The system failed

Her name was Yana and she was a Russian citizen living in Russia. She and her husband had a baby boy and she was attending college. Then her husband was murdered. Yana dropped out of college and with her mother’s help, set about raising her baby son.

With a young boy to support Yana looked for options. Some reports say that she was a “mail-order” bride through a Russian romance site, others say she met Scott Huss on the internet. Scott Huss visited Russia a couple of times, then the two decided to marry. She came to the U.S. in 2003 and the two married soon after.

Things were not easy. She had difficulty with the language. Relatives have said that Huss forbade her to speak Russian with her son. Soon after their marriage, the first report of abuse saying that Scott Huss fired several shots and threatened to feed her

“to the alligator’s.”

Yana’s mother moved to Holland and the two kept in touch regularly by telephone and the internet. Use of a webcam allowed the grandmother to stay in contact with the grandson she had known in Russia and to help get to know  the new granddaughter that Yana had with Scott Huss. In Dec. 2006, Yana took the children to Russia to meet their relatives. Yana was working as a nursing assistant and going to the community college, studying for a nursing license.

In the years since 2003, there were reportedly multiple calls to police regarding complaints of domestic violence (one report says 20 or more.) It is difficult to determine what happened with the charges, media says they were dismissed. On the ones for which Huss was arrested, charges were reportedly dropped. There are allegations that little was done to investigate the complaints despite circumstantial evidence available in some of the reports. Yana did recant her allegations at times. Allegations are that Huss repeatedly threatened to have her deported back to Russia at various times.

Charlotte County Sheriff John Davenport said it is possible that deputies missed opportunities to arrest her husband for violating restraining orders. He said deputies can become “complacent” when dealing with the vague accusations common in domestic violence cases. “We’re not perfect,” he said.But he said his deputies responded appropriately in most of the situations with the Husses.

Twice, Yana took her son to the hospital with injuries- staff there called authorities regarding a suspicion of child abuse. Yana allegedly denied the boy had been abused- but staff says on one occasion the child said that Scott Huss had punched him. Authorities say they did not have enough evidence to file charges. Now the school is checking to see if staff was aware of any complaints of child abuse. There are rumors that they had been told.

Multiple restraining orders. According to at least one article, Huss denied any domestic violence in an online posting alleging immigration/marriage fraud.

Multiple stays in a domestic violence shelter including one right before she died.

By March, Yana decided to leave. She filed for another restraining order and a divorce.

In the last 30 days of her life, Huss called sheriff’s deputies eight times to say her husband was harassing her with phone calls, e-mails and instant messages.

In a visit to the police station to report more calls, her phone rang twice more. A deputy allegedly told her that was not proof that the calls were being made by Huss.

Eventually Huss was arrested for breaking the restraining order. He spent a night in jail and  was out on bond the next day. It was several days later that he went to the church. A priest alleges that Huss tried to get him to convince Yana to talk to him (Huss.)

Police did begin increased patrol’s near her home.

On April 25 Yana’s 8 year old son appeared on Scott Huss’s mother’s doorstep allegedly wearing a bloody shirt. At some point she allegedly found a suicide note from her son and called police. Police say the child did witness his mother’s stabbing.

Scott Huss, 48, was arrested at a bus station. He was initially arrested on a manslaughter charge.

Her name was Yana. She was the mother of two and was 31 years old when she died.

sun-herald.com     heraldtribune.com     nbc-2.com

sun-herald.com    news-press.com      sun-herald.com

If you read any articles in this, I highly recommend that you read these two. One contains a timeline of the events that led up to the murder- and what evidence it is alleged that police had regarding the abuse. heraldtribune.com. The second is from a citizen. A man to whom I would like to extend a ‘virtual’ handshake. It is an opinion piece that asks the question of where authorities were when Yana asked for help. heraldtribune.com

One of Yana’s children was born in Russia and is a citizen of Russia. He is now 8 years old and saw his mother being stabbed to death. He is in foster care awaiting a court decision as to who should have custody of him. His grandmother has come to the U.S. to fight for custody of him and his sister.

Yana’s child with Scott is now 2 years old. She was born in the U.S. and is a U.S. citizen. Her other grandmother is fighting for custody of her also. Yana’s son is her sibling, but so is Scott’s other children from previous relationships.

No matter which way this is decided, the chances are excellent that one of the children is going to be moved away from a sibling.

Yes, she recanted. She left what she knew in Russia and moved to the U.S. Then abuse began. She did what was right, she called police. Police are there to protect people, right? And prosecutors are there to prosecute crimes? But under alleged threats of deportation- she recanted as she would do at other times in the future. Struggling with the language, a stranger to the laws and the system. Once her daughter was born, it would have been even harder. Because her daughter was a U.S. citizen. She couldn’t be deported. So her status if her mother was deported could be frightening.

And it must have been frightening to her to make that call to police, and find him out of jail very quickly. Often that gives the victim the sense that pressing the charges is useless- because it doesn’t stop them, they are soon out of jail and even madder. Yes, she may have recanted. She was probably too scared not to.

She recanted. By changing her story, the charges got dropped. Several states have laws in place that if an officer sees evidence of domestic abuse, they are mandated to continue with the charges. This is not one of those states.

Never-the-less the law enforcement and prosecutor’s have the latitude to continue with the charges even if the victim refuses to file, as long as they have evidence of the crime. They chose not to do so. More than 20 times. Despite allegedly having some evidence of crimes being committed. From what I have been reading about the emails and telephone calls, I personally wonder why stalking charges were not brought against him- prior to the murder. Even without her consent.

I write about DV. I know that sometimes it can slip through the cracks. I know that sometimes if the victim doesn’t cooperate with law enforcement, that it can make it more difficult for them to prefer charges. And I know that a victim recanting even one time can make it more difficult for them to convince authorities of how serious their situation is. But still this one is shocking to me. You would think that after 20 or more complaints and more calls to the police- that someone might have asked “what is happening here?” And maybe would have thought to take a closer look at what was happening.

I cannot deny it. Sometimes the system drops the ball. Sometimes police and prosecutors use the reasoning that it is a ‘couple’s problem’. And that if the victim chooses not to prosecute, then it is the victim’s choice.

They seem to forget the ‘fear factor’ in domestic violence. The fact that the one person who scares them the most, the one person who knows their schedule, the places they go, and all of their contacts, and the things that scare them the most– is putting them under pressure not to prosecute.

I will tell you- this one is high on my ‘shocked me’ list.

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4 Comments

  1. Compassrose said,

    June 1, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    What makes me so sad is the trust this mother had in our sysytem to protect her, and the hope this little boy put in his teachers to help him. It is sobering to realize how abandoned they must have felt when all their efforts were abandoned or ignored. Had the school reported Peter’s abuse, the police would have had more supporting evidence of abuse to better protect them both. Poor little Peter — I hope someone does the right thing for this child and makes a real effort to get him in a permanent safe and nuturing environment as soon as possible. Huss has no right to his daughter — I do not feel there is much hope these two children will get to stay together.

  2. htstore said,

    June 1, 2007 at 9:05 pm

    sighhhhh. It shows the ignornance of this issue that is still out there.

    Those poor children.

  3. BETSY said,

    June 8, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    IN WISCONSIN, WHERE I NOW LIVE, THERE ARE GUIDELINES IN EFFECT FOR DOMESTIC ABUSE SITUATIONS JUST IN CASE THE ABUSED SHOULD CHANGE HIS/HER MIND. THAT STATE WILL PICK UP THE CHARGES AND PROSECUTE THE ABUSER, NO MATTER WHAT. I THINK THAT SHOULD BE A MANDATORY THING FOR ALL STATES. JUST A THOUGHT…

  4. June 8, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    Betsy I agree with you. Leaving it up to the abused person to prosecute makes it harder on the victim and can possibly put the victim in more danger. Esp. if the perpetrator believes that without a victim pressing the charges, they won’t be prosecuted.


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