Monday, August 3, 2009

Another Murder in Augusta

From the August Chronicle:

“She came to her mother’s house to get away from him. She had left him,” her sister, Shelia Chapman, said. “Then for him to come here and do that to her, it’s just wrong. She tried to leave.”

Ms. Sims, 33, was found dead early today in the front yard of her Wrightsboro Road residence, shot multiple times. The body of her estranged common-law husband, Johnny Lee Lewis, 33, of Hale Street, was also found on the front yard, with a gunshot wound to the head.

Authorities are calling the shootings a murder-suicide. It is the second such incident this year and Richmond County’s 14th homicide so far.

According to the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, officers were called to a double shooting in the 1400 block of Wrightsboro Road shortly after 2 a.m. and found the victims’ bodies in the front yard of the duplex.

Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Richmond County Chief Deputy Coroner Mark Bowen said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation crime lab will conduct an autopsy.

According to the sheriff’s office, Mr. Lewis took a cab to Ms. Sims residence and into an argument with her. The argument then turned physical, at which point Mr. Lewis drew a handgun and shot Ms. Sims. He then shot himself.

Mr. Lewis and Ms. Sims had been together 17 years and have six children, said investigators.

The children range in ages from 5 to 16, said Barbara Ann Gresham, Ms. Sims’ aunt. One of the children saw the shooting, she added.

“They’ve lost their mother. She was a caring, loving mother,” Ms. Gresham said. “He took it upon himself to take her from this earth and from us, way too early.”

The couple had a history of domestic violence complaints in Richmond County.

Mr. Lewis had been arrested five times since 1997 for assaults on Ms. Sims. Ms. Sims was arrested once in 2004 for stabbing Mr. Lewis in the shoulder.

Despite what was going on, Ms. Sims would never let it show, Ms. Gresham said.

“She kept you laughing. She always had a smile on her face,” she said of her niece. “She would do anything for you. She loved her family. Family was important to her.”

Ms. Sims’ family is in the process of making funeral arrangements, Ms. Gresham said.

“We are going to miss her, but we know that she is with God now,” she said. “We will never forget her or that smile she always had.”

This is another woman who did everything "right". She called the police many times, she fought back*, and, when that didn't stop the violence, eventually ended the relationship. That doesn't, however, stop staff writers or police from blaming her. "Family members of Tonya Sims thought she had gotten herself out of a long-time relationship marked by domestic violence," the article begins. "She hadn’t, and police say it cost Ms. Sims her life this morning."

*One of the more common things we hear from people who swear domestic violence could never happen to them is that if their husband/boyfriend/partner ever hit them, they'd hit back.

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