April is Child Abuse Awareness Month

Children are our loved ones, our future and our joy as well as our responsibility. And I do not mean just the children born to us, I also mean the children in our neighborhoods, our communities and our country. Children are our future leaders, future teachers, future scientists, future doctors and nurses and future parents. Children are often called our greatest natural resource.

 Our country has laws to advocate for our children as well as to protect them. It may suprise you to know that it was as recently as 1974 that our first federal laws regarding child abuse were passed. Prior to that the only protection they had was state laws and sometimes those laws could be a bit haphazard at best. But in 1974 the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), went into effect.

In June 1982 the first National Child Abuse Awareness week was proclaimed. Since 1983 the time was increased to a month and the National Child Abuse Awareness Month has always been held in the month of April. A time to clebrate children and renew our committment to protect them.

childwelfare.gov

Protecting children often means doing a hard thing. It means that sometimes the average citizen may have to report suspicions that a child may be being abused. And it could be a strangers child, but most often is a neighbor, or a friend or relative. So the decision to report is not easy. You may even find yourself questioning if you should have the right to make a report on what is happening in someone else’s home. The answer to that is yes. Every child is important. Every child is worth saving. We lose too many children to violence, and even one child is too many.

Protecting children sounds like something that should be instinctive, something that all parents should do for their own children. And most do. But sometimes things break down. A parent maybe cannot or will not protect them. Or perhaps even becomes the abuser.

A child can suffer from abuse in many ways. Direct abuse to the child that may or may not result in physical injury to the child. Or through observance of the abuse of others. Both have a profound and lasting psychological effect on children as well as any physical affects of an injury.

So the National Child Abuse Awareness month is a reminder to all that there are laws to protect children. And that anyone who happens to witness abuse of any child, it should be reported. Some reports may trigger efforts to have the children removed from an unsafe environment. And some reports may result in an arrest. And some reports may result in obtaining assistance to aid the family in staying together. But all reports must be investigated and all actions taken are to protect the child.

What should you report? Any time you see abuse, any time that you see injuries on a child and were told the injuries were due to something else- but the story doesn’t seem to match the injuries. Any time you hear a child talk about abuse. Making a report doesn’t automatically condemn the reported person. Their will be no action unless their investigation reveals that abuse did occur and the agency feels that some action needs to be taken. And the action that is taken will vary according to circumstances in the home, what the investigation reveals and what the investigating agency feels is the best protection for the child. What should you do if you report abuse, and do not see any action being taken? Caseworkers cannot just walk into a home and remove children unless their investigation confirms abuse or neglect and reveals an immediate danger to the child. In some cases, it may take more than one report to give enough evidence. If you see further signs of abuse or neglect, you make new reports. And always try to make reports soon after a suspected incident, while any possible evidence will be fresh.

Now while we are on the subject of abuse and how it affects children, remember when I said that children can be affected by observing abuse of others? Even very young children can be affected by violence in the home. Even young children can suffer from traumatic stress, even if they have not been abused themselves. And statistically there is a greater chance that if there is domestic violence in the home, there is a greater chance that child abuse also occurs in the home.

aaets.org

So please remember that all children need our protection. There is an old proverb I think Africian proverb that I think is very appropriate at this time. It says it takes a  whole village to raise a child. And I believe it takes all of us to help protect them.

Advertisements

“Last Chance”

Tracy and Nancy Floren had been married for 20 years. They lived in an “upscale” community and both were employed. Reportedly they didn’t have any history of domestic violence reports. They had plans to build a “dream home” for their retirement. Tracy, 64, reportedly did have a problem with alcohol and sometimes that was a “battle.” Reports indicate that was a problem in the marriage. Reports indicate that Tracy had said in treatment that he got angry at her when she attempted

“to control his money”

and he also worried about her leaving him.

Nancy’s friends have told police that Nancy, 56, had told them that he was getting his

“Last chance”

when he recently enrolled in his latest treatment program. 

 On Sept. 2, 2007 a little after 6 am the alarm went off at their home. Police arrived to investigate the burglar alarm and found Nancy lying alone in the home, she was dressed in a robe and had two gunshots to her head. A gun lay beside her but that weapon did not match the gun that had fired the shots to Nancy’s head and tests showed it had not been fired.

Police were beginning their investigation when Tracy Floren pulled up to the home. Police say that immediately Floren established his alibi with them, he had been to an early morning AA meeting. He reportedly showed them a sign in sheet for the AA meeting and pulled out a receipt for a cup of coffee he had purchased that am. He told police his wife was alive when he left home that morning. Police say he didn’t appear to be concerned about what his wife’s condition was and gave his alibi even before he was told his wife had been found dead.

Investigation of the scene revealed that a window of the back door had been scored leaving a square hole. A backdoor was unlocked. There were signs that someone had climbed the back fence and walked through the field behind their home leaving a trail. Near the fence investigators found two florescent earplugs.

Months went by with no arrests in the murder of Nancy Floren. Tracy Floren gave away the family pets, retired from his job, sold the family home and spent time overseeing work on the “dream home.” Police say that is where they found him on Friday.

During the police investigation they found glass in Floren’s vehicle, on his clothing and shoes that they believe matches the window that had been scored. Grass like from the back field was also allegedly found in the vehicle. Police say the green ear plugs found in the field matched plugs that Floren used while recreational sport shooting, and also were stained with his DNA. Though Floren had given his alibi as being at an AA meeting that morning starting at 5:45 am, police say that other attendees have told police that he didn’t arrive until about 6:20 am.

Tracy Floren has been arrested and charged with 1st degree murder in the death of his wife Nancy Floren. Police say that Floren stood to benefit from his wife’s death. She had a $250,000 life insurance policy and the couple had a $500,000 retirement account. Police say the murder weapon has not been found. And they also say they believe the crime scene was staged to look like a burglary.

seattlepi.nwsource.com      seattletimes.nwsource.com   komotv.com

seattlepi.nwsource.com      konp.com        seattletimes.nwsource.com    seattlepi.nwsource.com

20 years of marriage. They shared a lot of living in 20 years. Most likely they had many times they agreed and many times they disagreed during that time. Couples married for 20 years can almost tell each other’s stories and finish their sentences. They can frequently predict their spouses reactions to events. Yet no matter how well they may think they know each other, they cannot usually read what is in their spouses private thoughts. She most likely wasn’t aware of the danger she was facing when she gave him one last chance. She most likely never thought he was capable of this action. He allegedly complained that she was controlling “his” money, though they both earned money for the household. Now he stands to profit from her death- if he is not convicted of killing her.

Almost 6 months went by. He reportedly made major changes in his life after she was killed. He retired, he sold the home they shared and was building the “dream home.” Six months probably seemed like a breathing time after the death of his wife with no arrest in sight. But police investigations are quiet. The go about talking to people, collecting evidence and testing. Police are able to read a lot from a crime scene, but sometimes that testing can take time.  

Edmond Locard was a forensics scientist that developed the Forensics Exchange Principle that in effect says that

“with contact between two items, there will be an exchange”

Any evidence that Floren was in the home can be explained by the fact that he lived in the home. But what police will be trying to prove is that Floren had evidence on him that could only come from the crime at the time of his wife’s death.


Wherever he steps, whatever he touches, whatever he leaves, even unconsciously, will serve as a silent witness against him. Not only his fingerprints or his footprints, but his hair, the fibers from his clothes, the glass he breaks, the tool mark he leaves, the paint he scratches, the blood or semen he deposits or collects. All of these and more, bear mute witness against him. This is evidence that does not forget. It is not confused by the excitement of the moment. It is not absent because human witnesses are. It is factual evidence. Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot perjure itself, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.
– Professor Edmond Locard

Police have reported they found glass and grass from the crime scene on Floren. They also report they found Floren’s DNA at the crime scene by way of the DNA on the earplugs found near the home. Many times they will also have other evidence that will not come out until the trial. If it is proven that Floren did commit this murder, he may very well have had his “last chance” to live in society.

Do you live in California?

I’ve been contacted by Alexis Moore of Survivors in Action and asked to make you aware of a new domestic violence law that has been proposed in California.

If you live in California, you may already be aware of this proposal. If you are not aware, then I hope to give you some information about it so that if you can be informed and if you choose you can offer your support. I have long thought that this kind of bill needs to be made and needs to be available in all states. California seems a good place to start.

When a woman meets a man, neither wears a sign on that gives a warning that they may be abusive. If one of the persons hears that the other person has been convicted of a domestic violence, the other will usually have a nice neat answer for that. “It was just an argument that got out of hand,” “one party was angry and retaliated” “it was the other’s fault” or something similar. So how do you find out what kind of person you just met, are they someone you would feel comfortable dating, and what really happened that they were convicted of domestic violence?

You can search the internet, but many states don’t put court info online. You can search out new stories, but many domestic violence incidents don’t make the news stories unless someone dies. You can ask their family or friends about it, but can you really trust what you are told? So how can a person find out if this person they may be dating, may be getting serious about is a good choice or someone to be wary of?

A law has been proposed in California to establish a database containing the names of persons who have been convicted of domestic violence. This database would be online and public. And after finding a name, if there are any questions about what really happened in that domestic violence case, the court will be required to release additional information about the case…. free of charge.

In addition, a person seeking a protection order against the named person will be able to use those previous convictions as grounds for obtaining the protection order.

If you choose to support the bill, you can write or fax your support t

Contact person for bill:           Catalina Hayes-Bautista

Legislative Aide

Office of Assemblywoman Fiona Ma

P:916-319-2012

F:916-319-2112

Fact Sheet for CA AB 1771

Summary: AB 1771 will provide Californians with an online database of convicted domestic violence offenders, require the Court to provide information regarding domestic violence convictions to requestors free of charge, and allow individuals to use prior convictions as basis for securing restraining orders.

Background: The need for this bill was brought to our attention by Jim Hammer, a former San Francisco prosecutor, in response to a double murder he prosecuted. In 1995, Nadga Schexnayder and her mother were shot to death by Ronnie Earl Seymour, a former boyfriend of Nadga who had a 20-year history of violence against women. The family had suspicions of Seymour’s violent behavior but could not prove their suspicions.

Information about previous domestic violence convictions is already available to the public but difficult to obtain. One must have both the time and the resources to obtain such information. AB 1771 seeks to remedy this.

Problem: According to the California Attorney General’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center, California law enforcement received 176,299 domestic violence calls in 2006 – 80,946 of which involved weapons.

In 2006, 134 murders were the result of intimate partner violence in California. 110 women were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends, and 24 men were killed by their wives, ex-wives or girlfriends (California Department of Justice [DOJ], Criminal Justice Statistics Center [CJSC]).

California can reduce the number of domestic violence incidents by providing

information about prior convictions online, and by providing potential victims with useful tools to avoid violence or a potentially violent partner.

Solution: Specifically, AB 1771 would require the following:

1) The Attorney General would develop an online database that would report the name, date of birth, county and date of conviction for individuals convicted of felony domestic violence or multiple counts of misdemeanor domestic violence. The database would keep updated information available for 10 years.

2) Superior Courts would be required, without charge, to provide additional information to a requestor about a domestic violence conviction.

3) A restraining order may be secured based on evidence that the person against whom the order is to be issued has previously been convicted of a crime of domestic violence.

4) A new assessment would be placed on domestic violence convictions to provide additional funding for domestic violence programs.

5) AB 1771, as amended on March 10, strengthens the privacy protections for domestic violence survivors, as well as for minor children who may be in a household when domestic violence strikes.

Sponsor:

Survivors in Action

Staff contact:

Catalina Hayes-Bautista 319-2012

Sample Support Letter

The Honorable Fiona Ma

Assemblywoman, 12th District

State Capitol, Rm. 2176

Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Assemblywoman Fiona Ma,

I am writing to express my strong support for Assembly Bill AB 1771 (Ma), which will provide Californians with an online database of convicted domestic violence offenders, require the Superior Courts to provide information regarding domestic violence convictions to requestors free of charge, and allow individuals to use prior convictions as basis for securing restraining orders.

This legislation is long overdue. According to the California Attorney General’s Crime and Violence Prevention Center, California law enforcement received 176,299 domestic violence calls in 2006 – 80,946 of which involved weapons.

According to the California Department of Justice and Criminal Justice Statistics Center, 134 murders were the result of intimate partner violence in California in 2006. 110 women were killed by their husbands, ex-husbands or boyfriends, and 24 men were killed by their wives, ex-wives or girlfriends.

Existing laws do little to prevent or deter domestic violence. With AB 1771, California can do more to curb the dangerously high numbers of domestic violence incidents by providing information about prior convictions online, and by providing potential victims with useful tools to avoid violence or a potentially violent partner.

Sincerely,

Or, if you are going to write and if you have a personal connection to DV through yourself or someone in you family you may wish to explain how this information might have helped in your situation.

If you have any questions, thoughts or comments on the issue I would be interested in hearing them even if you do not live in California.

The Fear, The Terror

Cindy L. Bischof, 43, wore many hats. She was a realtor, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a colleague. And due to recent experiences in her life, she told family and friends she was considering putting on another hat. She was thinking of becoming a domestic violence advocate.

Cindy knew what domestic violence was like. She had been married, but her divorce was amicable and she remained close to her in-laws. Then she began dating. About three years ago she began dating 60 year old Michael L. Giroux. The two ended up moving in together and for a time things were good. But last year there were problems and the two decided to separate last May. And then more problems developed.

Bischof came home one day to find her home vandalized. She got a restraining order. She found Giroux on her patio one day trying to hang himself. He was arrested. She moved out of her home for a time, she had cameras installed. He showed up at her office and other places she went. Giroux was arrested for violating the protection order at least three times. At one point Giroux was reportedly in a psychiatric unit via a court order for several months, but he was released in Nov. At one point Cindy reportedly came home and found Giroux in her dark garage.

According to her brother

“This was eight months of terror,” “She had a constant fear for her life. She tried everything. The system failed my sister.”

In Nov. Giroux was also convicted of a violation of the protection order. He was sentenced to 63 days in jail, 60 days of home confinement and 2 years of intensive probation. Since then, things had been quieter. Cindy’s mother has told media that the end of Feb. her daughter did hear from Giroux. He called and apoligized for what he had done. Because the call appeared harmless, Cindy didn’t report it.

Giroux finished his term on home incarceration just this month. On Mar. 7 th Cindy Bischof was leaving work. As she tried to enter her car she was shot. After shooting her, Giroux turned the weapon on himself. Giroux was pronounced dead at the scene. Cindy Bischof was taken to a hospital where she later died.

Now her family and friends are left to pick up the pieces. And they remember what Cindy said about becoming a domestic violence advocate. Since she can no longer become an advocate, the family has decided to do it in her name. They are determined to become advocates on women’s issues and they are starting with the need for electronic monitoring in similar situations. They also want to make protection orders more effective, and try to come up with ways to make the victims safer as they try to get out of the situations.

According to her brother

“There are going to be a lot of people like Cindy, after Cindy, unless things change,” Mike Bischof said.

dailyherald.com          dailyherald.com    chicagotribune.com

chicagotribune.com    chicagotribune.com

She asked for protective orders, she followed through, she got cameras for her home, she moved out of her home and stayed elsewhere. She did everything she could to help herself short of disappearing.

And the system actally worked as far as it goes. Police actually made the arrests. Prosecutors actively prosecuted the cases. Judges did impose sentences including jail time. He was even sent for a psychiatric evaluation. Still Cindy Bischof died.  This case, along with others, illustrate how desperately domestic violence laws need to be strengthened, and how new technology needs to be incorporated into the laws. Had electronic monitoring been made available, there would have been an alert to the fact that Giroux was in the vicinity of her workplace.

Cindy Bischof’s Memorial page and the beginning of the domestic violence foundation. If you live in Illinois and wish to help, they have listed contact information. If you live in another state and are thinking of doing something similar, you may wish to make contact also.

There is a lot of good information coming out in the above articles. For instance information about risk factors

Studies of women killed by an intimate partner have identified common traits among the perpetrators. Among them: access to a gun, previous threat with a weapon, estrangement from the partner, stalking, forced sex, abuse during pregnancy, drug abuse and unemployment.

“When individuals are unemployed or they start spiraling downward … then that’s a huge, huge red flag,”

In certain cases, however, no jail sentence — no matter how long — would dissuade someone from harming their intimate partner, experts say.

That’s why women who face abuse or harassment are encouraged to seek help outside the legal system. Domestic violence agencies can assist victims in creating comprehensive safety plans, which can include changing their name and even relocating.

Sometimes only the most extreme measure works, said Kathy Doherty, executive director of Between Friends, which provides legal advocacy to domestic abuse victims.

“We’ve helped some women disappear,” she said.

chicagotribune.com

It doesn’t seem fair that the victim should have to be the one to change her lifestyle in order to survive. But until a better system is developed, it may be best to start  over somewhere new and make the changes, than to live with the fear and the terror or to not survive. And sometimes that is the only choices you have.

Meanwhile, there is a need to fight for stronger laws, better technology, more effective treatment for offenders.

The Standoff

Robert Kowalski, 46, lived in a home with a roommate. But he was reportedly dating Lorraine Kay Morin, 45, who lived a few houses away. On Sunday Kowalski reportedly told his roommate that he had killed Lorraine Morin and was feeling suicidal himself.

The roommate called the sheriff about 11 am. He was away from the address at the time of the call. The sheriff’s department confirmed that Lorraine Morin was found dead in her home and by 2 pm SWAT was surrounding Kowalski’s home.

Reports indicate there were no signs of life in the home. Calls to the home went unanswered. Around 7 pm law enforcement broke some windows in the home and used a pole to pull the drapes back. At that time officers report they knew that Kowalski was alive in the home because he swore at officers. Hours passed with Kowalski still refusing to talk with negotiators. About midnight officers report that Kowalski fired one shot, but about 3 am Kolalski was seen moving around in the home.

The standoff continued throughout the night with the latest media coverage being 4 hours ago indicating that the standoff continuing through late Monday morning. Police have indicated that Kowalski has a history of domestic violence. St Rt 35 has been closed due to the standoff.

Lorraine Morrin was a mother of 6 children ages 9 to 28 years old. The younger children are now reported to be with the older children.

montananewsstation.com          dailyinterlake.com **       helenair.com

montananewsstation.com           kulr8.com                      flatheadbeacon.com

** Per a commenter at the dailyinterlake this may not be the first time for Kowalski. Per the commenter Kowalski’s first wife died at his hands. This info has not been confirmed in any media articles as yet.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday evening around 6:08 pm police threw cans of tear gas into the home and Kowalski came out and surrendered peacefully. The standoff lasted for 31 hours. Murder charges had been filed against Kowalski on Monday and he was arrested after he surrendered.

Friends and a past girlfriend have told media that Kowalski suffered from bipolar disorder and had problems when he was off his meds. He also became worse when he was drinking. They have said he has been suicidal in the past and there is also a history of domestic violence. The Daily Interlake recounts some of Kowalski’s history and there is no mention of the fate of his first wife.

dailyinterlake.com             kxmc.com        missoulian.com

Vacation Time

I am going to be taking a short vacation and will be away from the blog for a little over a week.

In the meantime, I am going to be turning the comments to moderated. So if you leave a comment and notice that it doesn’t appear right away, please be patient. When I have a chance to get online, I will be looking at the comments and posting them as soon as possible.

While I am away you might want to check out the Coalition of Crime Blogs for further reading. Each Coalition Blog is listed on the left under the heading Coalition of Crime Blogs.

I am going to say something now that I haven’t said for too long. Each and every day everyone has some chance to do a random act of kindness. It may be for a neighbor, a stranger, a co-worker, a friend, or a family member.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing (although it can be) but even something small like a smile to someone who needs it or a visit to a shut in. Take the time to do that every day. It really isn’t just for them, it makes you feel good too.

“Self defense” ?

Denise Blanton, 38, and Nicholas Wolke, 47, were in a relationship. Police have described the relationship as

“on again, off again”

According to law enforcement

“We have responded to that location before several times,”  “It’s certainly been a volatile situation for some time and we’ve been to that location and dealt with these individuals before in a domestic violence sense.”

Law enforcement says they had been called to the home multiple times. According to reports, they had been called to the home once in Nov. of 2007. When the first officer arrived, Wolke allegedly picked up a phone and hit the officer in the head as the officer attempted to check him for weapons. Wolke then fled the home.

Officers were still at the home when the phone rang. Reportedly it was Wolke, calling to tell Denise Blanton where he was and telling her to bring his clothing to him so that he could leave the state.

Law enforcement proceeded his location and took him in custody with the help of a police dog. During the process, Wolke reportedly received a dog bite and had to be taken for medical treatment. That situation has been described as still unresolved.

Tues. night/early Wed. AM, Wolke was reportedly back at Denise Blanton’s address again. Denise Blanton was there with her son and two teen daughters. And allegedly another argument took place. According to reports Wolke walked out of the home and outside he shot Denise Blanton’s 21 year old son Jonathon Gilkison. Allegedly when Denise Blanton came out of the home, he shot her too. Wolke then left.

An adult daughter had been away from the home, but she arrived soon after. Her sisters rushed to tell her what had occurred, she reportedly saw her brother lying in the gravel and her mother lying on the sidewalk. There was no phone at the home. So the daughter put her sisters in the car and the three drove to call 911.

Voice of 911 Operator: “Where was this at?”

Tiffany Adkins told the dispatcher: “180 Brown Hill Road. My mother and my brother have been shot in the head by her boyfriend, and I don’t know where he’s at.”

Both Jonathon Gilkison and Denise Blanton were pronounced dead.

A search began for Nicholas Wolke. Despite fears that he may have fled the state, police soon received tips that Wolke was still in the state. He was located at a friend’s home two counties away.

Wolke was taken into custody and later transferred to the county in which the crime happened. A cluster of news reporters were waiting for him to be brought in. Wolke reportedly had something to say to reporters. He supposedly looked at them and said two words:

“self-defense”

Police have denied the shooting was in self-defense. Wolke has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder and is being held with a $1 million dollar bond.

The adult daughter has told media

“Peoples have told me he could do something like that. I just never thought he would.”

wcpo.com             maysville-online.com           news.enquirer.com

kypost.com         peoplesdefender.com

The daughter said she never thought this could happen. And she isn’t alone. Most likely her mother never thought it would happen either. Or if the thought that he might kill her had crossed her mind- she more than likely never thought he would harm her children.

That happens a lot. The violence happens, it is bad for a while, then it is over and life goes on as before. It doesn’t happen all the time. And to try to get along, most victims will try to put away any resentment they may feel, may even feel guilty because they feel that resentment. After all- he is sorry, he is being nice, he is trying right? So things are better until the next time.

And he has never killed before- though some abusers will threaten to. The victim may know someone who has had problems with a relationship violence- but they lived through it. And after all, the victim thinks- he didn’t try to kill me. So if they think of the danger or have any fear, most victims will also try to put that aside along with any resentment or other negative emotions.

But domestic violence, domestic abuse, troubled relationship, volatile situation or however you wish to term it means a danger to the victim. An increased danger they could be maimed or murdered. Because the abuser has never killed before doesn’t mean that at some point they won’t.

And sadly, others can be at risk also. Family or friends, police officers or even strangers who attempt to intervene can also be at risk. Or they could also be at risk just because the abuser knows the victim loves them.

I have been thinking about the teen girls who were home with their mother and brother. First the argument going on. Then just as it looked like it was over and he was leaving the home, the gunshot. Their mother going out the door to see what happened and another gunshot. The fear they must have felt, with no phone to call for help, no way of knowing if he would return, no way of getting help for their Mother and Brother.

Their sister driving up thinking about who knows what, just another evening. Suddenly, aware of the crisis in their lives. And unprepared, without even time to absorb what has happened, as the only remaining adult she has to take charge.

Questions

After every death whether a natural death, an accidental death or a homicide or suicide questions always come up. The questions sometimes come up when looking through the loved ones effects and wondering why they saved this, who is in that photo or why they were seen somewhere or what they were doing? Did they know how much they were loved? Questions all the more poignant because the family no longer has the opportunity to ask the loved one.

After a violent death those questions get larger and more important. Some common questions: why, who, why didn’t I somehow know, was there anything at all I could have done, why did this happen to them, was there something I missed seeing? Did they suffer?

We all have private thoughts, private memories. Sometimes shared with a few, but sometimes not. Those thoughts and memories may hold the answers to some of those questions, but unless they were shared, the answers may not be known.

Usually it is the family and friends who are asking the questions. But sometimes it is also the community. That is the case with Robert Bystrack and his wife Angela.

Robert and Angela Bystrack moved into the community about 12 years ago. And after joining the community they jumped right in. They had a child together, she is now reported as being 11 years old. They became active in the community, Angela served on the zoning board for a time, Robert as an alternate on the planning board. Both had served on the planning board.

Robert was an electrician locally, Angela had worked as an animal control officer for a time as well as a part time police officer for a time. They belonged to a local snowmobile club. Their child went to school in the area and reportedly earned awards for citizenship and academics.

According to media they purchased a property about 4 years ago. And they had plans. The home was built in the 1800’s and they were busy restoring it. The property had about 200 acres, and there are reports that they had plans for an ecological preserve, a snowmobile site and/or a camping area. They stayed busy. They were well known and well liked. Many good things have been said about them.

On Feb. 15th about 7 am their 11 year old daughter showed up at a neighbors home, wounded. She reportedly told the neighbor

“My mommy shot my daddy, then she shot me, then she shot herself.”

911 was called and the child was taken to the hospital. For Angela and Robert Bystrack, it was too late. A later autopsy ruled that Robert Bystrack’s death was a homicide, Angela Bystrack’s death a suicide.

The child’s condition has been reported as satisfactory, she remains in the hospital. She is expected to fully recover.

Police are investigating but have not released their findings. At least one media reported they had done “extensive” background checks and did not make any findings that might lead to these events.

citizen.com            fosters.com         citizen.com      unionleader.com 

boston.com           citizen.com          concordmonitor.com  concordmonitor.com

Forensics, the crime scene and other investigative tools have already answered some of the questions. And police continue to investigate. They may come up with other answers, as people recover from the shock and have time to recall the minutiae of things said, things seen that seemed insignificant at the time. The child may be able to answer some questions, though she is recovering from her own injury and has to recover from the shock of what she saw.

But no matter how many questions they are able to answer, there will always be those questions that have no answers. And those questions that linger become one more thing that has to be accepted, just like having to accept the deaths. Some may be major questions, and always there are the small questions.

The child is 11 years old. She is injured but recovering. Hospitalized with family around her, but not her parents. When she turns 12, no parents will be baking her a cake or giving her presents. When she begins to date, her mother will not be there to help her dress for her first date, no father to check out the new boyfriends. When learns to drive, no parent will be there to guide her and ride with her. And no parent will be there to comfort her in her grief.

She is young, she will physically recover, she will grow, and she has family who want to love her. Her community has turned out to offer her their support. She will survive. But though she is young, she is old enough to remember the last sight she had of her father being shot, of her mother shooting her, and of her mother shooting herself. The long walk she made after being injured, to get to a neighbor to some adult, to get help. Those memories will fade in time, will even be forgotten at times. But at times they will resurface. She too will have her questions, both now and more questions as she grows and has more experience with life. 

A big thank you to  Zach for the tip on this.

Update: Just another domestic disturbance call

On Feb. 8 I wrote the entry Just another domestic disturbance call about Teresa Lynn Baker, a woman who lived next door to her daughter. A daughter that had had a history of alleged domestic abuse with her partner. And I admitted I was conflicted about what Teresa Baker had done. She called police to tell them about what was happening at her daughter’s home. And when they failed to respond in an hour, she left her home and went to her daughter’s home where she allegedly proceeded to shoot Jeffery Sadler, her daughter’s boyfriend and the father of some of her grandchildren.

Well I still believe that the only valid reason for taking a life is in defense of self and others, but I am a little less conflicted about it now. More information about the case came out in the preliminary hearing.

According to the defense attorney, Teresa Baker heard screaming at her daughter’s house. And one of her grandchildren told her that the couple was fighting. And according to the defense attorney Teresa Baker was told

“he had been threatening her with a knife, saying he was going to gut her.”

She didn’t rush over there and insert herself into the argument. She called police. The dispatcher reportedly told her

“We’re going to get (police) right there,”

She knew about the history of violence in the home. She had been told he was armed with a knife. She had been told of the threats. And she went out on her porch and sat and worried and waited with a gun in her houseshoe. 

One hour went by. A very slow 60 mins. A total of 360 seconds. She had a child in that home with a man wielding a knife and threatening her. She had grandchildren in that home who were watching what was happening between their parents, who had heard the threat. For one hour she sat and worried and waited. And no police.

She finally got up, went to the home and shot Jeffery Spadler.

Forensics detectives have said they found “stab marks” in a wall of the home.

Police have said they did not respond because they did not have officers available. They have said that because Baker was calm in the initial phone call they put it at a lower priority. Now they say that if Baker had told them she had a gun, that would have probably made it a higher priority! They also commented on the fact that in the initial call, Baker appeared calm.

My computer won’t play the 911 video’s that are listed (I only got part of the last call to play) and I haven’t found a written transcript of the 911 calls. But I question whether the first call was a calm and collected person, or a scared mother struggling to remain calm so that she could give the police the information that was needed in order to get police to come to her daughter’s aid.

After the murder she did not appear calm, she also didn’t attempt to hide what she had done nor did she appear to have attempted to hide evidence of what she had done. She reportedly went home, picked up the phone and called the police back and hysterically told the dispatcher what she had done. Finally police had the emotion they say was missing in the first call. So much emotion the dispatcher reprimanded her repeatedly to calm down.

herald-dispatch.com                     wsaz.com (video with links to the 911 call)

As I have said before, while I don’t condone what Teresa Baker is accused of doing… if I felt my child was in danger, and police did not respond… I don’t know if I would have done anything different- except probably I wouldn’t have waited the full hour.

In time Teresa Baker will be in trial and facing a jury. Most likely she will not be facing a jury of persons who had been in domestic violence relationships or who had lost someone to domestic violence. This jury will probably know the myths and misconceptions that go along with domestic violence. But they may not know the facts, the things that only come from surviving it- either directly or through a loved one.

The struggles that a parent, child, sibling, cousin or friend goes through as they watch their loved one struggle with domestic violence. The fear and worry they live with as they try to advise their adult loved one, and the helplessness they feel when the adult child remains in the relationship. The grief and struggles they go through when they lose them forever.

At some point Teresa Baker will face that jury of citizens from that county. I am not going to ask you whether you think what she did was right or wrong, that is for the court to decide. But I will ask if you were in her shoes, what would you have done? Do you feel that you can reach out and help the citizens in that area to understand this from the point of view of a person who has been there?

Herald Dispatch Letters to the Editor

Huntingtonnews Editor

The Irate Ex

A 911 came in on Tues. AM and reported that Elena Anderson’s “irate ex-boyfriend” was in her apartment.

Elena Anderson, 27, had a previous relationship with Deandre Crawford, 28. They shared an 18month old son. But the relationship ended and both moved on to new relationships.

Elena Anderson had a boyfriend, and they too had a child, this time a little girl just born Dec. 24. In addition Elena Anderson had two other children from a previous relationship and those children live with their father. Elena Anderson’s current boyfriend moved in with her just 3 months ago. Elena Anderson grew up in the 4 unit apartment building she lived in, and three of the four units were occupied by her relatives.

Reports indicate that Crawford and Anderson had recently had problems over the custody of their little boy. News reports indicate that on Tues. Crawford got a ride to Anderson’s apartment. Police believe that Elena Anderson let Crawford into the apartment as there was no forced entry.

A second call came in reporting a shooting at the apartment. Police have said that Elena Anderson and her current boyfriend both made calls.

It is believed that Elena Anderson and Crawford were arguing when the current boyfriend walked in on it. Crawford chased the current boyfriend into a bedroom firing 5 shots. The current boyfriend was struck in the face and chest. It is believed that Crawford then went back to the living room and fired at Elena Anderson striking her in the chest. Reportedly Crawford then fled the home.

When police arrived they found Elena Anderson and her current boyfriend shot. Elena Anderson was able to tell them that

“My oldest baby’s daddy, Deandre Crawford, shot me in the chest,”

According to the prosecutor, Crawford walked about a block from the apartment and was allegedly picked up by his current girlfriend.

Elena Anderson and the current boyfriend were both taken to the hospital where Elena Anderson later was pronounced dead. The current boyfriend has been reported in critical condition and is reported to be paralyzed from the waist down. The children were in the apartment in a bedroom at the time of the shooting, but were reported to be unharmed.

Police were able to locate Crawford and take him into custody, He has been charged with one count each of murder in the first degree and attempted murder. Bail was denied at his arraignment hearing.

chicagotribune.com    southtownstar.com 

chicagotribune.com    chicagotribune.com

“Custody Issues.” Somehow I always find that term ironic in domestic deaths. If convicted he won’t get custody of his son now, he won’t even get additional time with him. As a matter of fact, if the child is in need of his assistance- he won’t be available for him. Many times the term “custody issues” is used to describe disputes over child support. And the shooting may settle that. He won’t have to pay child support to Elena Anderson now, he won’t be paying anyone support. His child will be growing up motherless, and essentially fatherless. Dependent on other family and/or possibly the state for his support.

Two children in the home, reported as being ages 18 months and just over one month old. Most likely they heard the raised voices, most likely the sounds of shooting scared them. They are too young to know that their lives have changed. Too young to know that they will never see the woman they knew as Mom again, to young to even remember what it felt like to have a mother. Two other children will remember. Most likely they will both remember the last time they saw her, talked to her. But now she is forever gone for them also.

Crawford reportedly worked in a hospital escorting patients and he was also attending college. He was majoring in Criminal Justice.

« Older entries Newer entries »