Monday, August 30, 2010

How many more stalking victims must die?

This weekend's murder of Loni Amber Turner at the hands of her suicidal ex-boyfriend, Erin Ross, highlights a couple of very serious concerns that CourtWatch has with the justice system.

We've previously featured our concerns about judges who set hearings without providing temporary injunctions while the parties await their day in court (which are scheduled 2 weeks after the petition is filed). See our blog about the Alissa Blanton murder earlier this year. So I won't rehash that issue.

The second concern we have is that many judges and law enforcement personnel just don't "get" how lethal stalking behavior can be. Alissa Blanton had not been in a romatic relationship with her stalker. Perhaps the judge felt she wasn't really at risk of violence. Perhaps he just didn't want to read the 70+ pages of her petition. As we now know, her stalker/murderer, Roger Troy, was extremely lethal. But her death should have been a wake up call to every judge in this State to review what the Florida Statutes say about stalking.

From what has been reported in the media, it would appear as though Ms. Turner was being stalked by her ex-boyfriend. As reported in the Sentinel,
Loni Amber Turner was afraid. An ex-boyfriend she'd met online wouldn't leave her alone. He sent her text messages. He watched her apartment. He showed up at the trade school where she was a student. "I am really afraid to come out of the apartment, …" she wrote in a domestic violence petition last week.
Even though the judge set a hearing for September 3rd, her request for a temporary injunction was denied, mostly likely because she did not state that there had been any acts or overt threats of violence. Or perhaps it was because she had tried to remain friendly with Mr. Ross after the relationship was officially over.

If stalkers aren't stopped, their behavior can escalate and become violent. Ms. Turner's effort to stop her tormentor was not taken as seriously as it should have been. Circuit Judge William A. Parsons said that Turner had failed to prove she was in danger. By issuing a summons, without a temporary injunction at the same time, the judge put her at a higher risk for victimization.

What Judge Parsons tragically did not seem to understand is that Mr. Ross' behavior was indeed dangerous, even though he did not physically assault Ms Turner.

Seventy-five percent (75%) of fatalities occur when the relationship is in the process of ending or has recently ended. By putting Mr. Ross on notice that his victim wanted him to stay away from her, and by not issuing a court order telling him to stay away, Judge Parsons' Order Setting Hearing (OSH) may have been the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back in this situation.

OK, I know, I said I wouldn't rehash the OSH issue. I just couldn't stop myself.

The US Department of Justice Stalking Victimization Study (Jan 2009) estimated that 3.4 million persons were victims of stalking during a 12 month period. Stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear. Individually, the acts that were measured are not criminal in nature. But when done repeatedly and collectively, they may cause the victim to fear for his or her safety. The behaviors measured in the study are:
  • making unwanted phone calls
  • sending unsolicited or unwanted letters or emails
  • following or spying on the victim
  • showing up at places without a legitimate reason
  • waiting at places for the victim
  • leaving unwanted items, presents or flowers
  • posting information or spreading rumors about the victim on the internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth
From the following chart, it looks like the criminal justice system has a lot to do in order to be perceived as helpful to victims of stalking:


The number of cases where criminal charges were not filed is disgraceful:


Stalking is a potentially lethal crime. It's time for EVERY member of law enforcement (cops, prosecutors and judges) to treat it seriously.

To everyone in law enforcement: If Alissa Blanton's death didn't wake you up, Loni Amber Turner's death certainly should.

Stalking Resources available online.

4 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting! Thank you for putting this back in the spot light. Amber didn't have to loose her life. She had an amazing personality and an honest heart. It is a great tragedy that we've lost her.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am so sorry to the family and friends of Amber. It's terrifying to read stories like this. I was stalked by an ex-boyfriend for almost a year and he was finally prosecuted and is now serving time in prison. He has been incarcerated for 2 1/2 years and I have received phone calls even as recent as a couple of months ago from him. He will probably be released some time this year and I am terrifed that he will come after me. I agree that all law enforcement and courts need to be trained on the seriousness of stalking and what it does to victims. This is such a tragedy and I hope people will learn from it and help others in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am glad to see someone getting it. I myself am a victim of stalking by a former partner and I gave up on trying to get protection for myself and my child through the courts. I am using my real name because this is how I protect myself. If enough people know the danger my ex husband presents to not only me but our child, when (not if) something happens, there will be a trail. And my children can finally get the justice I have not been able to get myself.

    I only hope and pray it does not come to that, but I am afraid. Sadly family courts everywhere allow stalking through the shared parenting statutes. My abuser/stalker uses our 8 year old child in order to gain information about me by grilling her intensely and daily. He has people follow me and watch me so he can be aware of my activities at all times. He says he is doing this because of concern for our child, but he left her with me when she was a baby for 14-16 hours a day. She is now 8 and can vocalize if I am hurting her. She only speaks of the abuses her father shoves on us and tells everyone how wonderful her mother is. She speaks of sadness that her father will not stop his vendetta against me and how much this angers her. She also speaks of the fear she has if she ever stands up to him and how he will hurt her.

    When will all the victims get help?

    ReplyDelete
  4. To the second Anonymous poster: Contact your prosecutor & the Prison where he is being held and let them know that he has contacted you. You can obtain a copy of the phone calls (they're recorded) for evidence. Please email me directly.

    ReplyDelete