Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Murdered Teen Unaided by Police

On February 15, 17-year old Natasha Hall was murdered by her 19-year old ex-boyfriend Clay Kufner. In the months leading up to the shooting, Hall had called the police to report Kufner's abuse and harassment numerous times.

According to DeLand police department records, officers were called out to the Hall home at least nine times since July 2007. Each incident involved Kufner.

Records show that Kufner was charged with battery twice, cases that were pending in court. The Hall family also accused Kufner of stalking, threatening to burn down their house, and making harassing phone calls.
Despite Kufner's threats and acts of violence, the family elected not to pursue a restraining order because they felt that he was getting his life together, and they did not want to put an unnecessary blemish on his record. This is an interesting distinction between dating violence and stalking or harrassment by a stranger. If Kufner hadn't been known to the family, it is highly unlikely that Hall or her family would have cared what legal action might do to his life.

However, given the actions of the DeLand Police Department before and after this tragic murder, it is not surprising that the family was convinced that taking legal action would not help their daughter.

January 15th was the last time Hall contacted the DeLand Police Department. The harassment continued after that date, but according to her mother, Natasha was told by police that if she didn't stop calling them she would be arrested.

"The police officer said if you call us one more time on him, I'm going to arrest you both," [Natasha's mother] said. "So, the day she died, she knew she couldn't talk to police. So, she handled it herself.
Phone records have not yet been released to confirm or deny this report, but the statement issued by Chief Deputy Randel Henderson of the DeLand Police Department certainly suggests a tendency to dismiss the severity of dating violence. Henderson told reporters, "Basically we have a very young couple who are experiencing, at least up until last Friday evening, just very normal relationship problems."

The "normal relationship problems" the Chief Deputy is referring to, according to DeLand Police Department records, include Kufner posting nude photos of Hall on the internet, hitting her in the face, and threatening to burn down her home.

The bottom line is that a child is dead because she was expected to assume responsibility for a violent and dangerous person's behavior solely because she made the mistake of dating him.

For more information on teen dating violence, visit Break the Cycle .

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

BIG PICTURE SHOULD INCLUDE ALL THE FACTS

Feb. 19, DeLand Police Chief Ed Overman released this statement about his officers' actions:


"In the days following the tragic loss of two of DeLand’s young people, comments have been circulating that focus on the way DeLand Police officers responded to calls for service initiated by the Hall family.

Understanding how distraught the family is, the department has been placed in a position where the information must be corrected.

First, several calls did occur at the residence, caused by the actions of the two teenagers; Mrs. Hall originated most of the calls. Because of Natasha’s young age, any police action that could result in criminal charges would require a parent’s signature; two such affidavits were completed.

Referring to one of the disturbance calls, members of the Hall family have alleged a DeLand officer threatened both teenagers with arrest. This allegation has been received only through local and national media outlets. The insinuation was taken seriously enough that a review of all calls for service, police reports, dispatch reports, charging affidavits, and personal interviews with officers, did not develop any information to indicate such a comment was made.

Except for the two charges already mentioned, Natasha and Mrs. Hall chose not to pursue charges in other cases when offered. The affidavits were completed, even though both teenagers provided officers with conflicting statements. The conflicting statements, and the lack of corroborating evidence, are why an immediate arrest was not made.

Media reports have indicted the relationship was over; however, according to the parents of both teenagers, and information documented in dispatch and police reports, continued contact and communication existed between the two up until the time of the shooting. This type of consensual and mutual interaction was known by the parents and it greatly hindered an argument for a stalking charge.

To the credit of one patrol lieutenant and one officer, they voluntarily initiated a follow-up visit to the Hall family to discuss a stalking charge with them.

The lieutenant offered to visit the State Attorney’s Office, because he felt that a possibility existed to have a stalking charge accepted for prosecution. Both Mrs. Hall and Natasha decided not to pursue this charge.

Another option that could not be used pertains to the laws of arrest that address domestic violence. Although the actions of the teenagers were similar to those in domestic-violence cases, their relationship did not fit the legal definition of domestic violence because they did not cohabit together, they did not have a child together, and they did not reside together as a family.

The officers responded appropriately and worked within the parameters of the law."

Women's Resource Center said...

There is nothing in this statement that conflicts with our post.

Some points. “The conflicting statements, and the lack of corroborating evidence, are why an immediate arrest was not made.”

Of course the statements would conflict. He’s not going to admit a crime to the police. We also did not claim that an immediate arrest should have been made. We stated that her calls for help should not have been downplayed and ignored as the reports and initial police reactions suggest.

“Media reports have indicted the relationship was over; however, according to the parents of both teenagers, and information documented in dispatch and police reports, continued contact and communication existed between the two up until the time of the shooting. This type of consensual and mutual interaction was known by the parents and it greatly hindered an argument for a stalking charge.”

Our post described misconceptions surrounding dating and domestic violence in general. This statement seems to imply that they were still dating, when the parents state that any contact they had was an attempt to manage the violence. The family has stated that they tried to deal with Kufner themselves due to a lack of legal avenues made available to them and did not file a restraining order due to a desire not to ruin a young man's life. We did not ever say that she was denied a restraining order.

We also stated that the allegations that police had threatened Ms. Hall with arrest had not been corroborated. However, officers not admitting to misconduct does not mean misconduct did not exist.

“Another option that could not be used pertains to the laws of arrest that address domestic violence. Although the actions of the teenagers were similar to those in domestic-violence cases, their relationship did not fit the legal definition of domestic violence because they did not cohabit together, they did not have a child together, and they did not reside together as a family.”

The restrictions regarding teens and TPOs is a problem all unto its own and simply another manifestation of the system failing to take care of our children. Florida received a "D" on Break the Cycle's national report card for protecting teens against dating violence. The fact that her state did not have adequate avenues for recourse is not Natasha Hall's fault.

Finally, there is nothing in this new statement that excuses the earlier statements of the Chief Deputy calling Kufner's outrageous actions "normal". We stated that it is this type of reaction that provides reason to suspect that the DeLand Police Department had a policy of downplaying cases of dating violence.

Daniele said...

This report sickens and saddens me. Unfortunately, we are still at a point where law enforcement officers often do not understand the dynamics of relationship violence.