Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Former Georgia Senator Nancy Schaefer Murdered by Husband

The AJC reports:

The husband of a former state senator shot his wife before turning the gun on himself in the couple's Habersham County home, the GBI said Saturday night.

A handgun and several letters, including a suicide note written by Bruce Schaefer to family members, were found in the home he shared with Nancy Schaefer, his spouse and the one-time Georgia politician, according to John Bankhead, GBI spokesman.

"A GBI medical examiner determined that Mrs. Schaefer died from a single gunshot wound to the back and Mr. Schaefer died from a single gunshot wound to the chest," Bankhead said in a statement.

Autopsies on the Schaefers were conducted Saturday afternoon, and investigators said all evidence indicates the deaths were a murder-suicide.

The bodies of Bruce and Nancy Schaefer, 74 and 73, respectively, were found Friday evening around 6 p.m. by their daughter at the couple’s Clarkesville home. The daughter, one of the Schaefers’ five children, lived in the same gated community as her parents and entered the home when she was unable to reach them. After finding her parents dead in their bedroom, the woman called 9-1-1.
According to 11 Alive, financial problems were cited as a possible cause of the killings in Bruce Schaefer's suicide note. As we've discussed on this blog before, financial problems can often make men predisposed to violence feel out of control. To feel better, many begin to exert more control in other areas of life, like over their spouse or partner. After all, if they just wanted to escape their problems they would only commit suicide. Instead, they kill their partners first and then end their own lives on their terms as a final act of power and control.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

DV Murder in Warner Robins

A Warner Robins man has been charged with murder after a domestic dispute ended with a woman dead.

Warner Robins police spokeswoman Tabitha Pugh says officers went to an apartment on Memorial Terrace just after 11 p.m. Sunday.

They found 61-year-old Rachel Boyd with a wound on the side of her head and 45-year-old Thomas Smith with stab wounds.

Pugh says Boyd and Smith both went to the hospital, where Boyd died a short time later.

She says an autopsy showed that Boyd died from several blunt force traumas to the head that she got during the fight.

Smith has been arrested and charged with felony murder and aggravated battery in Boyd's death.

Anyone with information can call Detective Karen Stokes of the Warner Robins Police Department Criminal Investigations Division at 478-918-2980 or submit information through the Warner Robins police website. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Boyd family.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kidnapping Ends in Batterer's Death

From My Swainsboro News:

According to witnesses, Willie C. Scott, Jr., 41, of Swainsboro, abducted his child and two step-children from their mother’s Swainsboro residence. Scott reportedly then called the mother and threatened to harm her and the children. Authorities issued a Look-Out and an Amber Alert.

Approximately 20 minutes later, the mother called 911 and reported that Scott was at a residence in the Oak Grove Community with the three children. Sheriff’s deputies responded and requested the assistance of SPD and other agencies.

As officers arrived, Scott was leaving the residence with the three children in his vehicle. As officers pursued Scott, he turned around and began firing repeatedly at SPD Corporal Newton Meadows, striking his police cruiser numerous times. Officers did not return fire due to the children being in the car, but continued to pursue Scott.

Scott kept firing out of his vehicle at pursuing officers. The pursuit led eventually to Brinson Cemetery Road, where Scott resides and then to Brantley Loop as Scott continued to fire at officers. Scott continued on to Stanley Grove Road and stopped in the road and the pursuit ended as Scott took his own life. Officers observed the vehicle stop in the roadway and then heard a single gunshot from inside the vehicle and then the vehicle rolled into the ditch.

Officer then approached the vehicle, finding the children safe and unharmed. The children were returned to their mother.

CPL Newton Meadows was treated and released for injuries sustained by broken glass.

We are thankful that the children were returned to their mother without physical harm.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How Many Bad Decisions Can You Spot?

Background: Baltimore police received a domestic violence call from a woman who said she was assaulted by her boyfriend. They went to the home, took the woman's statement, noticed visible injuries on her body, and made the arrest.

Fast forward to the assault trial:

Last Wednesday, Wood appeared in district court in Essex for trial on charges of assault, but when the case was called, his lawyer proposed a whole different idea.

"He's asking for a postponement so he can go out and get married, come back and resolve the case. His wife will then invoke her privilege," the defense attorney said.

The lawyer was referring to the marital privilege that prevents a spouse from being required to testify against his or her husband or wife, Miller reported.

Wood and his fiancee weren't married, but the judge stepped in to fix that.

"Well, why don't I just marry them today in court?" Russell said.

"Well, your honor, if we could go and get the license now, I think that would be acceptable to all the parties," the defense attorney responded.

The judge advised that Wood and his fiancee would have to go to Towson to the circuit court where marriage licenses are issued, but he assured the defendant that he'd be available that same day to officiate the wedding.

"I'll marry them this afternoon," Russell said.

The marriage license was issued at 11:26 a.m. Two hours later, Wood and his fiancee were back at court in Essex and were married by Russell in his office, Miller reported.

The criminal case resumed 20 minutes later.

"Your honor, Mr. Wood now has his marriage license with him," the defense attorney said.

"I can take notice of that because I just married them -- performed the ceremony -- back in my chambers," Russell responded.

Wood's new wife then took the witness stand and invoked her marital privilege, Miller reported.

The case came to an abrupt end, with the judge making a parting comment.

"Mr. Wood, I found you not guilty, so I can't sentence you as a defendant in any crimes, but earlier today, I sentenced you to life married to her," Russell said.

Nowhere on the recording of the proceeding could the I-Team hear the judge ask the alleged victim if she wanted to get married.

Ordinarily, couples have to wait 48 hours between getting a license and actually getting married. A different judge agreed to waive that requirement in this case, Miller reported.

So what we have here is a judge who decides to actively participate in the defense of a batterer and ensure that the victim has additional barriers in place (the time and cost associated with a divorce, plus possible cultural and religious values that look down on divorce) to keep her from being able to leave. How emboldened must this batterer feel to know that he was coming to be held accountable for his actions and, instead, the legal system helped him trap his victim even more soundly?

Now can you spot the good decision?

A Baltimore County judge has been reassigned following a story by the 11 News I-Team about his handling of a domestic violence case last week.

Judge Darrell Russell has been reassigned to chambers work, I-Team lead investigative reporter Jayne Miller said. He will not be hearing any cases for an indefinite period of time.
Too bad the damage to this woman's life has already been done.

Monday, March 22, 2010

DV Murder in Lithonia

The DeKalb County Sheriff's Office has arrested an Ellenwood man and charged him with murder in connection with a shooting on March 14 in Lithonia.

The sheriff's office said Monday that deputies arrested Camario Terrell Watson, 23, on Thursday and charged him with the shooting death of Terry Hall, 42, of Lithonia.

Witnesses reported seeing Watson shoot Hall in the chest with a shotgun after Hall tried to mediate an argument between Watson and a female, allegedly Watson's girlfriend, sheriff's office spokeswoman Mikki Jones said.

Watson was arrested without incident in the parking lot of the South DeKalb Mall on Candler Road and was being held without bond Monday at the DeKalb jail.
Hall was trying to be a good guy and to bring down the situation, but batterers can be some of the most dangerous people to confront. This is where treating domestic violence as a private matter that doesn't hurt anyone but the family involved can be very dangerous. If we as a society took domestic violence seriously and saw batterers as the dangerous people that they are, Hall might not have felt safe to try and mediate the situation. He may have called the police. Instead, his life was taken from him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yes, this is DV

In Covington:

The Covington Police Department and Covington/Newton County SWAT responded to a Forest Drive residence Tuesday evening where a man apparently shot and killed himself inside his ex-wife’s home.

According to Lt. Wendell Wagstaff, Gary Darby, 46, a resident of Virginia, was found inside the residence shortly after police arrived.

Wagstaff said the police were called to the residence around 5:30 p.m. in reference to a burglary in progress.

“(The ex-wife) had said she left her residence about 8:30 on the 16th and when she returned around 5:30 p.m. she observed her ex-husband’s vehicle backed up into the carport and the entry door to the residence was damaged,” Wagstaff said.

The resident did not want to enter the house and called police, Wagstaff said. When police arrived on the scene, they tried to make contact with the ex-husband but were unsuccessful, Wagstaff said. He added that a suicide note was found inside the man’s vehicle, and that’s when SWAT was called in.

Wagstaff said it was determined that Darby was deceased before police arrived.
Yes, we would consider this domestic violence. Remember, domestic violence isn't specifically about using violence or abusive language against a partner, although those tactics are common. Domestic violence is about power and control. We may never know exactly what Darby was trying to communicate, but he broke into his ex-wife's house and clearly meant her to find his body. He may have threatened to kill himself if she didn't take him back or do something else he wanted. He may have claimed that she ruined his life and wanted to punish her with guilt. Or he may simply have been done with life but wanted to use his last action to continue to harass her with trauma, law enforcement investigation, and clean-up costs. Either way, there seemed to be a history of domestic violence since she was afraid to enter her home with his truck in the driveway, and this appears to be one final escalation of that violence.

Atlanta Man Stabs Ex-Girlfriend to Death

Atlanta police say a man walked into police headquarters Thursday claiming he killed his ex-girlfriend.

Police then went out to the location given to them -- City Views Apartments -- and discovered her body on the seventh floor.

The woman was stabbed several times, police said.

Police said the man told them that he wanted to get back together with her. At some point a struggle ensued and that's when he allegedly stabbed her.

No charges have yet been filed but police said murder charges are expected.

The name of the suspect and victim have not been released.
We'll update if we learn more.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Man Murders Ex in Albany

From the Albany Herald:

Monty Caren Simpson, 56, is in the Dougherty County Jail on murder, aggravated assault and aggravated stalking charges with no bail set, a jail spokeswoman said.

Simpson is charged with murdering Beverly Jean Williams, 51, his former live-in girlfriend, in the Dollar Inn’s room 114 at 2706 North Slappey Blvd., police officers said at a 3 p.m. press conference Tuesday.

“She was sent to Macon for an autopsy, which revealed the cause of death as blunt-force trauma,” said Albany Police Detective Terrance Whitlock at the Albany Law Enforcement Center on Oglethorpe Boulevard.

Police did not disclose any weapon that might have been used in the murder due to the continuing investigation.

Simpson called 911 and was at the scene when police arrived. He has a long history of domestic violence with Williams, Whitlock said.

“Several months ago, he was arrested for assault and she was the victim,” the APD detective said. “Witnesses reported them being roommates at the motel, but that is still under investigation due to his having an order against him.”

The order was for Simpson to stay away from Williams, a police report stated.

Bravo to the Herald for recognizing this as a domestic violence murder and for calling attention to the perpetrator's history of using violence. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Williams family.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Suspected Murder-Suicide Near Savannah

From the Savannah Morning News:

An Effingham County couple was found shot to death at their Holly Drive home Monday morning in what investigators say may have been a murder-suicide.

Sheriff's spokesman David Ehsanipoor said deputies responded to the home at 161 Holly Drive, off U.S. 80 in the southern portion of the county, about 10:40 a.m. on a report of gun shots.

When deputies arrived, they found the body of Irene Margie Wiggins, 61, in the home's backyard and that of her husband, Robbie Wiggins, 65, inside the home.

Ehsanipoor said each had died of a single gunshot wound.

Robbie Wiggins' body was found just inside the back door of the home. A .357-caliber revolver was found in the general vicinity of the body, Ehsanipoor said.

Family members gathered near the house Monday, answering questions for investigators.

"It's a senseless, heinous crime," Kimberly Norton, daughter of Margie Wiggins, said. "My mother was the greatest."
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Wiggins family.

Update: the deaths have been confirmed as a murder-suicide.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Follow-Up: Covington Man Kills Ex

As a follow-up to this story, the Rockdale Citizen reports that Atkinson had an active Temporary Protective Order against Barrow that he had recently violated. Warning, the quotes below may be triggering to survivors of violence.

Reports have come to light that show the 19-year-old victim who was shot dead at a convenience store Sunday night by her estranged boyfriend had done all the law allows in an effort to protect herself after he forced their infant son to kiss the bullet he vowed he would use to kill her.

Audrey Savon Atkinson had filed a temporary protective order, or TPO, against Anthony Michael Barrow, 22, when he had threatened to shoot and kill her on Feb. 27.

In Georgia, a TPO is a court order to help protect a victim from someone who is abusing, threatening or harassing them. The order requires the abuser to stay away from the victim, their home and their place of employment or from contacting the person in any way. Getting a TPO does not mean the abuser goes to jail, but makes it easier for the police to arrest the abuser for coming near the victim later.

According to the Newton County Sheriff’s Office, the order was served on Barrow at 7:30 p.m. March 3, four days before he made good on his threat.

Atkinson had also filed a report with the Conyers Police Department earlier in the day on March 3, advising them Barrow had threatened her once again over the phone and that she had word from a friend that he had been “calling around asking all his friends to give him a ride to (the Conyers) Chili’s,” where Atkinson was employed.

According to the incident report, Atkinson told Conyers officers that Barrow had called her cell phone while she was on her way to take the couple’s 8-month-old son to a babysitter and they had gotten into an argument.

“Atkinson said during the course of the argument, (Barrow) made several threatening statements such as ‘your days are numbered’ and ‘we will meet again very soon.’” the report stated. “Atkinson said at this point she informed him she had taken a temporary protection order out against him. She said (Barrow) replied saying ‘you don’t keep me from anything.’ When Atkinson asked what he meant by that statement, he responded saying ‘don’t worry about it, just know I will see you again very soon.’”

About 8:30 p.m., which according to NCSO records would have been an hour after Barrow was served with the TPO, Atkinson told officers she received a text from Barrow, asking if she’d be at work “tomorrow.”

Atkinson told the CPD officer that on Feb. 27 she and Barrow had gotten into an argument which ended with her telling him she was moving out of the home at 55 Wellington Trail in Covington where they had lived with Barrow’s grandparents.

“Atkinson said while packing some of her belongings (Barrow) pushed her to the ground and then kicked her ... and (he) made several threats telling her he was going to kill her and made their son kiss one of the bullets to his handgun. Atkinson said (Barrow) told her he was going to kill her with the bullet (their son) had kissed,” the incident report states.

Monday morning, after shooting and killing Atkinson about 10 p.m. Sunday at Liberty Food Mart at 2080 Crowell Road, Barrow took his own life after a four-hour standoff with Covington/Newton County S.W.A.T. at his home in the Wellington Ridge subdivision.
We've had the discussion before about the importance of prevention and it bears repeating. Atkinson did everything she was "supposed" to do. She left, she called the police, she took out a Protective Order and Barrow still took her life. We place the burden on the victim to protect herself. If we didn't, the police would have arrested him for making terroristic threats and held him in jail or would have taken his gun since those with Protective Orders against them in Georgia are not allowed to have firearms. Either of those things could have provided Atkinson with additional protection and they would have shown Barrow that he would be held accountable for his actions. Instead, we raise our boys believing that violence against women is justified and women who do all of the right things are still stolen from their children and families.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Covington Man Kills Ex-Girlfriend

From the AJC:

A man wanted for the overnight shooting death of his ex-girlfriend inside a Newton County convenience store shot and wounded himself during a four-hour standoff with a sheriff's SWAT team, authorities said.

WSB-TV reported that the shooting happened about 10:30 p.m. Sunday at the Liberty Food Mart on Crowell Road west of Covington.

Sheriff's spokesman Mark Mitchell told WSB that someone called 911 reporting harassing phone calls at the location, and when deputies arrived, they found a woman who had been shot.

WSB reported that Michael Barrow, 22, shot and killed Audrey Atkinson, 19.

The couple had been living together at a house on Wellington Trail until Atkinson moved out last week, according to WSB.

Barrow was later involved in a standoff with deputies at the house, and when they entered the home, they found that he had shot himself.

The station reported that Barrow was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. His condition was not immediately available.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Atkinson family.

Monday, March 8, 2010

DV Murder in Atlanta

The AJC reports that a man killed his girlfriend on Saturday in Midtown.

Saturday, a Fulton County judge denied bond to Damian Brown, 28, charged him with murdering his girlfriend Yolanda Johnson Thursday afternoon in her Midtown apartment. He is facing four charges including Felony murder, murder, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during commission of felony.

Brown was picked up Friday afternoon in College Park, said Atlanta Police spokesman Eric Schwartz. Detectives interviewed him through much of the evening, finally charging him with the single mother of four's murder. He was transported to the Fulton County Jail late Friday.

Johnson, 35, was stabbed multiple times at the Centennial Place Apartments near Georgia Tech. She was found partially clothed on the bathroom floor by her eldest son.

"We have not ruled out the possibility the attack was domestic in nature," Atlanta Police Maj. Keith Meadows said Thursday.

According to investigators, Johnson had a visitor at about 2 p.m. Thursday. There was no indication of forced entry, but there were signs of a struggle in the kitchen and bathroom, Meadows said.

"My grandchildren found their mother dead," said Johnson's mother, Barbara Moon.

DFCS has taken custody of Johnson's four children but will interview their grandmother, Moon, who said she wants the kids to live with her.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Johnson's children and the remainder of her family.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

GA Ranks 15th in DV Homicides

A new report ranks Georgia 15th in the nation for killings of women by men in single-victim homicides, most of them murders connected with domestic violence.

The sixth annual report conducted by the Violence Policy Center with help from two prominent Georgia advocacy groups said conditions had improved from three years ago, when the state was ranked seventh for such homicides.

Still, the state's domestic violence organizations responded to over 72,000 incidents last year. In the last seven years, 835 Georgians died because of domestic violence, according to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, one of the groups involved in the report.

"Seventy five percent of those murders happen when the victim tries to leave the relationship," said Kirsten Rambo, the executive director of the Commission. "These deaths are preventable when communities work together," she said.

The 2009 Domestic Violence Fatality Review Report was highlighted at a news conference today that included House Speaker David Ralston. The Republic state representative from Blue Ridge lamented the toll of domestic violence.

It's unclear how much help the government can provide at a time when the budget is shrinking though. And money and coordination are needed even more in a down economy, Rambo said.

The bad economy exacerbates the problem for women who are stuck in abusive relationships, she said. Some lack a job or the money to move away, and the waiting lists at shelters have grown longer.

"In tough economic times," Rambo said, "victims of domestic violence have much fewer options for getting out and getting safe."
If you or someone you know is experiencing verbal, financial, sexual, or physical abuse, help is available for you whether or not you choose to leave that relationship. In the Atlanta area, call our hotline at 404-688-9436. Elsewhere, call the Georgia statewide hotline at 1-800-334-2836 or the national DV hotline at 1-800-799-7233.