The ultimate act of domestic violence is homicide. The lead-up to that fatal act comes in a lot of forms. In many cases, it is physical violence with some women being battered to the point of hospitalization on a regular basis. With others it is more subtle—the destruction is emotional, shaped by intimidation, control, and the shredding of self-confidence.
No matter how it manifests, it is clear that the most dangerous time for any of these women is when they decide to leave and for up to two years after they take action. That is the time that many women die. I’ve seen this truth fulfilled in book I’ve written about the deaths of Susan McFarland in Texas, Kathleen Peterson in North Carolina and now in my most recent book, UNDER COVER OF THE NIGHT, the death of Jocelyn Earnest in Forest, Virginia.
Their relationships were marked by controlling behavior. Their spouse always got his way. For example, when Jocelyn wanted a cozy little cabin getaway on the lake, her husband insisted on designing and erecting a $1.2 million showcase. She went along to keep him happy.
In every case, these spouses had a secret life. Two had a locked room or forbidden space. Two had sexual alliances outside of the home—one of fleeing nature with multiple partners, the other a relationship of more serious import. One had been a high octane stock broker, one a bestselling author and the third, Jocelyn’s husband Wesley was the Assistant Principal at a high school, entrusted with other people’s children every day.
All three husbands felt free to make belittling comments of their wives in front of others and to criticize their decisions and thoughts. Susan made divorce plans behind her spouse’s back. He hacked into her accounts and discovered her secret. He beat her to death and hid her body. Kathleen discovered her husband’s infidelity and made a decision to leave. He killed her that night in the stairway of her home. He claimed it was an accident.
Jocelyn finally stood up for herself, breaking the bonds that kept her under his control, separating from her spouse and rebuilding her life. Then, she saw him in his Lake House getaway, in bed with another woman. She filed for divorce. Wesley killed her and tried to stage it as a suicide, complete with a note that attempted to make her look like the cheating spouse and him the wronged party.
Wesley believed he would get away with it. He thought that his inheritance from Jocelyn’s death would enable him to keep his beloved lake house. Things did not go as he planned. He was charged with her murder and, without her pay check, he couldn't meet the mortgage and the bank was about to foreclose. The beautiful house on the shore went up in flames.
All three men were convicted of the murder of their wives and sent to prison. (Although one is now out awaiting a new trial on a technicality.) As gratifying as that might be, it does not bring back Susan, Kathleen or Jocelyn—it does not breathe life into three incredible women whose lives were cut short.
Sadly, when I look at their lives and the choices they made after they decided to leave, I see that each of them could have benefited from following the plans in Susan Murphy Milano’s book, TIME’S UP! Had they done so, they may have still been alive today. If you know anyone in a perilous, controlling or abusive relationship, put that book in her hands. Urge her to read and follow the advice and instructions.
We need to help each other. It’s the only way we can avoid unnecessary sorrow and grief. Understand the barriers for leaving an abusive relationship and don’t abandon your friend, co-worker or family member just because she is reluctant to act. She needs your support now more than ever—no matter how long it takes.
Thinking of Susan Murphy Milano: "There are some who bring a light so bright to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains."
|Diane Fanning speaks at recent event|
Diane Fanning is the author of over 20 published books, both true crime and crime fiction. Her 2014 book releases are UNDER COVER OF THE NIGHT and the historical WWII novel, SCANDAL IN THE SECRET CITY. All her books are available at online book retailers as well as local book stores.
For a complete list of Diane's books, visit her website: DianeFanning.Com