Flee, get out, get safe,” Griffin said. “There is always someone at the Women’s Resource Center. We have had women show up at the door at 4 a.m.”

McCarty said she knew her sister was in an abusive relationship and constantly encouraged her to leave, but said she never thought the violence “would go that far.” 

“I just hope that other woman in that situation learn from this,” McCarty said. “If someone loves you, they don’t hit you, they don’t talk about you, they don’t put you down. That is not love,” she said. “It is a good feeling to know that these people are out here ... It’s showing that they care.”

Family members said Sunday that Iryana, and Wright’s 13-year-old son, both of whom, they say, were at the apartment when Wright was killed, are now safe and doing about as well as can be expected. 

“Yesterday was her son’s birthday, so we took him out to a fun place where they had bumper cars,” said Wright’s aunt, Shirley McCarty. “Iryana is 2, so she doesn’t even really know what’s going on.”

Lashawnda McCarty said the family is in process of figuring out who will be the primary caregivers for the two children. As for how the family hopes to help Wright’s older son cope with the knowledge of how his mother died, Lashawnda McCarty said the only way they can help him is through love. 

“Love is the key to anything. Love is the key to everything,” she said “The answer is love.”

How to help

A memorial fund has been established to help the family with funeral expenses and the care of Wright’s two children. Donations can be made at any Chase Bank location. Checks should be made out to the “The Gwynevere Wright Memorial Fund” and mailed to Chase Bank, 4314 Oakton Street, Skokie, IL 60076. For more information, contact the Women’s Resource Center at 262-633-3274 and ask to speak to Cherie Griffin. You can also send an email to

Original Article

Vigil held for woman killed in domestic violence incident

Posted on: 10:15 pm, February 12, 2012, by Jeremy Ross, updated on: 10:08pm, February 12, 2012

Video Available on Original Article

RACINE — A vigil was held Sunday night to remember 27-year-old Gwynevere Wright. Wright’s body was found inside a home near 9th and Pearl in Racine Wednesday, and an Amber Alert was issued for her daughter, Iryana Vaughn, who was eventually located in Chicago with her father, Irvin Vaughn. Sunday night, families from Racine and Chicago came together for a candlelight vigil to pray for victims of domestic violence.

After this incident, neighbors said police were at the home on a regular basis, and that Vaughn had a history of domestic violence incidents against Wright. It is believed that Wright was stabbed to death, and police say Vaughn is the suspect in this case.

Wright’s family members say they don’t know what prompted the murder of the mother of two. “She came here looking for a better life for her kids. I never expected it would go this far,” Wright’s sister said Sunday.

The family found comfort Sunday night in the company of friends and strangers, and realized victims of domestic violence don’t have to be alone. “I pray for all the women going through this stuff,” Wright’s sister said.

Chicago police say Vaughn was extradited to Wisconsin, and has been charged with one count of first degree intentional homicide. Officials say two-year-old Iryana Vaughn was returned to Wisconsin after the incident, and was in state custody, in good health. Officials say Iryana’s little brother was home at the time, and was taken by Racine police.

For information and resources relating to domestic violence, CLICK HERE to visit the Women’s Resource Center of Racine website.

Original Article

March 20, 2012

Clark apologizes to mother of Schoenborn children


VICTORIA— From Friday's Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Mar. 01, 2012 6:45AM EST
Last updated Monday, Mar. 12, 2012 7:59AM EDT

A series of failures that allowed an abusive and psychotic Allan Schoenborn to murder his three young children in 2008 remain largely unaddressed, leaving families exposed to risk, says a new report from B.C.’s watchdog for children.

Following repeated commitments by the province to fix its patchwork of domestic violence services since those murders – promises that have not been sustained – Premier Christy Clark pledged Thursday to do better.

In her report on the Schoenborn murders, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond noted that the government has not yet acted on a series of recommendations she made two years ago following another domestic violence case that left five dead.

B.C. has not established domestic violence courts. It has not broadly provided risk assessment training to police, Crown counsel, child protection and victim services workers. Resources for child protection, income assistance, mental health, addictions and domestic violence remain starved after last week’s budget, she said. And if anything, the justice system is more frayed and fragile than it was four years ago when the Schoenborn children were killed in their beds.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s new report chronicles a series of missed opportunities and says children exposed to domestic violence continue to be placed at risk by a protection system so weak, “there really isn’t a system at all.”

Parents in the midst of domestic violence are often left to assess the risks their children face.

“A frustrating and sometimes fatal concept continues to exist,” she told reporters, “that a mother in a dangerous domestic violence situation is capable of, and responsible for, taking on the staggering responsibility of protecting her children from a dangerous spouse.”

That was the case with Darcie Clarke, who had rebuffed entreaties to reunite with Mr. Schoenborn in the hours before he murdered their children. But she left the children in his care believing he would not harm them.

It was also the case with Sunny Park, who was seeking to leave her abusive husband Peter Lee when he stabbed her to death, along with his six-year-old son and the boy’s grandparents.

Ms. Turpel-Lafond’s report on the Peter Lee murders in 2009 led to a government pledge to reduce domestic violence, but services for victims of violence were later cut. She said Thursday she needs to see concrete action and new resources, not just speeches, this time.

On Thursday, the government conceded that its many attempts to fix the system have been haphazard and transient.

The Premier stood in the legislature and apologized to Ms. Clarke, the mother of the three children. She said the province’s fragmented system of domestic violence services failed to help the family. “We as a province can and must do better,” she said. “None of us can reverse the past, but we can learn from this tragedy and make sure that families in these circumstances receive better support than did the wife and children of Allan Schoenborn, a sick man who did so much harm.”

Her government announced a new domestic violence unit under the direction of Mary McNeil, the Minister for Children and Family Development. Ms. McNeil told reporters she is comfortable with the current budget, but her new unit will examine whether additional resources are needed. First it has to conduct an inventory of what services exist. “We need leadership on domestic violence,” she said. “We are going to make this work.”

The report on the deaths of Kaitlynne, Max and Cordon concluded that professionals who interacted with the family seemed blind to the risk to the children despite Mr. Schoenborn’s long history of mental-health issues and violence, which had escalated dramatically in the week prior to the killings.

One of the last chances to intervene occurred at a tele-bail hearing just days before the killing, where Mr. Schoenborn was freed against the recommendation of police. The justice of the peace said he was giving Mr. Schoenborn a break and urged him, “don’t let anything [go] wrong.”

Ms. Turpel-Lafond called that hearing “a disgrace to the justice system.”

Today, B.C. continues to allow cases involving domestic violence to be managed through that system of bail hearings by telephone. Justice Minister Shirley Bond promised to raise that issue with the province’s chief justice, but she said it will be up to the courts to make changes.

March 19, 2012

Fort Campbell soldier arrested in wife's death

Staff Sgt. Michael Korolevich

Published: 3/16

OAK GROVE, Ky. (AP) — Police in Kentucky have arrested a Fort Campbell soldier in the death of his wife last year, which was initially reported to police as a suicide.

The Christian County Sheriff's Department said that Staff Sgt. Michael Korolevich on Wednesday confessed to shooting and killing his wife, 30-year-old Kathleen McGee, on Dec. 3 at their home in Oak Grove, on the outskirts of the Army installation.

The Kentucky New Era reported that Korolevich is being held in Christian County Jail on $1 million bond.

Korolevich told sheriff's deputies she shot herself in the head, but lab results and interviews with family members led investigators to suspect foul play, the sheriff's office said.

McGee had been discharged from the Army the day before she died.


Information from: Kentucky New Era,

Original Article

March 17, 2012

Husband killed wife in front of 300 guests, court told

By Candice Marcus

Updated March 07, 2012 09:08:43

A man accused of stabbing his wife to death at a crowded function at the Adelaide Convention Centre has gone on trial for murder.

The prosecution said he was a violent and abusive husband who wanted to make his wife pay for leaving him.

The South Australian Supreme Court heard Ziaolloh Abrahimzadeh went to the Convention Centre with a knife hidden under his jacket.

His wife Zahra was there with one of their daughters for a Persian New Year's Eve celebration in 2010.

The court heard she became concerned for her safety when she saw her estranged husband arrive.

Prosecutor Sandi McDonald said Abrahimzadeh waited until his wife was looking in her handbag then stabbed her in the back, continuing his attack when she fell to the ground.

The court heard people nearby wrestled the knife from him, but the victim had been stabbed eight times.

The prosecution said Abrahimzadeh allegedly was heard to say 'She's mine, she's done a shameful thing' and 'You betrayed me', before the woman was stabbed repeatedly in front of 300 guests.

Ms McDonald told the jury a restraining order had been imposed on the accused less than two weeks before the attack because of his history of domestic violence towards his wife and children.

"He used his anger, his fists, his feet and his belt to punish and control his wife and at times his family," she told the hearing.

The accused's son, Arman Abrahimzadeh, has been the first of the couple's three children to give evidence for the prosecution case.

He has told the court his father often punched and beat his mother, and he abused his children for bringing 'shame' to their family.

Mr Abrahimzadeh said he fled the domestic violence with his mother and sisters less than a year before his mother's death.

He said his father kept threatening them and said he would take his revenge sooner or later.

The trial continues.

Original Article



Alleged wife killer denies domestic violence

Updated March 07, 2012 09:06:57

VIDEO: Alleged wife killer takes stand (7pm TV News SA)

A man accused of murdering his wife at a crowded function at the Adelaide Convention Centre has denied ever being physically violent towards her.

Ziaolloh Abrahimzadeh replied 'No' when asked in court if he was ever physically violent towards his wife Zahra.

The court previously heard evidence from the couple's three children that their father had subjected his family to years of domestic abuse.

They said their father controlled their mother and slapped and whipped both his wife and children if they did something he disagreed with.

Abrahimzadeh broke down during his evidence while describing how his wife had changed once she gained independence in Australia.

Later in his evidence, he told the court he did not remember stabbing his wife and thought he was dreaming or hallucinating when he was dragged away.

He said he had felt upset and broken and been preoccupied with divorce proceedings and financial stresses.

It is alleged Abrahimzadeh repeatedly stabbed his estranged wife in March 2010 in front of 300 people at a function because he felt she had dishonoured him by leaving him.

Original Article

March 16, 2012

Double murder case headed to court

Lloyd Hill 2

Rich Kennedy / Staff Photographer

Lloyd Hill is escorted out of district court in Ottsville Wednesday by Pennsylvania State Constables and State Police after waiving his preliminary hearing on multiple murder charges.

Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 6:00 am | Updated: 11:40 am, Thu Mar 1, 2012.

By Matt Coughlin Staff Writer | 0 comments

Lloyd Hill’s mother summed up the tragedy unfolding for her family.

“My grandchildren have no parents now,” Rose O’Brien said Wednesday, after her son waived a preliminary hearing on charges that he killed his estranged wife and her boyfriend.

Police said that Hill bludgeoned Frederick Tarantino, 43, to death with a baseball bat and then stabbed Stefanie Hill, 36, to death inside her Nockamixon apartment.

Hill, 41, wearing a yellow prison jumpsuit, bulletproof vest and spectacles, also entered a not guilty plea during the brief court appearance before District Judge Gary Gambardella in Nockamixon. He is scheduled to appear in county court next month for a formal arraignment, but that date will likely change, attorneys said.

Hill said “yes,” twice when the judge asked if he understood two aspects of the court proceedings. And he said nothing as he was led back to prison in chains by constables and state troopers.

As O’Brien left the courtroom, she was asked if she had any comment.

“What is there to say?” she said before leaving. “My grandchildren have no parents now.”

O’Brien’s grandchildren — the Hills’ eldest daughter who lives in Quakertown, their second daughter, a Palisades High School senior, and their son, a sophomore — are staying with family in the area.

Tarantino and his estranged wife, Tara, had three daughters and a son. At the time of the murders, Lloyd Hill was living with Tara Tarantino.

Frederick Tarantino and Stefanie Hill had been together for several years. They moved into the Schoolhouse Apartments on Route 611 in Nockamixon just a few months before the murders. Police said the couple had been keeping their new address hidden from Lloyd Hill, who had previously threatened to kill them.

On Jan. 27, he made good on that threat, prosecutors say.

State police said Lloyd Hill waited for Frederick Tarantino to step outside the apartment building early that Friday morning. When Tarantino stepped into the lobby of the former red brick schoolhouse, he was on his way to warm up his truck in the pouring rain before heading to work. But Lloyd Hill repeatedly struck him in the head, police said, and left Tarantino’s body in the bushes by the building’s entrance, according to police.

He then entered the basement apartment and repeatedly stabbed Stefanie Hill with a kitchen knife, according to court records.

The Hills’ middle daughter woke to her mother screaming her name and then crossed paths with her blood-spattered father in the hallway, police said. He said he’d killed “Fred” and left, they said.

Police arrested Hill later that morning after a state trooper spotted his Ford Taurus on Route 412 near Palisades Middle School. That night he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and related offenses.

The Tarantinos and the Hills had been friends, authorities said, having met at a now defunct church several years ago.

But the Hills were having marital problems. In 2004, Stefanie Hill said she didn’t want to work on their marriage any longer. According to court records, Lloyd Hill head-butted her, struck her, bit her cheek and tore her nightgown during an altercation in the couple’s living room as the children prepared for school. Lloyd Hill pleaded guilty to simple assault in that case.

Stefanie Hill and Frederick Tarantino began their relationship and the two spurned spouses, Lloyd Hill and Tara Tarantino, became involved more recently, authorities said.

Members of the families declined to comment. Robert James, the district attorney’s chief of trials who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment when asked if Lloyd Hill had any of his family members visit at the prison.

Matt Coughlin: 215-345-3147;;

Twitter: @coughlinreports

Original Article


Hearing scheduled for Bucks man accused of double homicide

Lloyd Hill

Rick Kintzel / Staff Photographe

(File photo) Lloyd Hill of Quakertown is led law enforcement officers from the Dublin State Police Station last month in connection of a double homicide in Nockamixon Township.

Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:30 am, Wed Feb 29, 2012.

By Matt Coughlin Staff Writer | 1 comment

A 41-year-old Bucks County man faces a preliminary hearing Wednesday on charges he brutally murdered his estranged wife and her boyfriend with a baseball bat and a kitchen knife in late January.

Lloyd Hill has been in county prison without bail since his arrest Jan. 27, hours after police say he ambushed Frederick Tarantino with a baseball bat and then stabbed Stefanie Hill repeatedly as she screamed for her teenage daughter in the next room of their Nockamixon apartment.

Hill, who a short time earlier began living with Tarantino’s estranged wife in Haycock, is charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He is represented by the Public Defender’s Office.

The Tarantinos and the Hills had been friends, authorities said, having met at their former church. In the face of marital problems, Stefanie Hill and Frederick Tarantino got together. Then Lloyd Hill and Tara Tarantino became involved.

On the morning of the murders, Lloyd Hill waited for Frederick Tarantino to exit the Schoolhouse Apartments on Route 611, police allege. When Tarantino came out, Lloyd Hill ambushed him with the baseball bat, leaving his body in a bush by the front door in the pouring rain, according to police. He then entered the apartment and stabbed Stefanie Hill several times, police said.

She screamed for their teenage daughter, who woke to see her blood-covered father walking out of her mother’s bedroom, police said.

A neighbor attempted to help Stefanie Hill until paramedics arrived, but about an hour later she was pronounced dead at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem.

Frederick Tarantino was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

Police began looking for Hill’s car. Investigators were in touch with him and attempted to get him to surrender when a trooper spotted the vehicle on Route 412 near Palisades Middle School and he was arrested without incident.

He was arraigned several hours later before District Judge Gary Gambardella, who will also preside over the preliminary hearing. Hill offered only one-word answers to Gambardella during the arraignment. The families of all four adults have declined to comment.

Police said that Tarantino and Stefanie Hill had been hiding from Lloyd Hill. They moved into the Schoolhouse Apartments with the Hill’s middle child only a few months earlier and had kept their new home a secret from Lloyd Hill until only recently. Hill lived in a cottage a few miles away with Tara Tarantino, his son and the Tarantinos’ children. The Hills have an older daughter who lives in Quakertown.

There was a history of abuse involving Lloyd and Stefanie Hill, according to court records. In 2004, she said she didn’t want to work on their marriage any longer and he responded by head-butting her, striking her, biting her cheek and tearing her nightgown in the couple’s home as the children prepared for school, according to a police account. The children later told police their father threatened to kill their mother. Lloyd Hill pleaded guilty to simple assault.

Police said there was no protection from abuse order in effect.

Hill’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday before Gambardella in district court on Route 611 in Ottsville. During a preliminary hearing prosecutors attempt to establish that a crime occurred and that there is enough evidence to warrant the accused person is tried for the crime.

Matt Coughlin: 215-345-3147;;

Twitter: @coughlinreports

Original Article


Man charged in double homicide

Posted: Sunday, January 29, 2012 5:55 am | Updated: 2:00 pm, Tue Feb 28, 2012.

By Matt Coughlin Staff Writer | 20 comments

A teenage girl awoke early Friday morning to her mother screaming her name, police said.

As she rushed down the hall of their Nockamixon apartment, the girl ran into her father, from whom they had been hiding their whereabouts, according to court records.

“I killed Fred,” the blood-spattered Lloyd Hill told his teenage daughter before leaving the apartment, police said.

The teen rushed to her mother’s room and found Stefanie Hill, 36, suffering from multiple stab wounds. Stefanie Hill told her daughter to call police and then collapsed in the living room.

When troopers arrived at the Schoolhouse Apartments at 8768 Easton Road about 5:30 a.m. they found Stefanie Hill’s boyfriend, Frederick Tarantino, 43, dead in a bush outside the red brick apartment building, beaten with a baseball bat so badly at first they thought he might have been stabbed, investigators said. Stefanie Hill was rushed to St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem where she was pronounced dead about 7:15 a.m., according to police.

A brief manhunt ensued, and about 9:50 a.m. troopers spotted Lloyd Hill’s Ford Taurus on Route 412 near Palisades Middle School. He was arrested without incident. Police said he had blood on his hands and clothing. He was charged Friday night with the murders of his estranged wife and Tarantino.

After the murders but before his arrest, Lloyd Hill allegedly called Tara Tarantino and told her he’d killed their estranged spouses. The two had been spurned by Stefanie Hill and Frederick Tarantino and at some point began their own relationship, officials said. Tara Tarantino later told police that Lloyd Hill had admitted to the killings, according to court records. Police said she’s been cooperative and is not a suspect.

The newspaper was unsuccessful in reaching Tara Tarantino for comment.

Two troubled couples

The relationships between the four adults are part of a long story that played out in court records and ended in the two homicides Friday.

Several years ago Stefanie and Lloyd Hill met Frederick and Tara Tarantino through church. The Hills, who were married in 2000, and Tarantinos, who were married in 1994, became friends. At some point Stefanie Hill and Frederick Tarantino became lovers.

In 2004, Stefanie Hill told Lloyd Hill she no longer wanted to work on their marriage and he responded violently, police said. Lloyd Hill head-butted her, struck her, bit her cheek and tore her nightgown during an altercation in front of the couple’s three children early one morning, according to court records.

The children told police their father threatened to kill their mother, court records show. He later pleaded guilty to simple assault, something he’s done several times in Bucks and Philadelphia counties, according to court records.

Meanwhile, the other couple, the Tarantinos were dealing with their own problems. In 2007, the Tarantinos avoided foreclosure on their home for a second time. Last year Tara Tarantino filed for divorce, custody of their daughter, child support and alimony. That case was unresolved, according to court records available online.

Lloyd Hill’s threats continued, police said.

When Stefanie Hill, Fred Tarantino and the Hills’ middle daughter moved into the Schoolhouse Apartments shortly before Christmas, they decided to hide their whereabouts from Lloyd Hill.

Officials said the couple did not seek a protection from abuse order to keep Stefanie Hill’s estranged husband at bay.

Meanwhile, Lloyd Hill and Tara Tarantino were living together less than 12 minutes away in a cottage on East Saw Mill Road in Haycock on the edge of Nockamixon State Park. The Hills’ teenage son and the Tarantinos’ teenage daughter lived with Lloyd Hill and Tara Tarantino in Haycock. The Hills also have an adult daughter who lives elsewhere.

A deadly Friday

A week ago, according to state police, Lloyd Hill sent a text message telling Stefanie Hill he was going to kill her and Frederick Tarantino.

Investigators said it is unclear how Lloyd Hill learned the couple was living nearby. But on Friday, Lloyd Hill was waiting to ambush Frederick Tarantino at the Schoolhouse Apartments, police said. When Frederick Tarantino went to warm up his vehicle about 5:20 a.m. before heading to work, Lloyd Hill sprang, repeatedly striking Frederick Tarantino with an aluminum baseball bat, according to court records.

Lloyd Hill then stashed Frederick Tarantino’s body in a bush outside the red brick building and went inside, police said. Investigators said they recovered a bloody aluminum bat next to Frederick Tarantino’s body.

Lloyd Hill entered the basement level apartment and repeatedly stabbed Stefanie Hill in the neck and chest, according to police. A broken, bloody kitchen knife was found in the main bedroom, police said. Investigators took several pieces of evidence from the apartment complex Friday, including a section of carpet in the entryway.

Neighbor Terry Pursell Jr. was returning from feeding the horses at a farm across the street when Lloyd Hill drove out of the Schoolhouse Apartments driveway. Pursell spotted Frederick Tarantino’s arm sticking out from a bush as heavy rain fell. As he approached Frederick Tarantino, the Hills’ middle daughter, who’d found her mother, called to him for help.

Pursell said he quickly checked on Frederick Tarantino and, realizing he was dead, Pursell ran inside. He said he tried to bandage the stab wounds to Stefanie Hills’ upper left shoulder and put pressure on a severe chest wound. Pursell, a former volunteer firefighter, said that when paramedics arrived he helped carry Hill to the ambulance.

“When the EMT was administering oxygen to her she started breathing and her eyes weren’t motionless,” Pursell said. “I thought she had a fighting chance.”

Stefanie Hill was pronounced dead at 7:15 a.m. on her way to the emergency room in St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem.

Autopsies performed Saturday revealed the expected results: Stefanie Hill was killed by multiple stab wounds and Frederick Tarantino died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Kim Saunders, who knows Stefanie Hill and her daughter and Frederick Tarantino, said Friday afternoon that Stefanie Hill had “turned a corner to a happier life.”

She said Stefanie Hill and Frederick Tarantino were kind, loving people.

“These children did not deserve to have their mother taken away from them,” Saunders said.

During the brief manhunt for Lloyd Hill on Friday, the Palisades School District buildings were put on lockdown. Police said that was done out of an abundance of caution.

Friday night, District Judge Gary Gambardella told Lloyd Hill he was charged with two counts of first degree murder and faces life in prison or death. In an emotionless monotone, Lloyd Hill said “Yes,” to a series of questions from Gambardella during his arraignment.

In addition to two counts of first-degree murder, Hill is charged with burglary and two counts of possession of an instrument of crime. He was remanded to prison without bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 6 before Gambardella in Ottsville.

Staff writers Amanda Cregan and Laurie Mason-Schroeder contributed to this report.

Matt Coughlin: 215-345-3147;;

Twitter: @coughlinreports

Original Article

Domestic violence: 'They don't realize the danger from intimate partners'

Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 11:00 am | Updated: 2:00 pm, Tue Feb 28, 2012.

By Jo Ciavaglia Staff writer | 21 comments

Last week’s stabbing and bludgeoning murders of two estranged spouses in Nockamixon caught the attention of Donna Byrne for reasons beyond the gruesomeness.

The deadly incident marked the sixth time in seven months in Bucks County where one spouse allegedly killed another. In five cases, the spouse also committed suicide, and with three, the person killed others, as well.

As executive director of Bucks County’s domestic violence services agency, Byrne said she hasn’t seen such a rash of murders since a six-month period in 2005 when four Bucks County women died at the hands of their husbands.

“It’s just as bad now, and people don’t realize that,” Byrne said. “They don’t realize the danger from intimate partners.”

In the most recent killings, Lloyd Hill, 41, of Haycock, is facing two first-degree murder charges in the deaths of his wife, Stefanie Hill, 36, and her live-in boyfriend, Frederick Tarantino, 43.

The Hills, who married in 2000, met Tarantino and his wife, Tara, through church and became friends. At some point, Stefanie Hill and Frederick Tarantino became lovers, left their spouses and moved in together, police said. Lloyd Hill and Tara Tarantino also lived together, but that started years after their spouses got together. Neither couple is divorced from their spouses.

Court records show that in 2004, Lloyd Hill beat his wife and threatened to kill her after she told him she wanted to end their marriage. Lloyd later pleaded guilty to simple assault, a charge he has faced before in Bucks and Philadelphia counties, according to court records.

Stefanie Hill and Fred Tarantino did not seek a protection from abuse order against Lloyd Hill, authorities said.

But many other Bucks County residents are filing for PFAs through A Woman’s Place, which has seen a dramatic increase in protection order filings since 2007, said Carol Gaughan, manager of legal advocacy for A Woman’s Place.

In 2009 and 2010, A Woman’s Place saw an 18 percent increase in protection from abuse filings over the previous fiscal year. The agency typically sees 600 to 700 PFA filings a year.

Byrne said the agency’s counselors say the sputtering national economy has made it more difficult for an abused partner to leave a situation. Women are less inclined to leave an abuser during a recession because fewer outside resources are available and jobs are harder to find. Women who do leave often find themselves homeless.

One counselor told Byrne that she has clients who are living in cars with their children.

Another recent common and disturbing thread the agency sees is a greater level of violence against abused women, advocates said. Where years ago a woman would enter the shelter with a black eye, today women have a black eye, cigarette burns and missing teeth.

Some advocates suspect the weak economy, and the increased stress levels it causes, might explain both a rise in the level of violence and the number of cases in which criminal charges are filed along with legal protection orders in Bucks County.

What particularly worries Byrne is that many people don’t recognize abusive behavior patterns before they become dangerous, and by the time they do, it can be too late.

Following the four murder-suicides in 2005, the Bucks County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Commission was formed to review the deaths and identify system gaps as a way of preventing further domestic violence homicides in Bucks County.

Among the outcomes of the commission’s 2008 report was a new lethality risk assessment tool for law enforcement that was implemented last year, Byrne said.

When responding to domestic calls, police are told to look for a cluster of non-criminal behaviors that could be indicators of abuse and, where they see this pattern, make a greater effort to encourage a partner to seek outside domestic violence services.

But leaving an abusive situation itself doesn’t guarantee safety, domestic violence experts say.

People are at the highest risk for harm after they leave an abuser, even if its weeks, months or years later. It doesn’t matter if the abuser has moved on, started another relationship or filed for divorce, Byrne and others emphasized.

Often the triggering event occurs when a partner exercises independence, such as starting a new relationship, moving into a new home, securing a new job or seeking child custody.

“He could be married and have a new family, but there is still that control,” Gaughan said. “It’s still a pattern of control. It’s like that quote, ‘If I can’t have you, no one will.’”

Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email:; Twitter: @jociavaglia

Original Article

March 15, 2012

Ring the Bell

Love this domestic violence awareness campaign commercial.  It really makes you think... many of us have heard neighbors fighting and we ourselves may be too afraid to actually get involved directly... I love this concept and it makes each of us think ... what can you do to help out a domestic violence victim?

March 13, 2012

How to Help a Friend: Cash Raised for Woman in Custody Fight

Many of us sit and ponder how can we help a friend that is going through a situation like the one described below.  What her friends did for her is a good place to start if you know someone going through a bad custody case.  Parents facing this, especially when having to fight an abuser for custody, still need the emotional understanding and support of their friends and family; however they need some financial help to pay for the lawyers and visits and and and as well.


Cash raised for woman in custody fight

Updated: Sunday, 11 Mar 2012, 12:22 PM CDT
Published : Sunday, 11 Mar 2012, 12:22 PM CDT

  • VIRGINIA BLACK,South Bend Tribune

VIRGINIA BLACK,South Bend Tribune - SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — As Marla Theocharides has spent the last several days across the world fighting to spend time with her two children, friends back home have been quietly going about the business of helping her cope.

They are cheering her on over Facebook as she posts her setbacks, frustrations and occasional small victories in her lingering custody battle with her ex-husband, Charis.

And, as Marla's own government apparently has been able to do little to intervene on her behalf, friends back home are rallying behind her in trying to help raise money for what has become a phenomenally expensive proposition.

Marla filed for divorce in the United States in 2010, and a local judge claimed jurisdiction and awarded custody to Marla last summer. But Charis, who had the couple's two young children with him in Cyprus, won custody in a family court in Cyprus.

The result has been two attorneys, representing each side, arguing the case in each country. Cypriot court officials, who resisted efforts to resolve the jurisdictional debate with local authorities, have dragged their feet in furthering the custody case there.

So in addition to mounting legal fees, occasional trips to Cyprus to see her children have added to the costs for Marla, who manages a local dental office.

Two friends, Lori Cunningham and Leslie Kleppe, offered to step in and help Marla defray some of those costs.

Cunningham said last week that Marla was initially skeptical when she broached the topic.

Cunningham, who had worked locally with Charis, persuaded Marla that a fundraiser could work.

"Things have just come together in the last couple of months," she said, noting that the owner of the venue has donated everything but the cost of alcohol and the licensed bartending, and other businesses have eagerly donated items to be sold or raffled at the event. "She's really herself starting to see how this could work."

Cunningham has followed Marla's custody case through earlier Tribune articles and, now, her Facebook posts.

"No parent wants to imagine going through what she's going through and losing their children," Cunningham said. "I am amazed at the things (Charis) is constantly able to do."

As the plans have been coming together to help her financially back home, Marla said she's still repeatedly appealing to local government representatives, media in Cyprus and whatever offices she can think of.

Yet progress has been slow and sometimes nearly nonexistent.

For example, Marla posted this online status update Monday:

"Day 4 in Cyprus. Went to court and we had a meeting in the judge's chambers. I was not allowed inside. The court is allowing me to see my children for 1.5 hours today at Charis' mother's home supervised by his parents and him! I lost it. This is a human rights issue. No mother should be prevented from seeing her children for 14 months and have to have a 1.5 hour supervised visitation!!!!"

On Wednesday:

"Day 6, found out the Charis illegally obtained Cypriot passports for both children without my consent and without my signature. Visited the passport office ... When I asked how this happened, they replied, it is Cyprus. No other explanation was given. Meetings with attorneys all day! I am told that I will not see the children again. Charis is not allowing it. We went to court for a court order and the soonest they can see us is on March 23, but I leave on March 11."

From Thursday:

"Thank you for all the messages and prayers! Keep them coming, that's what keep me going."

From Friday:

"Had court today and the judge put pressure on the welfare department to finish the report as soon as possible. We have court again on March 23 for a status update ... I will not be in Cyprus for that court hearing. Had an interview with Cyprus Mail, they are doing a story about my case. ... finally we had our last visit with the kids. It was emotional to say goodbye."

Marla, who has been arrested and jailed in her quest to visit 6-year-old Katerina and 2-year-old Marcus, insists she won't give up. But it's still difficult.

"I need the power of prayer!" she wrote Feb. 28. "Please pray for my safety as I travel to Cyprus. Please pray that I am able to have my children with me and spend time with them!"


Information from: South Bend Tribune,

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