Don't ignore stalkers!

Cindy Hill
Jul-24-93 03:18PM

Greetings folks,

A little background: My sister works for an attorney in Greeley, Colo. She has been a victim of spousal abuse, and an advocate against domestic violence for many years. Recently, her daughter's teacher's husband was murdered in their home in a homicide-suicide by the woman's ex-husband. My sister was outraged enough to write a letter to the local paper, which was subsequently published as a column. She begged me to post it here, which took about one-tenth of a second's worth of arm-twisting...

From the Greeley Tribune, Opinion page, Thursday, July 22, 1993 By Karen DeMello

Once again, too late, domestic violence makes the headlines. Another innocent person has been killed by someone who had made his intentions known, and who had no business being free and on the streets. We've lost another valuable, irreplacable life - Dr. Donald Fern, a family physician, a friend, a husband and father - a man full of strength and courage enough to be with and ultimately die for the woman he loved.

You see, his wife's ex-husband was a batterer. A man who almost certainly had warned her, "If I can't have you, no one will." A man who felt so small that he believed his life was nothing without her; a man who would commit murder rather than admit he had treated his woman badly, and that she was justified in leaving him.

This man's ex-wife did everything that society and self-preservation told her to do. She rose above her fears and removed herself and her children from the abuse, either not knowing or not understanding the fact that she was increasing her chances of being murdered by him by 75 percent in doing so. After their divorce was final, she contacted law enforcement again and again, seeking their assistance as he continued to stalk, threaten and harass her for most of a decade. She prosecuted, repeatedly, never backing down and refusing to accept blame that wasn't hers. She felt blessed to find love and be loved by a truly wonderful man who was willing to be with her and there for her. She rose above it all - a valuable citizen, a wonderful mother, a cherished educator.

And then, in an instant, her world is shattered. The instant she has dreaded and expected for as long as she can remember.

Men like her ex-husband are dangerous, and they are everywhere. From all walks of life, all professions, all economic classes, all races. They are our neighbors, our peers, our teachers, our employers. Very few are behind bars. It is time for women, society and the judicial system to start making them responsible for their actions. We read about domestic violence in the papers every day, and it is too easy to pretend it is not our problem. Just as our legislators have started to realize the very definite threat of stalkers, so must domestic violence be recognized as its own unique situation and treated accordingly. It is wrong that lives must be lost before victims are taken seriously.

It takes very little time for perpetrators to figure out our existing system. These people learn that threats like "You'll be sorry" or "I don't get mad, I get even" convey the intended message to the victim without being taken as a serious threat by law enforcement. They figure out that vandalism is a simple, anonymous method of harassment. They know that violating a restraining order is not treated as a violation unless police should happen to arrive before they get away. (Unfortunately, their victims are often forced to incur the expense of obtaining civil restraining orders, which are more useful in persuading authorities to believe that there is a real danger than they are at deterring an abuser if the intent to harm is present.) They know that law enforcement officers are hesitant to respond to a domestic violence call, and will not offer a civil standby to a battered partner in a potentially explosive situation; the explosion must occur first. Worst of all, they figure out that if they should happen to get caught and arrested, they are likely to be back on the streets within hours - and by then they are madder than hell.

We are all involved, either directly or indirectly, and the time to take action is now - before your family is personally affected by this horror. This particular man's ex-wife is an elementary school teacher. Through no fault of her own, she has been forced to go on and live with the terrifying knowledge that this deranged man could have chosen to walk into her classroom rather than her home with his guns, and take as many innocent lives with him as he chose.

Please, pay attention. Choose no longer to ignore the woman screaming for help from the downstairs apartment. Acknowledge the problem and offer aid to your co-worker who comes in with blackened eyes and long sleeves after yet another "fall down the stairs." Check the box on your state [tax] return that donate[s] a few dollars from your refund to the shelters and assistance programs. And please, above all, believe the victims. They know of what they speak. They have lived our worst nightmares, and they need us.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

That isn't a typo up there - this man stalked this woman for TEN YEARS. He had slashed her tires and threatened her yet again the day before he walked into her family's home and shot her husband in the back. He then asked her where she wanted the mess, went into her garage and turned the gun on himself.

Karen has since had lunch and a few after-work drinks with this woman. She's holding up as well as can be expected, and still having a very difficult time accepting her husband's death because it is usually coupled with the overwhelming relief that her tormentor is dead and finally, at last, gone from her life forever.



I have a correction to my statement about the woman whose ex stalked her and killed her husband. I was incorrect in stating that he had slashed her tires the day before the murder-suicide. (Sorry, miscommunication 'tween me and sis.)

The addendum: The man actually slashed her tires 5 weeks before. He was arrested and charged with a felony. He was subsequently released, and expressed remorse for his actions to their eldest child. He left the family alone then. The family was lulled into a false sense of security during those 5 weeks, while the ex was closing bank accounts and wrapping up his life affairs.

After the tire-slashing, he went on a serious drinking binge. So bad was this binge that it got him fired from his job. The pink-slip came on Tuesday; on Friday the woman's husband was dead.

Apologies for any confusion my misinterpretation may have caused.


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