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Domestic violence takes a huge toll

Last Thursday, the double murder and suicide in Freeland forced the issue of domestic violence back into the headlines.

But in many ways, as domestic violence experts point out, the case was not an anomaly. Over the last five years or so, many of the worst crimes committed in Island County were the result of domestic violence.

The perpetrators were supposed to love, to care for, the people they harmed. Here are just some of the most serious cases:

n In 1997, Linda Miley shot and killed her boyfriend, Jack Pearson, at his Camano Island home after he talked about breaking up with her. She was convicted of murder last November.

n In 1998, Brad Hansen got mad at his girlfriend and shot through the window of her Oak Harbor residence. The four shotgun blasts killed her mother, 53-year-old Caroline Paul, while she was watching TV.

n In the fall of 1999, Navy Petty Officer Paul Green strangled his wife, 29-year-old Petty Officer Linda Roy, to death at their Oak Harbor home. He then drove her body to the base gate and turned himself in.

n In the spring of 2000, 38-year-old Quincy Stewart assaulted his girlfriend by pounding her head into the pavement outside her Oak Harbor apartment. At the time, he was wanted on a warrant for a domestic assault involving the same woman.

n On Christmas Day of 2000, a six-week-old infant named Aeriq Flores-Ortego was assaulted badly enough that he died quietly overnight of brain injuries. The mother’s husband, Eric Flores, was acquitted of a murder charge, but convicted of criminal mistreatment. Flores and the baby’s mother had been fighting.

n Last August, a 23-year-old Jerry Lee Farrow shot his girlfriend, Faith Ellison, in the head at her Oak Harbor home. Their four-year-old daughter was in the next room.

n On June 16, Oak Harbor police shot and killed 26-year-old Petty Officer Connie Pearsall while he was stabbing his wife, Mary Ann Pearsall.

After last week’s quadruple shooting and shotgun suicide, many people were asking how this could happen here. Yet Citizens Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse was quick to point out that domestic violence is a worldwide problem that Island County is not immune from.

CADA, Island County’s domestic and sexual assault agency, served more than 1,200 victims of domestic violence and assault last year.

“Anyone can be a victim,” according to a CADA press release sent out last week. “Military or civilian. Wealthy or poor. Young or old. Educated or not. As an agency, and as members of the community, we are deeply saddened by the recent homicides in Island County, but not surprised.”

Given the statistics, anyone familiar with domestic violence probably knows that it’s only a matter of time until another abuser boils over and becomes a domestic murderer somewhere in the state.

* In the last five years, about 60 percent of women murdered in Washington state were killed by current or former boyfriends and husbands, according to the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Project.

* About 25 percent of American women reported having been assaulted or raped by an intimate partner. About 1.5 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner each year, according to the National Violence Against Woman survey.

* Murder by a husband or boyfriend is the leading cause of death for women during the 21-month period from pregnancy to the baby’s first birthday, according to a 2002 report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

* On average, more than three woman are murdered by husbands or boyfriends in the nation each day, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2001 report on intimate partner violence.

* Fifty percent of men who frequently abuse their wives also frequently abuse their children, according to a 1990 study of 8,145 families called Physical Violence in American Families.

But even with these sorts of alarming statistics, CADA advocates still believe that there’s a solution.

“We must come together and demand that every citizen adopt a zero tolerance policy regarding violence in our community,” CADA stated.

Erika Sanders, program director of CADA, said that might mean speaking up when someone jokes about domestic violence, asking questions if you suspect abuse, calling the police on a neighbor, or volunteering at CADA.

To contact CADA, call 675-CADA or 1-800-215-5669.

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